Tunisia – The market, the wine tasting and the golf club

Friday was market day in Nabeul, the largest market in North Africa and I had signed Mini-me and I up for it, which was all well and good until I went to pay the deposit and was told pick up time was 6.40 am!!!! So much for being on holiday and long lies. To say Mini-me wasn’t happy is an understatement. She was even worse on the  morning of the trip, missing breakfast and nearly missing the bus too. Saying that, I dont think she would have been too unhappy at having to go back to bed. To add to her misery the bus journey ended up being a 2 hour long one. Oopsy. Thank goodness for Ipods.

Our first stop was at a pottery. The tour guide said there were toilets we could use and when I saw 3 other buses parked outside I thought the tourists must be well catered for. Inside, amongst many clay pots, dishes and coloured tiles there was a substantial queue for the 2 toilets. The most surprising thing about this queue was that there were men in it!  The only other time I have seen men queuing for the loo is at music festivals. That’s where as soon as you notice there are no men waiting to use the urinals but you are standing behind 3 waiting patiently for the portaloo you need to switch queues pronto.

Anyway, there was a woman in front of me and we’d waiting for a good 10 minutes. When her turn came she took one look at it and decided she no longer needed. It didn’t bode well but I battled on regardless. To be fair it was bad but it wasn’t that gross I couldn’t use it. After all, I have definitely been in worse at T in the Park 😉

Outside a butcher shop

Cows head

On to the market and we started taking in the sights and smells (not all good). The stalls were highly coloured and inviting so you really wanted to take your time and look more closely but the high pressure salesmen just put you off.  If you slowed down you were captured. “Just 1 dinar –  I show you. Come see. Just look. You Ingleesh? Scotch? I luf scotch whiskeee. Come see I give you Asda price.” Actually, not all were inviting – the shop with the cows head outside didn’t look welcoming at all.

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Alibaba slippers

Up and down we went through the warren of different products.  Spices, leather goods, dishes, spices, leather goods, dishes, spices…you get the idea. We joined in and did some haggling. I still don’t know if we got a bargain for the red leather Alibaba slippers  (a pressie for OH) but we paid less than half of the original asking price so we didn’t do too badly.

Back on the bus and our next stop was to be a wine tasting. I say wine tasting but it was just really a rabble making a mess and not appreciating anything.  Well come on, you know I like my wine.   My fellow tourists had ate all the nibbles before the wine bottles were even open and the majority thought the sweet rose wine was the nicest. Eh?

What was good though was I was shown how to eat harissa. I’ve only ever used it to cook with before and didn’t think of using it as a spread on a chunk of bread and then drizzling some olive oil over it. Now that was far nicer than the sweet rose wine, which made my mouth look like a cat’s ass! As I was disgusted to see how much red wine was left behind on the table I made sure I had another couple of glasses before I left ;).

Back on the bus and we headed to the Citron Golf  Club for an outdoor late lunch on the lawn, which was lovely as it was all white tablecloths and silverware. Unfortunately, it felt a bit like we had gate-crashed a wedding but I didn’t let the distasteful looks from the old men in their Pringle polo shirts put me off my food too much.

Full of chicken, pasta and salad it wasn’t long before we were heading back to our hotel. The bus journey really let us see the other side of Tunisia where there isn’t all inclusive food and drink but instead building sites, half finished hotels and apartments, acres of olive trees with rubbish strewn alongside, dusty streets with men sitting outside cafes looking just as dusty.  It was a stark comparison to the golf club.  However, one shop sign did make me smile as the owners translation into English said exactly what he sells “PIECES FOR VEHICLES”.

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Livingston Designer Outlet and parking!

The weather today was awful. The rain was coming in sideways and the skies were a dank, murky grey. My daughter, Mini-me, and I had arranged to spend the day together so we needed to go somewhere undercover to find our fun. It wasn’t a hard decision. Livingston Designer Outlet (used to be McArthurGlen), which is right next to the Almondvale Shopping Centre, has every shop you’d ever need for a bit of retail therapy. Cheap designer gear coupled with all your normal high street stores with a couple of shops you’ve never heard of thrown in to the mix makes it the perfect place to shop til you drop!

