holidays – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com Expat destinations off the beaten paths Tue, 12 Sep 2017 14:32:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/wp-content/uploads/logo-2-161x150.png holidays – Diary of a Serial Expat http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com 32 32 68156955 Tourism in Saudi – Dhee Ayn in the Baha Region http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/saudi-tourism-dhee-ayn-baha-region/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/saudi-tourism-dhee-ayn-baha-region/#comments Mon, 11 Sep 2017 16:39:48 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3873 Did someone actually say “Tourism in Saudi”? Is that even possible? Yes it is true that the country has been closed to tourists for many years but it is starting to open up…. slowly. OK very slowly but that doesn’t meant there is nothing to

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Did someone actually say “Tourism in Saudi”? Is that even possible? Yes it is true that the country has been closed to tourists for many years but it is starting to open up…. slowly. OK very slowly but that doesn’t meant there is nothing to see, quite the contrary.  Believe it or not, Saudi Arabia is a country with many hidden secrets and Dhee Ayn is one of them.

Dhee Ayn

Inside the ancient village

Over the last vacation, we decided to  finally explore this country and we opted for a road trip. Our main objective was to reach the Farasan Islands but as it is so far from Jeddah, we thought we would make use of the pit stops we would necessarily have to make to discover more than just one place. One of the planned pit stops was Dhee Ayn or the Marble Village as it is sometimes referred to. I chose this spot quite at random really. We had been invited to spend the night at a friend’s house near Baha and I simply looked on google maps for something interesting to see before we would arrive at our first destination. And I am very glad I picked Dhee Ayn. It turned out to be an incredible place, in many ways.

How to get to Dhee Ayn?

Let’s start with the location. Click HERE to access the google map pin and get some driving instructions from where you are. From Jeddah,  we followed the coastal highway –Route 5- to Mudhaylif, then the mountain road –Route 246- all the way to Dhee Ayn. This is the fastest and shortest way and it is very easy to get there this way. The other option via Route 15 may be more scenic but it is much longer. Also during the Hajj season, the roads around Makkah are blocked and you will have to make an even lengthier detour.

Dhee Ayn

Road 246 leading to Dhee Ayn is a mountain road.

What is Dhee Ayn?

Dhee Ayn is basically an old traditional Saudi village with houses built of flat stones using an ancient technique that required pretty much no mortar or cement. What makes Dhee Ayn even more interesting is that the entire village has been preserved! This is really unique because most, if not all, of the ancient village structures of Saudi Arabia have long since disappeared. Ancient houses and old villages have been destroyed to make room for newer constructions or have been left to crumble down. In fact, as you keep driving towards Baha, you will see many remains of old watch towers, houses and walls.

Only the people of Dhee Ayn seem to have understood the importance of preserving their history, their ancient craftsmanship, and some memories of time long gone. They all agreed to not only keep, but maintain all the old houses as well as the luxuriant gardens below the village in which they still grow bananas, lemons and basil among other things.

Dhee Ayn

Let’s start exploring. Up we go…

Is it worth it?

Totally. It is worth the long and tiring drive. It is totally worth the small entry fee. It is totally worth the leg cramps you’ll get from climbing to the top of the village. It is worth it big time! Just check out some of the pictures I took.

Dhee Ayn

Last bend before you arrive in the village. The view over the “Marble Village” is amazing.

Dhee Ayn

You start the climb into the village from the car park. A small hut offers cold bottles of water for sale. You WILL need them.

Dhee Ayn

View over the luxuriant gardens of palm trees, banana tress, lemon trees and aromatic herbs. The new village is visible in the distance.

Dhee Ayn

Visitors are allowed inside the ancient houses.

I also made these videos:

Baha Region (3) Baha Region (11) Baha Region (15) Dhee Ayn (2) Dhee Ayn (1)

After we finished walking around the village, climbed up to the highest house, went down to check out the two small waterfalls and the lush gardens, we stopped to picnic. They have set up some family size picnic “huts” with a clever car park space right next to each hut and a central playground area for children. The little huts are clean and shaded. Perfect picnic spot.

Dhee Ayn

Car park and picnic area

After that we went back on the road to our friend’s house near Baha. This time we took the scenic mountain road. Very long and difficult drive but OH MY GOD we were treated to the most spectacular views. Panoramic mountain scenes at every bend. We kept oooohhhhing and ahhhhhing all the way. The whole area around Baha is amazing and the road itself is worth the trip.

Dhee Ayn

View from the top of the mountain road on the way to Baha.

Dhee Ayn

Baboons live in those mountains and they often come to the side of the road hoping to get food.

