When searching for a winter getaway, we had four main criteria:
Kid’s club for toddlers
Looking at our options, it appeared that Sousse, Tunisia was our best choice. It also had the following perks:
Direct flight under 3 hours
Within 90 minutes of 5 world-heritage sites
The day before we left, I quickly scanned the web to make sure that I had everything covered. Smartraveller.gov.au had given the country a yellow light (the same level as Mexico, Costa Rica, and India), no major incidents in the news, and Brussels airport was looking snow free. Though when I checked that no visa was required for UK and Australian citizens, I started to panic. I couldn’t believe that I had been so cavalier as to not check this earlier.
Having previously teased JT about not checking if he needed visa to Australia, and Adrian for Romania, I was now facing the same crisis myself. The Tunisian embassy was already closed for the week, so I had to do some quick googling to try to come up with a last minute solution. Most official websites stated that a visa must be obtained well in advance, but someone called BigBurp claimed in a 2010 web forum that Australians and South Africans were able to get a visa on arrival at Tunis airport, as long as they were able to pay in Tunisian Dinar. It wasn’t much to go on, but I exchanged some cash in Brussels and the next day boarded the plane with my fingers crossed. I had visions of Adrian using his UK passport to spend a week in our pre-paid hotel room by the beach, while Hayden and I were cooped up in our small apartment in rainy Brussels. However, a very friendly team of officials at Tunis airport happily created tourist visas on the spot, and we passed smoothly through immigration before our luggage trundled down the conveyor belt. I was so grateful for this stroke of luck that I promised myself I wasn’t allowed to complain about anything for the rest of the trip, and I would be much more careful about checking visa requirements in the future.
Indeed, it was a terrific holiday. For the first couple of days I did very little apart from send Hayden to the kids club and then nap, read, and relax at the spa. Mid way through our break I had regained some vigor, so we spent the remainder of our time visiting the World Heritage Medina of Sousse, city of Kairouan, Amphitheatre of El Jem, Archeological Site of Carthage, and the Medina of Tunis.
Hayden seemed to enjoy his first time in Africa – playing soccer, climbing up the stairs, eating sand, throwing food off the balcony (“uh oh”), waving to everyone, refusing vegetables, and indulging in the many treats brought to him by the waiters. Having a kids club made things so much easier for us; it was fantastic to be able to take a complete break for a few hours each day and then spend some quality time together. It was a fitting way to end the year and return to Brussels filled with sunshine and renewed energy for 2013.
Wish you were here. Specifically, we wish JT, Hayden’s parrain was here. We had plans to meet up in Florida for the weekend, but a tumultuous young phenomenon by the name of Sandy caused a last minute cancellation. While JT was stranded in New York without power or coffee, we did our best to enjoy Hayden’s first trip to the USA without him, but it wasn’t quite the same.
JT had found us a great little place – our bedroom door opened directly onto the beach, so we began each day with a beautiful sunrise over the Atlantic. Hayden loved getting his feet wet, watching the waves as they lap back and forth along the shore.
My favourite part was watching the Sanderlings at sunset. These adorable small wading sandpipers run with the ebb and flow of the waves, snatching small crabs, worms, mollusks, and insects just after the water retreats, and then scurrying quickly back up the shore before the next surge can catch them. I didn’t have my camera with me, but this video from The Wanderdrossel captures their funny little feet:
Adrian remains in Miami for a week-long conference, while I attempt to fly home with one very wiggly toddler.
After an extremely disappointing organised tour, where we spent nine hours in a bus to visit one of the only non-world-heritage listed churches in the Troodos mountains, we cancelled the rest of our tours and decided to take up residence by the beach instead. Even Adrian said that he would prefer sitting by the water rather than in a bus for several hours to see a pile of old rocks.
My next few days began at 5:30 am, where I would wrap a blanket around my shoulders and sit on the balcony to watch the sun rise over the ocean. Then I would wander down to the buffet restaurant for my first breakfast of the day, perhaps some porridge with walnuts, sultanas, and golden syrup. Exhausted by all this activity, I would nap until mid-morning when I would join Adrian and John for breakfast number two, usually some eggs and baked beans, followed by waffles and fresh Cypriot oranges.
We would then amble down to the water’s edge, where I worked my way through The Exception, while the boys argued over America’s history of foreign policy or the relative merits of Obama’s healthcare bill. By lunch time we might have worked up the energy to leave the hotel and amble down the road to find a restaurant for lunch, perhaps kebaps, usually accompanied by a cute couple of kittens begging for scraps.
I would then head back to enjoy nap number two, while John would meet up with new friends and Adrian would bury his head in a newspaper or check-up on the lab back home. After a quick swim, dinner time would soon arrive, and we would again venture out to sample the local cuisine. As the day drew to a close, I would return to our room to again look out at the ocean, temporarily decorated with the twinkling lights of the Israel-bound “Pride North America” oil-rig, with Orion and Sirius standing guard overhead, and fall asleep to the sounds of the waves gentle lapping against the shore.
John’s new friend Anton offered to take us around and show us the best of South Cyprus for the day. We started with a drive up the coast to Coral Bay, past some herding ruminants, and then stopped in to see the national bird and animal park. After admiring the puzzle-solving abilities of the parrots, fearsome owls straight out of Ga’Hoole, we dropped in on the show-pony peacocks, the cute ring-tailed lemurs and the huddling little owls.
We promenaded down the Paphos Boulevard with an ice-cream in one hand, and then Anton took us to his favourite restaurant, a small place on the shore, where the chef brought out fresh fish for my approval before grilling up a delicious sea bass. On our way back, we stopped at Aphrodite’s legendary birthplace, a scene of serene blue water and shapely rocks.
Two Australian scientists who emigrated to Belgium, and are enjoying the charms and challenges of living in Europe. We were joined in our adventures by our kittens Pepper and Mint in 2009, followed by our son Hayden in 2011. Most of the time, Adrian takes the photos and Lydia writes the words. Adrian's blog can be found here. We can be contacted at