Come away with me. We’re “going” exotic, to the incredible country of Tunisia. But before you “pack a bag” here are some tips.
*Make copies of your passport, with the number. Leave one home with a friend you can contact should something happen and carry an extra copy, tucked in a suitcase or other spot. Do the same with credit cards. Why? This will make it easier to have duplicates faxed if you must get another.
*Carry a day or two worth of prescription medication with you, not packed in your luggage. If you’ll be traveling abroad for some time, consider getting duplicate prescriptions written from your doctor to carry with you.
*Tell a friend or the hotel manager where you’re headed if you’re going out alone. Ask for advice on safety and places to avoid. Don’t be shy on this.
*Now close your eyes and go with me to Tunisia.
Once upon a time, I boarded an Air France jet to Paris and onto Tunis-Cartage International Airport. I unexpectedly fell in love with a country Vanity Fair’s Christopher Hitchens called, “One of Africa’s most successful countries,” reporting that it is the gentlest country in Africa.
If this were a storybook rather than a travel adventure, I would have been prepared but no one warned me that Tunisia could cast a spell. Here I was a seasoned traveler gaga like a newbie to the world. As I became accustomed to the diamond-shaped country snug between Algeria and Libya that faces Europe, I knew why visitors and veteran travel nuts like me consider the country the “new Switzerland.” Switzerland doesn’t have a beach or year-round weather that begs you to linger in the sunshine, in those Mediterranean breezes that can warm a winter’s vacation like nothing else.
Tunisia is brimming with mosaics; the most important Roman mosaics are exhibited at the Bardo Museum in Tunis, which is on the “must do” itinerary. The guide for this treat was Hammadi Belguith and with skill, briefed us on aspects of Tunisian arts and crafts, Roman heritage (who knew?!) and then it got better. Seeing displays of incredible artifacts and art, I was ready for shopping and that’s what our group did. We visited the marvelous shops in the Tunis Medina, where there were hand-painted tea glasses, ornate glass perfume bottles, olive wood bracelets and hand-woven fabrics that captured my heart and my eyes. Okay, and my charge cards too.
In La Marsa, we stayed at La Residence, a Leading Hotel of the World. As we toured the city our guide, a Tunisian designer famous for blown glass table wear and Bedouin inspired fashions, introduced us to the sights and culture that delighted our senses. As a Canadian from the Eastern provinces, I found it charming to be able to converse in French; it’s spoken everywhere as Tunisia was a French Protectorate between 1881 and 1956. In case you wondered, French bread is served in many eateries right long with the Tunisian specialties such as couscous and fresh grilled tuna.
As I talked with restaurateurs, other tourists and expats I see why it’s working so well to attract travelers and higher standards of living. You can contemplate that, or you can do as I did and admire, with visits, the four and five-star thalassatherapy resort hotels between Tunis, Hammamet and Port El Kantaouri. The good news is that the travel dollar goes far, magically increasing the buying power to $1.28, rather than the shocking result of exchanging dollars for euros.
For example, seaside spas in the area of Hammamet include flower arrangements everywhere, with roses tucked into the fat-plush towels that are sculpted into ducks and flowers. The “cure” or Alf Layla wa Layla and spa treatment is what most guest request, and includes massages, baths, skin care using the finest French products, rosemary baths and of course the hammam, or Turkish bath. You’ll want to visit www.TunisUSA.com for more descriptions that cover the services, archeological sites, glorious resort hotels, the souk (or commercial quarter of a city), museums and adventures into the Sahara, all with expert guides. To learn more about how you can join my Women’s Delegation to Tunisia, in November 2008, please email me at Sheila@oaksspa.com. I cannot wait to share “my” Tunisia with you.
Because getting to Tunisia or other exotic locations often means being cramped in airplane seats, try these exercises to keep your body flexible and relaxed. Repeat these as often as you want or at least once every half hour.
*While buckled into your airline seat, lift both legs. Hug them close to your chest and put your head on your knees. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat.
*Hug your knees to your chest, hold there and circle your right foot ten times in both directions and repeat with the left foot.
*Drop your head toward the floor, between your knees and dangle your arms and head. Stay in this relaxed position for at least 30 seconds.
*Twist to the right side, hold for 30 seconds, and then twist to the left side. Don’t bounce as the turn should be smooth.
With so much to see and experience in the progressive, peaceful and posh country, I am certain that my trip to Tunisia will be just one of scores. I give Tunisia, and all she offers, two enthusiastic thumbs up.
Sheila Cluff, fitness expert, television celebrity and owner of The Oaks at Ojai, is the author of Take 5: How You Can Benefit from Just Five Minutes of Daily Exercise and The Ultimate Recipe for Fitness by Sheila and Eleanor Brown. Visit Sheila’s Spa on the Internet and see all that’s happening at the resort: The Oaks at Ojai www.oaksspa.com.
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