We arrived late at our friend’s house and were received with the legendary Saudi hospitality. We were made to feel right at home and the whole family came to meet us. They even took us for a drive around the area. They knew the history of every small village and family. They showed us what we would have missed on our own. If you are lucky enough to know someone in the area, try to get an invite. It won’t be hard as it seems to be in the nature of Saudis to make people feel like welcomed guests. This would give you a different view of things and will make your trip even more amazing.

The next day, we left our hosts to continue our road trip. They recommended we keep following the scenic mountain road down. They call it the tunnel road because there are more than 20 tunnels. The road is spectacular but also dangerous in some places and it is better to avoid driving there at night, especially if you are new to the area and/or not used to mountain roads and their very sharp curves. We reached Abha a few hours later and there too, some surprises were waiting for us. But that’s another story…

Would you consider visiting Dhee Ayn? What else is on your Saudi bucket list? Let us know in the comments.

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The One True Universal Language http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-one-true-universal-language/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-one-true-universal-language/#comments Sun, 14 Aug 2016 13:31:08 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=3446 Is childhood the best universal language in the world? I spent a few weeks in France this summer to visit my family and to catch up with my best friends from university. It’s been many years since we met up and we now all have

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Is childhood the best universal language in the world?

I spent a few weeks in France this summer to visit my family and to catch up with my best friends from university. It’s been many years since we met up and we now all have kids in toe.

While I never worried about the kids getting along or finding a way to communicate despite a language barrier (my kids speak English and only a few words of French) I was truly impressed by how easily those kids managed to spend so much time together and never appear to have a problem getting through to each other.

Every time, the same thing happened: the would observe each other for a few minutes then before you knew it they’d act like they had always been friends and language wasn’t even an issue at all. Without realizing it, my kids would soon be shouting out words in French while their new friends would call after them in English, all of them naturally mimicking the words, expressions and intonations of the others. Even more amazing: they could speak the other language without a hint of an accent!

universal language of children

I guess little talk is needed in that situation

And then as my friends and I were chatting, it hit me: Kids are kids! No matter where they are born, where they grow up or what language they speak. They have no problem understanding each other because they have the same games, the same desires to play and explore, the same curiosity, the same apprehensions, they throw the same tantrums, and break the same rules. Of course we all raise our kids differently but parents are parents and kids are kids. Simple as that!

Children seem to understand each other because they look at life and the world around them with the same eyes. To any child in the world, a football is to be kicked, a bike is to be ridden, sweeties are to be shared and enjoyed. You don’t need to speak the same language to play with building blocks, racing cars, dolls… Children understand each other despite the language because they can pretty much anticipate the other child’s reaction to the game or the situation, like when we took the children to the zoo. Not exactly hard to interpret what the others are saying when they see the lion, or when we come close to the playground. Childhood really is a form of universal language.

universal language of children

At the zoo.

universal language of children

Inside the lemur enclosure.

universal language of children

Animals and children understand each others too.

And so while my friends and I reminisced the past, shared our present and planned our future, our lovely children played together, oblivious that there was such a big barrier between them.

Or is it such a big deal? Is language really a ‘barrier’? Or is it only an issue  for self-conscious adults?

I think it’s time we take a leaf out of our kids’ book and stop making life difficult: we adults are so similar to other adults, just as our kids are to other kids. We parents complain about the same stupid things our kids do. We who work full time understand the stress of the professional environment. We who love to travel can easily share the excitement of discovering a new place… no matter what language we speak…

Think of the possibilities if we stopped worrying about our differences and started to simply be together: language is only a barrier in our mind.

What if we stopped calling it a ‘barrier’… would we still struggle?

Do you agree? What would you say is the best universal language?

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Historic Jeddah Festival http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/historic-jeddah-festival-2016/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/historic-jeddah-festival-2016/#comments Thu, 14 Jan 2016 08:36:20 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2993 I’m on holiday! For the first time since coming back from Tunisia last summer, i’m off work. What a semester it’s been: between a heavy work schedule and a pretty difficult school run routine I found myself doing nothing but work, look after my kids and

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I’m on holiday! For the first time since coming back from Tunisia last summer, i’m off work. What a semester it’s been: between a heavy work schedule and a pretty difficult school run routine I found myself doing nothing but work, look after my kids and sleep and I couldn’t wait to be off. Anyway now is the prefect time to be off work in Jeddah because the 2016 edition of the Historic Jeddah Festival is on, it’s winter (temperatures are cool), I got family visiting and my kids are still studying every morning so i got to enjoy a few hours of 100% grown up time. Perfect!

