La Residence (and more), Tunis

January 10, 2007

residence-exterior.jpg(December/January 2006-7) A direct flight from Nice, and we arrived in Africa; but not the Africa one expects. This is a country with a very Western look, very good infrastructure, and it is totally clean.

La Residence  is a member of Leading Hotels of the World and very comfortable. There is a large, outdoor free-form heated pool, and an indoor salt water pool (also heated) and a sandy beach on the sea. 

We and our friends, Mitchell and Michele,  on the first night drove to Sidi Bou Said to eat in the Restaurant au Bon Vieux Temps, well into the pedestrian area of this charming old town. Our table looked out over the sea and the town, and we ate a very nice mushroom soup, some mixed Tunisian salads and our main course was a sole meuniere and a kabkabou (a meat or fish dish with lemon confit, tomato, capers and olive oil) we drank an acceptable 2005 cabernet sauvignon from Carthage—all for about 50€. vieux-temps-exterior.jpg

The next day was our day for Carthage, with a guide recommended by the hotel. The Roman ruins are interesting, especially the baths, but destruction by subsequent conquerors and then “borrowing” of the stones and columns by the locals to build new structures has left this once proud city a mere fragment of what it once was. We understand that Dougga is perhaps the best Roman ruin in the world and only about two hours from the hotel, but we saved that for next time.

After the ruins, we went into the medina of Tunis, starting with lunch at Dar El Jeld, an elaborate old building with tiled walls not far from one of the entrances. We began with some salads, and then ate a couscous, a tagine which was more quiche-like than the tagines of our experience. The red wine, Didano, I think, was quite good. gk-va-mn.jpgAfter lunch we walked around the medina, without a guide, stopping to buy various things, particularly fragrances.

Back at the hotel, our dinner was in their Chinese restaurant, Li Bai. The menu is laid out in a unique fashion, at least on the fish page. You could choose the method of cooking, steamed, sautéed, fried, baked or braised, and then choose the fish. We started with steamed prawn dumplings and then both had poulet au citron with stir fried noodles. We drank a Vieux Magon which wasn’t the best Tunisian wine we drank this trip.

Another expeditions, this one an all day affair, took us to Kairouan and the oldest mosque in the world. I guess because it is slightly inland, it was never a target and is therefore totally preserved. The day of our visit, a holy day in the Islamic calendar, many young boys were there for their circumcision. kourian-post-op.jpgBecause a feast must accompany the event, many families have to wait years to amass enough money to pay for it all, so the boys we saw awaiting the cut were as old as 12.

New Year’s Eve was a real spectacle. Cocktails began in the main reception area, with horses and camels and traditional music and carpets covering the marble floor. dinner-table.jpgDinner went from foie gras to seafood fricassee to grouper to stuffed lamb fillet and then desserts, while they poured your choice of red or white wine. Then, around 11:00, we moved to a sort of impromptu night club where they performed several very good acts, well into the night.

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