Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tunisia - Day Two

As I said, Day Two of our trip was devoted to guided sightseeing around Carthage, seat of the once great Carthaginian Empire. The strength and strategy of Carthage's relatively small armed force effectively halted Rome's southward expansion for more than a century. At the end of that period, Rome finally defeated the Carthaginian army at Zama (which wouldn't have happened if Russel Crowe had been there).

Much of the day was devoted to looking at stone ruins and my shutter finger got a serious workout. We saw graves, caves and...well, unfortunately, nothing else that rhymes with "graves." Oh wait, there were waves, too. You the sea.

Again, click the photos to enlarge them.

Due to Rome's eventual control over and reconstruction of Carthage, Roman mosaic work is also a common sight. We saw a great deal of this, not only on Day Two but throughout the trip.

The red character in that last one looks like a cross between the Statue of Liberty and a lobster. Here are a few more shots from the Digital Harinezumi to finish Day Two:

I took the bricks photo as a memento of the construction work that was constantly visible around us during our visit. If I understood the explanation correctly, the budgeting process for construction projects in Tunisia is done piecemeal. Instead of saving up enough money to build an entire building, they build gradually as the funds become available. As a result, there are half-finished buildings everywhere. But since these projects can become drawn out pending availability of funds, a lot of the "new" buildings under construction don't look new at all. In fact, it's often difficult to tell whether a building is under construction, or being gradually demolished.

In the next installment, we take a relaxing break from the oppressive heat at the nicest house I've ever had the pleasure to visit.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Jet Lag

Before we get into Day 2 of the Tunisia trip, a word about jet lag (which I have).

On Saturday night/Sunday morning, I went to bed past 3:00 AM with the intention of getting up at 10:00 AM. Instead, I slept until 2:00 PM. That left me in a difficult position. I needed to correct my sleeping pattern as quickly as possible, so as not to miss work on Monday morning.

With that in mind, I did my best to go to bed early last night. Of course, having slept more than ten hours the same day, falling asleep was an accomplishment I couldn't achieve until about two hours before my alarm went off. During those fleeting two hours, my brain concocted a dream in which I was a guest on a talk show hosted by Martin Short (wow, there's a name I don't often find myself uttering). Among the other guests on the show were a comedian named Supertrip Superspasm and a young blonde actress named Beautifuls.

After waking up, I could immediately identify Beautifuls as an original creation of my brain. But try as I may, I couldn't remember if Supertrip Superspasm was a real person or not. The name, believe it or not, really rang a bell. Somehow I had the idea there was this really popular comedian in the early 80's named Supertrip Superspasm, whose comedy was a little bit like that of Howie Mandel. This idea bugged me so much that I had to do a Google search of his name just to make sure.

Turns out, he's not real.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tunisia - Day One

Yesterday Wife and I got back from a week-long visit to northeastern Tunisia, where we celebrated our friends' wedding and did some sightseeing. The trip also entailed a great deal of photography -- so much, in fact, that at the end of the vacation, I had more than 400 photos on two cameras (the Konica Minolta Dimage A200 and the Digital Harinezumi 2++) to sort through. Due to the size of the endeavor, I am blogging about our trip one day at a time. So here is the first full day of our stay, as best I can remember. All images can be enlarged by clicking.

We stayed in Sidi Bou Said, a very Tunisian-looking tourist town that claims to be home to the World's Oldest Cafe (but who's counting?). Very picturesque, with stone roads, white buildings and those ubiquitous blue doors everywhere. A beach and yacht harbor were also accessible on foot, although the uphill return trip was quite brutal in the summer heat.

Due to the large amount of tourist traffic Sidi Bou Said gets, souvenir shops dominate the main road. One visit to a shop reminded me of something I hadn't thought about since my trip to Thailand years ago: I hate haggling with shopkeepers. It doesn't matter how good their English is, or how much of a "discount" haggling can achieve. It's a stressful ordeal every time. And for some reason, souvenir vendors kept calling me "chief" or "chef." Every time that happened, I thought to myself, If only you knew how unlike a chef I actually am.

Our hotel, the Hôtel Sidi Bou Fares, had a great deal of that Sidi Bou Said feel to it, with plaster and tile decoration in the hotel room and a nice courtyard where we had breakfast every morning. The courtyard was inhabited by a pair of turtles that hung around while we ate.

Coming up in Day Two: Carthage.