Decision made we headed south. The drive was horrendous and the window wipers were on fast mode for the entire journey.

Mini me and I often drive through to Livingston to try and grab a bargain or 5 and we now think we have the ideal parking plan. Grab your anorak and seat belt yourself in!

We’ve tried all sort of stuff like parking at the Asda end, which is a maximum of 2 hours parking for a £1 but you get your money back if you buy something in Asda. The downside of this is having to go back to the car and put another ticket on it mid shop flow (and buying something in Asda to get your money back).  We’ve tried parking in the multi storey car park at the designer side but it’s £4 for more than 4 hours and we always end up in the opposite end of the centre in Asda thinking we can’t buy heavy things because we’ve loads of bags to haul back to the car.  So…what we’ve realised now is that you should park in the multi storey at midday and make sure you’re back putting all your bags back in the car before 4 (less than 4 hrs = £2.50). By this time we’ve usually got down as far almost as far as Primark so the key is not going in but turning round. Then you drive from the multi down to Asda as it’s free parking after 4pm. You can then head back to Primark (spend another fortune) and work your way back down to Asda not caring how many litre bottles of coke or more importantly how many wine bottles go into your trolley because your car is right there and not a 20 minute walk away!

The other thing you need to do to ensure you have a great shopping experience is to get some sustenance half way through. There are loads of options available to the discerning shopper but nothing really exciting or new. Wagamama is about as different as it gets. There’s load of fast food outlets, all you can eat buffets, coffee shops and pizza places but today we opted for Wetherspoons (there are 2). Mini-me wanted something light like a wrap or a paninni so the menu offered the option of swapping your accompanying chips for a plate of soup so that was the preferred option. Mini-me only likes her gran’s soup or something plain so when they said there was tomato Mini-me was delighted. However, when I went to the bar to place the order they weren’t sure if they had any tomato left – the alternative was Carrot and Coriander. However, the waitress went to check and returned saying there was enough left for 2 portions. Mini me smiled happily – so the order was 2 soups, a tuna mayo baguette, a bbq chicken and bacon Panini and 2 diet Pepsi’s which came to £15 something.

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10 minutes later a waitress appeared at our table saying there wasn’t enough tomato soup left for 2 so I agreed to have the carrot and coriander. A further 10 minutes and our soup arrived with 2 huge bits of bread and 2 portions of butter. The waitress asked if we wanted our sandwiches at the same time and I replied we did as I wasn’t expecting the bread and had assumed they would all come together (because of the ‘deli option’). 2 minutes later our sandwiches arrived accompanied with chips! What was a light lunch suddenly turned into a marathon! 😀

Unfortunately, the soup could have been hotter, which really let the meal down – saying that Mini-me said she really enjoyed it and her description of the soup was, “It’s like Heinz but they’ve added something, tomato puree and basil to it and then they’ve blitz it” – high praise indeed!.

One of the things that annoys me most about Wetherspoons is that the tables are never wiped properly. Even if the table is clear they are usually covered in salt and some indescribably stickiness. Today the table was clean, the queue at the bar wasn’t insurmountable but the soup temperature and the couple sat at the next table screwed up the lunch. Sitting next to 2 jakeys who burp their way through their bottles of Miller and knock their chairs over onto incoming pensioners kind of fecks up the ambiance – but hey, it is Wetherspoons.

Compared to other lunches it definitely wasn’t the worst. The chips were surprisingly good, the soup was good (but tepid) and the Panini’s and baguettes were exactly what you would expect.   For £15 it was a welcome chance to sit down, blether and re-fuel before hitting Primark with a teenage daughter 🙂

PS Mini-me took the bread and half the tuna baguette home with her because she couldn’t eat it all.