What to expect at the Historic Jeddah Festival

So, the Historic Jeddah Festival. You can look up all the details online (official website in Arabic only) but basically it’s 10 days of festivities to celebrate Jeddah’s culture, history and traditions. It’s a pretty big event, with over 40,000 people showing up in the first 3 days. You need to head to the old city in Balad to find out what’s going on. From the 7th of January until the 16th, from 5pm to 11pm, the old madinah comes alive. There are shows, exhibitions, tours and visits of old houses, arts workshops, food stalls and much more.

Historic Jeddah Festival11

Arriving at the gate of the old city in Balad, Jeddah

So the whole family went to see what the fuss was all about. We really wanted to see the old houses but didn’t know what to expect beyond that. We started our tour at the main gate, and were welcome by a group a traditionally clothed men who sang songs in Arabic. According to my youngest son, that was the BEST part. Beyond the gate, an old neighborhood has been reconstructed so show how old houses looked like, and people were enacting old, traditional tasks and jobs. It was kinda nice but didn’t feel right, a bit too theatrical, not quite the authentic feel of the old Jeddah we were looking for.

After that we continued to walk the little alley ways, deeper into the old city and we finally hit gold. Real old houses that have been standing for ages, traditional buildings, beautiful mosques, some of them listed as UNESCO world heritage sites, food stalls selling hot-from-the-oven bread and other simple delicious food. We also found our way to the House of Traditional Arts where we tried our skills at making and coloring Islamic patterns. We stayed almost an hour; adults and kids had a lot of fun. If you want to try, they will hold a series of workshops from February to June 2016. Check out their website for more details (in English and Arabic language).

Historic Jeddah Festival6 Historic Jeddah Festival7

We finished the evening wandering (and wondering too sometimes) in and around the souk with its hundreds of stalls, smells and noises. I’ve always loved getting lost in old souks, I don’t know what it is that I like but it’s kinda exhilarating to be among such a huge crowd, walking pretty much aimlessly from little street to even narrower lane, hopping from shops to stalls, and above all I love the mixtures of smells of food, incense, clothing, perfumes….

Enough about me, just check out some of the pictures I took:

Historic Jeddah Festival In pictures

Historic Jeddah Festival

The entrance gate to the old city and the festival

Historic Jeddah Festival1

A recreated old town within the actual old city of Jeddah

Historic Jeddah Festival3

Historic Jeddah Festival4

Old meets new

Historic Jeddah Festival5

One of the oldest buildings we have seen

Historic Jeddah Festival10

Photo exhibitions are held at various location within the old city

Historic Jeddah Festival8

These houses may look old but they are still in use (check out the electricity meters by the doors)

Historic Jeddah Festival9 Historic Jeddah Festival2

It looks like I won’t have time to go back before the Historic Jeddah Festival ends but one thing is for sure: next year I’ll be there again inshallah. And I will be going back to Balad more often too from now on as I’ve discovered a part of the area I never knew existed and I’m looking forward to see more.

Have you been to the festival? Do you think they’re a great way to re-live the past or are they just tacky?

 

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I’m off to Tunisia, no Matter What! http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/going-sousse-tunisia/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/going-sousse-tunisia/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 10:14:41 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2052 I love Tunisia. If you’ve been following this blog, you know one of my purpose is to shed light on Tunisia and show the world what fantastic opportunities this little country has to offer to travellers and explorers of all kinds. Well, Tunisia is very much in

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I love Tunisia. If you’ve been following this blog, you know one of my purpose is to shed light on Tunisia and show the world what fantastic opportunities this little country has to offer to travellers and explorers of all kinds.

Well, Tunisia is very much in the news these days, unfortunately it’s for all the wrong reasons. Even since some nutters decided to open fire on tourists killing 38 people in Sousse, Tunisia, medias all over the world have been talking about how dangerous Tunisia was, Airlines and Tour Operators have cancelled flights and holidays deals and tourists have pretty much all fled the country.

Sousse, Tunisia

Tourists queuing to leave Tunisia at Enfidha Airport after the attack in Sousse. – Photo Credit

Already back in March (2015) an explosion had killed a group of tourists in the capital city Tunis.

As a result of those attacks, the Tunisian people is suffering from yet another blow to their main (if not only) source of income. Tunisian people are poor people, life is very hard most of the time and summer is for many the only chance to get some decent income and make ends meet, feed their family and pay bills. No only that but the government has now declared the “state of emergency” in all the country so once again the Tunisian people find itself living a restricted life, under closer surveillance and everything else this measure entails.

Now what?

