Posts Tagged “white”
Posted by: Lydia in Tunisia, World Heritage, tags: Africa, Baby, beach, blue, markets, sand, white, winter, world heritage
When searching for a winter getaway, we had four main criteria:
- New Country
- 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.
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Snow is so strange. To actually see these huge flurries descend on the city, and painstakingly paint everything white, millimeter by millimeter. As I left my French class on Thursday night (exam result: a pleasing 75%), I stepped out into the park to see a lamp-post half covered in snow. A lamp-post! Just like in Narnia. Who knew these things actually existed. I always thought that one had to go to the snow. I never really understood that it could come to you.
We did one final round of the plaisirs d’hiver (winter fun) markets in Brussels with our friends James, Colette and Grace from Leuven. While James and Colette defrosted in a café, the rest of us braved a walk through the insides of the inflatable ice monster chained up outside. Adrian was very amused at my screams due to the loud noises and people jumping out and grabbing my legs. I emerged feeling very unimpressed and it is unlikely that I shall ever walk through the bowels of another monster ever again.
In response to Laura’s challenge, Adrian constructed a balcony snowman, but I added the final touches to turn it into a bonchaton de neige (good kitten of snow). The snow is beautiful, magical, otherworldly, and extraordinarily sublime. It has however, shut down Brussels airport for two days this week. Fingers crossed we can fly out to Italy to meet our cruise today.
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Photo by CaptPiper
I look outside my window and I can see an immense flurry of snowflakes whirling down. It is an astonishing sight. Bit by bit, they are starting to form a thin layer on the ground. The green grass is gradually disappearing under millions of fluffy white specs.
Growing up in Australia, I never saw snow fall from the sky. My first introduction to snowflakes was in a Strawberry Shortcake picture book. The flakes were as big as her hands, and did not melt when touched. This is how I imagined them to be – resilient thick structures of ice, capable of being passed from hand to hand without melting. Instead, they are like a swarm of white insects, filling the air with circling motion.
In Brisbane, Australia, the temperature has only dropped below freezing once since records began, in 2007 when it fell to -0.1 oC. Here, at the beginning of winter we have a maximum of -1 oC today. It is painful to be outside during my short walk between work and the metro. My eyes tear up and my lips crack in the cold. I have a thick coat, gloves, hat, and scarf, yet I yearn for earmuffs and thicker socks.
They tell me last January it reached -29 oC in Belgium. I can’t even imagine that temperature. Surely the only time that water should become ice is when I put it in the freezer?
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They told us that it would take three days. Seventeen days later, our kitchen is nearly complete. The sink and the dishwasher were connected yesterday, so now we no longer have to wash our dishes in the bathroom sink. This was our kitchen before the renovation. Note the lack of: extractor fan, dishwasher, freezer, oven, power points, and counter-top space.
This is our new kitchen, 90% complete and finally functional. We actually have space to cut, chop and prepare on the granite benchtop. We have plugs for our toaster. We have lighting to see our food.
To give us some more bench space, we shifted from a four burner ceramic stove to a two burner induction stove. I really like the new induction stove because it heats liquid a lot faster than the old one (and also because it uses magnets).The kitchen lady seemed a little judgmental that I wasn’t the type of wife to cook my husband a dinner requiring four different pots, and as I was trying to justify my decision, Adrian quietly reminded me that I was not actually mandated to supply an explanation. Now we can also proudly display our toaster that we won betting on the ‘pigs.
The dishwasher, fridge, and freezer are all nicely hidden away. As we have been living with a bar fridge for the last six months, the fridge and freezer seem cavernous in comparison. And for the first time in my life I have a dishwasher, small enough so that we can run it with dishes from just the two of us.
Where is the microwave? In the oven. I didn’t believe the kitchen people when they first showed me this dual oven-microwave. On one setting, we put in metal oven trays and it acts as a perfectly normal oven. On another setting, we use a ceramic tray, and it is a fully-featured microwave. It is very strange to put a plastic container into an oven, switch the oven on for three minutes, then open it up to find my meal bubbling away.
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