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Portu Quatu and La Goullette

July 5, 2005

Our ship is currently docked in the harbor of La Goulette, a “suburb” of Tunisia’s largest city and namesake, Tunis. Later this afternoon we will be turning back to the north and making for the city of Palermo on the northwestern side of Sicily.

The cruise so far has been most enjoyable. Our only real issue is the way that things seem to keep going wrong. A missing bag, a cancelled mountain biking excursion…

Well, now it seems like the Palermo excursion, which was to take us to the Norman village of Erice and ancient Segesta, is on the chopping block too, due to there not being enough attendees. We will make our way out there one way or another, though. Personally, I’m looking very forward to Segesta.

In recap…

Portu Quatu, Sardinia

Sardinia was something of a mess-up. Apparently, Porto Cervo, the real “happening” yacht resort town on the island’s northeastern coast, stopped allowing cruise ships only recently, and our line has yet to adopt. We were taking to Portu Quatu – smaller, less interesting, and three miles away. Better yet, they failed to provide transportation, leaving a lot of old, rich, entitled-feeling New Yorkers quite out of sorts. It was one of the saddest and most enfuriating things I have ever witnessed in my life.

Best line of the day, said by one of these wealthy, rather loud women as we rode the tender ship through the marina and as the guide told us about Sardinia – “where are the shops?”.

Everywhere, apparently. Porto Cervo did not seem to be anything but a marina packed full with million-dollar yachts and shops. By shops, I don’t mean cheesy postcards-and-whatnot shops – I mean Prada, Valentino, Zegna, Armani, Bruno Magli and…Nautica.

La Goullette, Tunisia

Africa. This was my first time to step foot on Africa, and the experience was an interesting one. To begin, it was HOT. Texas in the summer hot, though our guide said that the season was just beginning. In August, they face 130-degree days on a regular basis. To cope, they shut down at about 1:30 in the afternoon. I may have to submit that as a proposal upon my return to work.

The primary reason for the journey to Africa was to see the ruins of ancient Carthage. Carthage – and the broader terrain around it – are of especial interest to me, considering the topic of my novel. I will admit, it was an experience seeing the famed circular harbor and the view from the original citadel. The ruins of the Roman bathhouse were something, too, though I have yet to solve the mystery of why exactly a race as short as the Romans would design such steep stairs…

After seeing what there was to see of Carthage, we were taken to the “Santorini of Tunisia”, Sidi Abu Said, a village on the outskirts of Tunis that is characterized by its white homes with blue doors and windows. And the junk stalls selling every type of crap imaginable. My goodness, was that place a tourist-trap nightmare.

Again, we are here in Africa for another few hours. Tomorrow is Palermo, followed by a day at sea as we make for the French Riviera.

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