Well I’m gonna tell you what is going to happen. I’ve seen it all before with my very eyes. Back in the summer of 2012 (shortly after the Arab Spring Movement started in Tunisia and all over North Africa and the Middle East) I travelled to Tunisia from the UK… in an empty plane! I talked a lot with the plane crew and they knew the season was over, ruined and that Tunisia was doomed financially for at least a few years.

Sousse, Tunisia

Hotels in Sousse and all over Tunisia are now empty. Photo Credit: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

The same is going to happen again. The summer season is completely ruined this year and in the future Tunisia will struggle to rebuild trust and re-start its tourism-lead economy. In the meantime what of the hundred thousands of people who depend on tourists to make a living? I’m not talking about Airlines and big hotels, I’m talking about street vendors, small restaurant owners, local guides…? Tunisia is not like the UK, there is no welfare money to fall back on! Those are going to suffer. BIG TIME!

So what can you do, you ask? Well for a start, read and share this post, and any other posts which are intended to help Tunisia rebuild that all-important trust with holiday makers. If you had planned on going to Tunisia please don’t cancel. And you if are going to Tunisia like me (I’ll be there soon) take the time to talk to the people, eat in their restaurants, buy their souvenirs and show them YOU CARE.

For people in Tunisia it’s not all about money, it’s also about people! We must do what we can to show people in Tunisia that we KNOW they are not responsible for those terrible acts. Many reports have now surfaced since the attacks, about how Tunisians did everything they could to protect tourists, from shielding them and making a human chain around hotels to throwing projectile onto the attackers and even running after him at great personal risk.

These days there is another country which makes the headlines: Greece and its failed economy. Ever since Greece made the news, blogs and social medias have been full of reports of people flocking to Greece and its pretty islands to “help the economy and the Greek people” (can you tell I’m slightly skeptical on all those people’s real intentions?).

While millions rush to Greece to make the most of the low prices and wonderful beaches, how many will remember Tunisia and the Tunisian people?

I’m heading to Tunisia tomorrow, I’m taking some measures of precautions for when I am in Tunis, especially at the airport but other than that I plan to enjoy a relaxing holidays, spending time with my family (in-laws) and setting the first step in motion to make Tunisia my future home.

what about you? Will you share this post? Will you help?

 

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I Love Expat Life & I Love Holidays! http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/life-in-saudi-arabia-holidays/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/life-in-saudi-arabia-holidays/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:49:50 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2939 What do you do for your holidays when you’re an expat? I mean aren’t we technically already on holidays, since we’re abroad and living in the sunshine all year long, surrounded by palm trees with the beach nearby? To be honest living in Jeddah feels

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What do you do for your holidays when you’re an expat? I mean aren’t we technically already on holidays, since we’re abroad and living in the sunshine all year long, surrounded by palm trees with the beach nearby?

To be honest living in Jeddah feels a lot like being on holidays. I’ve been trying to describe what living in a compound feels like to my family and friends back home and the closest I can explain is by comparing it to living in a holiday village.

Life in Saudi arabia

Where I live at the moment (my employer provides me and my family with free housing on their compound) looks like a gigantic holiday village. It’s self contained for one and it’s got everything you need so you don’t actually have to get out unless you want to.

Then there is the Jeddah weather, awesome weather, summer all year round with temperatures between 35 and 40 degrees Celsius at the moment (July 2015).

There are some swimming pools in the compound to cool us down, hundreds of ACed shopping malls not far to while away the hottest hours and spend our hard earned salaries.

life in saudi arabia

When daily life looks like you’re on holidays.

And just look at the place! With the clear blue sky, the palm trees everywhere… it’s hard to feel like I’m going to work when I walk to my office in the morning. And at night when I look over the roof tops from my windows, I am still totally overwhelmed by the view of those rocky mountains.

life in saudi arabia

Walking to work or relaxing outdoors – Hard to tell, isn’t it?

Still, summer is the time for holidays so let’s talk holiday plans then. Life in Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer for a family like mine which is why we decided to spend the majority of our holidays in Jeddah. From here we have made quite a few days trips to Mecca and we plan to visit Madinah next, maybe next week.

After that it’s finally time for the “real” holidays as we are flying to Tunisia. If you’ve been reading this blog a while you know that Tunisia is my favourite country in the world and that we have been travelling to Tunisia for our holidays for years. But this year, our holidays are gonna be much more than just holidays…

holidays in Tunisia

A few years back (flashback) my husband and I started dreaming of Tunisia, not just for quick visits during the holidays but as the place we loved the most on this Earth and where we could see ourselves settling down.

