Excerpt from “Moving into a 1,000 year old Tunisian Medina’
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Departure and Arrival
We arrived in Sousse, about one hour south of Tunis, on the Bay of Hammanet, on the 18th Dec 2013 on a cheap flight packed with retired Brits living off pensions. Most of them looked sick, bit pale, feeble, but not terminal, and had arrived just in time. The flight was packed with middle aged, middle England, middle income and us.
I had expected the flight to be empty but I was wrong. The first of many ‘wrongs’.
I had booked the Premier Inn at Gatwick North Terminal the night before, as it’s literally across the road opposite the check in desk, ready for a 7am flight. After an overpriced dull dinner I wandered over to an empty airport to find the check-in desk, did some paperwork, spoke to the eastern european blond supervisor who sensibly suggested I check in that night to save queuing at 5.00 am. I gave her all our luggage, regardless of the weight and no one cared. least of all her.
Two and half hours later we landed in sunshine 17 degrees with blue skies and blue seas in an empty relatively new airport called Enfida. I expected to be engulfed by noise, beggars, animals and thieves but there were none, but a few bored taxi drivers and very few pre booked coaches. This was not Miami airport , which feels like a hot, sticky, wild door to South America, and interestingly this didn’t feel like the door to North Africa.
Two and a half days later the UK was hit by violent terrible storms, which cancelled hundreds of flights and left airports besieged, unable to cope and with thousands of passengers sleeping on floors clutching Xmas presents desperate to get home for the holidays.The bad weather didn’t leave the UK for weeks with the eventual flooding devastating villages on an unprecedented scale. I have never been so grateful to be away.
I had booked the Thompson coach transfer at the last minute for £15 each after spending days trying to find a limo service to the hotel. Oh how naive! It was impossible to find something reliable, clear, reasonable and normal as I didn’t want to risk dealing with a local cab in another currency but stay close to the “hidi Hi” group of happy fat herded tourists. We all piled on board, threw in the luggage, checked each other out and went straight to the hotel.
It was the closest thing to Butlins.
I had no idea where I was going and it was better I didn’t know.
The rest of the coach party left after their two weeks was up, and they used their return tickets as they had planned.
I didnt. I stayed, but the reason why was not immediately on my horizon.
For now it was a very sunny day, with a coach load of fat Brits, driving through empty roads newly cut through ancient olive trees struggling in caked yellow mud that stretched across the horizon. It all looked a bit boring, permanent and innocent enough.