This is Gabes, where my husband is from and where most of his family lives:

life in saudi arabia life in saudi arabia Tunisia in pictures

Well, thanks to our life in Saudi Arabia and the big fat salaries they are paying us here to teach English, we have managed to save enough money to build our dream house. It’s hard even for me to truly comprehend how fast it all went. All it took was 10 months of savings the best part of 2 salaries to afford to build a house from scratch. Can you believe it? Sometimes it feels insane! In the UK we were struggling to make ends meet, we couldn’t afford to dream let alone make our dreams happen, all the while leaving a very comfortable life.

And now, on our very first holidays since we signed a contract in Saudi, we are going back to Tunisia with enough cash (yep cash, no mortgage) in hands to start the construction of the house of our dreams.

This is terribly exciting, exhilarating and a little overwhelming. I feel (almost) like a grown up now with that whole building-a-house thing, and there will be challenges ahead of course and grown up decisions to make…

So this holidays, besides the family reunions, delicious food and trips to the beach, there will be meetings with some architects, the construction team, we’re gonna be talking budget and deadlines and materials, floor plans, planning permission and a lot of other things, which up until now I had only ever heard of and wasn’t sure what they meant.

So here we are, about to embark on yet another incredible adventure and once again the line seems blurred between our daily lives and our holidays. I don’t want to throw a big fat “I love my life” and rub it in your face so I’ll just say that I’m very grateful that the life choices we’ve made a few years back are allowing us to live life to the fullest and make our dream come true.

What are your plans this summer? Tell us about what you’re doing and where you’re going? Any exciting change coming your way?

 

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London: Love at (not) First Sight http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/london-pictures-buildings/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/london-pictures-buildings/#comments Sun, 12 Jul 2015 21:45:39 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2915 London, UK. The first time you either love it or hate it. The second time you can allow it to grow on you. For me love wasn’t at first sight, I have always hated London. Then last year, two things happened: I was forced to

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London, UK.

The first time you either love it or hate it. The second time you can allow it to grow on you. For me love wasn’t at first sight, I have always hated London.

Then last year, two things happened: I was forced to live in London for 2 months without any job or activity to keep me busy and I had just bought my first ever camera (a small Panasonic Point and Shoot).

So, camera in hand every day I went out, I started to observe things around me, shooting everything in sight without too much worry about how I was doing it. Let’s face it, I’m rubbish at taking pictures but as the saying goes “practice makes perfect” so I just took pictures of everything.

I’ve compiled a few of the best shot of the kind of creative, interesting, quirky architecture that caught my eye (and my lens) in London.

Looking through the pictures and looking back over my time in London it slowly dawned on me why people can be crazy in love with London.

So what do you think? Love it or hate it? Tell me about your relationship with London.

 

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Holidays in France – Canal du Midi http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/holidays-in-france-canal-du-midi/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/holidays-in-france-canal-du-midi/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 11:31:26 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=2876 It’s summer, it’s holidays (well for many people) so here comes a major dose of travel inspiration. About this time last year I was in the South of France with my family and I finally did something I had been wanting to do for years: a day trip

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It’s summer, it’s holidays (well for many people) so here comes a major dose of travel inspiration. About this time last year I was in the South of France with my family and I finally did something I had been wanting to do for years: a day trip on a slow boat on the Canal du Midi.

For those who don’t know, the Canal du Midi is a World Heritage Site and it’s a real feat of engineering built over many years from 1667 to 1694. The Canal is a network of 360 km of navigable waterways linking the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean in France. Along the canal, more than 320 structures allows for the smooth transportation of boats, products and people.

I started my cruise in the city of Beziers, one of the most famous points in the Canal due to the Locks of Fonserannes, a water staircase of 8 locks that brings boats up and down the river Orb.

Anway I’m just gonna let the pictures below speak for themselves.

Starting point: beziers

Beziers (2)

The cathedral is best seen from the Canal, on land it is always hidden by buildings

Beziers (1)

This view is exclusively reserved to people on the Canal.

Early morning start

Early morning peace at the port

Early morning peace at the port

Ready to go

Ready to go

Our boat for the day

Our boat for the day

Highly recommended

Highly recommended

 

Cruising through the canal

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the cruise (5)

the cruise (3)

the cruise (2)

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The Locks

People manning the locks

People manning the locks

Fonserannes Locks - one of the 8 gates

Fonserannes Locks – one of the 8 gates

Door opening to allow boat in

Door opening to allow boat in

Water coming out of the lock allows boat to go down one leve

Water coming out of the lock allows boat to go down one leve

Doors closed - water starts rising under the boat

Doors closed – water starts rising under the boat

 

 Town of Colombiers

Arriving in Colombiers

Arriving in Colombiers

The Marina

The Marina

Colombier port

Colombier port

Had to lower our heads to go under that bridge

Had to lower our heads to go under that bridge

Quaint little town

Quaint little town

Picnic Lunch along the canal

DSC00063 Colombiers (3) Colombiers (2) Colombiers (1)

This short day cruise left me wanting for more. Along the Canal we met some people who had rented their own boat and were spending a whole week or more on the Canal, visiting towns and cities along the way. That’s for next time.

Have you ever seen the Canal du Midi? Would you add it to your bucket list?

 

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Tunisia in Pictures: Off the Beaten Tracks http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/tunisia-in-pictures-off-beaten-tracks/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/tunisia-in-pictures-off-beaten-tracks/#comments Thu, 25 Dec 2014 17:50:23 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1474 Like me a lot of people, i’m sure, like to sneak a peak at a place before they actually visit it. I’ve been to Tunisia many times and i’m in love with that country. It is my pleasure to give you a little tour to

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Like me a lot of people, i’m sure, like to sneak a peak at a place before they actually visit it. I’ve been to Tunisia many times and i’m in love with that country. It is my pleasure to give you a little tour to show you my Tunisia in pictures. I’m taking you off the beaten tracks from the capital Tunis all the way to Douz in the desert. I have a few surprises along the way and some amazing pictures of a country that has more to offer than beaches and crowded Souk.

Flying to Tunisia is very easy as there are many airports but the main one is definitely Tunis Carthage. So if you arrive in Tunis don’t rush to your destination just yet, take a stroll in the city first, it’s beautiful and has got loads to keep you busy and entertained.

Tunis

The capital, in the North of the country, is a blend of Arab and western culture and you should take the time to visit it. You’ll have loads to do and see in the city centre. I’ll show you around then, shall i?

First go to Avenue Bourguiba and stop at one of the Paris style cafe, then walk down slowly all the way to La Porte de France, then cross the street, pass the water fountains and you’ll find the entrance to the famous Souk. Adventures, friendly haggling and unusual encounters await you. Enjoy!

Sidi Bousaid

Sidi Bousaid is a city on the outskirts of Tunis, and if this is your first trip to Tunisia you’re about the discover something truly special. The whole city is painted white and blue and while it doesn’t sound like much, the overall effect is quite amazing. When you go up the main street there is a typical Tunisian house that you can visit, all in white and blue and full of traditional features. Take the time to look around it’s beautiful.

Tunisia in pictures Tunisia in pictures Tunisia off the beaten path Tunisia off the beaten path Tunisia in pictures Tunisia in pictures

 

Hammamet

An hour south of Tunis following the motorway is the city of Hammamet. It is very popular with tourists from all over the world, the city really is beautiful. But i can show you how to avoid the crowd and discover breathtaking little spots that are almost deserted.

Hammamet, Tunisia Hammamet, Tunisia Hammamet, Tunisia Hammamet, Tunisia Hammamet, Tunisia Hammamet, Tunisia

When you walk down to the city centre keep your eyes open, check out little paths on the right hand side, they lead to deserted beaches. Don’t stop at the Madinah, go don’t in with the crowd, walk around it following the sea, you won’t be disappointed i promise. All around the old Madinah, a white stone path follows a turquoise sea and deserted fine sand beaches. Sit down enjoy the view and relax.

When you get tired, or you find that perfect view that takes your breath away take the time to enjoy it. Check this out… perfect isn’t it? What could possibly be missing? The sea, the fine white sand… maybe you! Behind the tourist-crowded Medinah, you’ll find the old city with typical houses and of course no crowd.

OK it’s now time to go get those souvenirs for those who couldn’t come with you to Tunisia. When you go into the Souk enter from the back, you’ll see what the tourists miss. Into the Souk then, right or left, straight ahead… just let the colours guide you. Lose yourself into the little alleys of the Souk, they’ll take you to a shop or a house, to the sea who knows? Enjoy the coolness of the Souk. The smaller the path the bigger the surprise…

El Jem

Many people on the road to the South of Tunisia stop in El Jem, to see remains of the Ancient Roman Empire and visit the amphitheatre. It is really huge, too wide to fit into my camera. A little piece of history, still standing after all this time. Visitors are allowed inside too and i recommend you go in it’s totally worth it.

It is really huge, too wide to fit into my camera. A little piece of history, still standing after all this time. Visitors are allowed inside too and i recommend you go in it’s totally worth it.

Gabes

Further south much closer to the desert, in a more arid setting is the city of Gabes. Right on the sea, very few tourists and quite typical way of life. I actually have family there and while gabes doesn’t look as fancy as Hammamet from a touristic point of view, it’s the perfect place to discover the real Tunisia and its incredible people.

Tunisia in pictures life in saudi arabia life in saudi arabia

Enjoy a slower pace of life, typical small town markets and local traditions. This is the place i go back to about once a year and every time it never fails to make me feel at home.

 

Tamerza

By the time you reach Tamerza you are properly in the south, it’s the desert, more rocks than sand however. Tamerza is the largest mountain oasis and a must see. It does take a bit of a walk up and down the rocky mountain to appreciate this treasure but you won’t regret it. After the pass over the mountain top the sights are very unusual and you have to wonder how those palm trees and the water got there. One thing is for sure, once you’re there, you simply don’t want to leave: it’s so beautiful and peaceful.

Tunisia Further South

Still further south you’ll find the desert towns of Tozeur and Douz, the Door of the Desert. From there you can either travel even further south or start your way north again. I highly recommend travelling along the border of Algeria, passing through Chott el Djerid. There are more surprises this way, some sights i’m sure you didn’t expect to find in Tunisia.

Douz means one thing: a quad bike or camel ride into the desert, a total umissable thing to do. In Tozeur you’ll get the chance to taste and buy the best Tunisian dates, named Diglet. Don’t forget to haggle for price. Finally did you know Tunisia was covered in Salt flats somewhere along the Algerian border? hundreds of them along the road actually and if you get to catch a view of those in the early morning sun, you’ll have memories to last you a lifetime.

 

Tunisia in Pictures: Doors of Tunisia

During my first trip to Tunisia i fell in love with the doors. It’s the shape, the colours, the crafmanship that i like… and the little doors inside the big door! Picture perfect and it might just give you some things to think about next time you need to paint your house.

tunisia tourism

Feel like you need some more pictures, check out the Hammamet and nebeul GALLERY. To know more about my trips to Tunisia visit my Travel Page.

 

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The World’s Most Colourful Towns http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-worlds-most-colourful-towns/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/the-worlds-most-colourful-towns/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 12:40:14 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1686 As you’ve seen with my most recent posts, I’m all about places and striking features these days. I just love a city that is unique, one you can instantly recognise even if you’ve never been there such as Santorini in Greece or Sidi Bousaid in

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As you’ve seen with my most recent posts, I’m all about places and striking features these days. I just love a city that is unique, one you can instantly recognise even if you’ve never been there such as Santorini in Greece or Sidi Bousaid in Tunisia. When Felicity Howlett from Holiday Letttings offered me a guest post on the world’s most colourful towns I was totally excited. I mean those guys are holiday specialists so they know their stuff.

Need some colour in your life? From red cities to Technicolor villages, brightly coloured places are always a shade above the rest. Holiday Lettings takes a tour of the world’s most colourful spots.

This is not a sponsored post – Holidaylettings.co.uk has partnered with Diary of a Serial Expat to share this feature. The Guest Post below has been chosen and approved by me.

Bologna, Italy

world's most colourful towns

Bologna, Italy
Photo credit: Yuri Virovets (license) via flickr.com

Bologna’s so red that its namesake is the colour itself – the locals have renamed it La Rossa. But is the nickname a tribute to their rich and meaty pasta sauce, or maybe it’s down to the city’s colourful politics? Stroll through the streets as the day is nearing an end and you’ll see the reason why as the buildings glow an intense shade of scarlet from the setting sun.

It’s well worth lingering in Piazza Maggiore as night falls. Take a leisurely stroll through the square, sit on the steps of San Petronio Church and absorb the atmosphere. Meander the alleys of the medieval market, Quadrilatero, and peruse the delicacies on offer. You’ll love the mortadella and local wines like Pignoletto.

 

Jodhpur, India

world's most colourful towns

Jodhpur, India
Photo credit: Francisco Anzola (license) via flickr.com

Jodhpur’s dubbed the blue city after the ocean of vibrant houses and a blue-wash mosque that all stand out gorgeously against the arid brown of the surrounding desert. A wander through the city streets, bordered with buildings that echo the bright blue skies, will leave you feeling refreshed. The blue tones shimmer with an eerie light. Reputedly, the colour repels insects.

Dive into the old town’s blue maze and you’ll happen upon traditional spice markets, puppet-makers and tie-dyers. Jodhpur’s celebrated cubic roofscape is a must at sunset and the place to admire the breathtaking views of the almighty Mehrangarh Fort as it soars above the city from the top of the cliff.

 

San Francisco, USA

world's most colourful towns

San Fransisco, USA

Atop Alamo Square Park and facing Steiner Street’s Postcard Row, you’ll find the pastel group of multi-coloured Victorian houses called the Painted Ladies. The houses are adorned with opulent gingerbread detailing, sweet-jar colour palettes and icing-like flourishes. Anyone for dessert?

San Francisco is famous for sweeping vistas and beautiful architecture, and you’ll see plenty of both on a stroll up and down the city’s streets. Wander around Golden Gate Park with its museums and landscaped gardens. You can walk, drive or cycle over the magical Golden Gate Bridge – it blushes at dawn, burns at sunset and twinkles at night.

 

 Longyearbyen, Norway

world's most colourful towns

Longyearbyen, Norway

The world’s most northerly town is made up of rows of matching wooden huts in vibrant shades. Needing some cheerful colours in the depths of winter, locals chose shades inspired by the natural environment. The colours contrast with their stark backdrop of the two shimmering glacial tongues of Longyearbreen and Lars Hjertabreen.

Watch out for reindeer walking through immaculate nature reserves and polar bears wandering the glittering glaciers. Try snow scootering across the frozen fjords – it’s an exhilarating experience. Then treat yourself to Arctic fare at the historic Huset: it’s the world’s northernmost gourmet restaurant and features one of Europe’s largest wine cellars with over 20,000 bottles.

 

Zalipie, Poland

world's most colourful towns

Zalipie, Poland
Photo credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (license) via flickr.com

A clump of soot-stained huts blossomed this once-dreary town into a kaleidoscopic feast of colour over a century ago. After the town’s housewives painstakingly concealed smoke marks from their stoves with hand-painted floral patterns, they gradually took their vivid designs outside. The trend spread and painted flowers now bloom over everything, from bridges and churches to chicken coops.

Join the judges at the annual best painted cottage competition – it’s the perfect time to visit as the paint will be fresh and the colours still bright. Visit Felicja Curtylowa’s farmhouse, the woman who epitomised the village’s spirit, and take delight in her original furnishings, farm tools and folk costumes.

 

Thank you Felicity for sharing this post with us.

What’s your favourite colourful town? Do you know any others which could make the list?

 

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Photo Visit of Cairo, Egypt http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/photo-visit-of-cairo-egypt/ http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/photo-visit-of-cairo-egypt/#comments Sat, 29 Nov 2014 13:05:35 +0000 http://www.diaryofaserialexpat.com/?p=1396 I’m very much in a photo-mood these days and this time I’m taking you on a photo-visit to Cairo, Egypt. I have organised the pictures I took while in Cairo back in April 2010 in such a way as to give you a virtual tour of

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I’m very much in a photo-mood these days and this time I’m taking you on a photo-visit to Cairo, Egypt. I have organised the pictures I took while in Cairo back in April 2010 in such a way as to give you a virtual tour of the city. A little dose of travel inspiration and why not a glimpse of your own future trip to the land of the pharaohs.

Despite a less-than-good experience in Cairo in April 2010 (click HERE to read what happened) I had time to explore the city and bring back some pictures. Let me take you for a little tour of this huge city. I have used the caption of each picture to create a photo-map or a kinda travel guide. Hope you enjoy the ride.

The Pyramids

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Most people visiting Cairo will take the trip to see the Ancient and world famous pyramids. Is it worth the trip? Definitely YES, there’s really nothing quite like it and whether you’re a history buff or not you won’t failed to be amazed by those constructions and the sheer size of them.

Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt

The Nile River

Almost as famous as the pyramids themselves, the Nile River is totally connected with Egypt. During our stay in Cairo my hotel room gave a fantastic view over the river Nile and some days, across the river onto the pyramids. Also try the boat ride in a felucca. It’s for tourists, yes, but who said it wasn’t pleasant?

Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt

The City of Cairo egypt

Follow the Nile upstream to reach the city of Cairo. It is huge and its population even bigger which makes it one of the most crowded city in the world. As a result you’ve got the good and the bad, the worst being the very dense pollution.

Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt Cairo Egypt

You can find more photos (and less talk) on the Cairo Photo Gallery. Of course there is much more to Cairo than a 2 weeks stay allows to discover. I think the best way to truly appreciate Cairo is with the guidance of locals, don’t play the tourist game or you’ll see nothing “real”. Ask locals or expats in Cairo to give you a tour if you can (I can help you get in touch with some locals if you need).

Have you ever been to Cairo? What was your best and worst experience? Is Cairo on your Bucket List?

 

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