Carnival Escape - it`s Tunis again!
Every year the same question – where to go when Carnival explodes in my home city? I don`t want to fly too long and by no means select a destination that is celebrating anything like Carnival. So – why not Tunis? I was there in early 2018 but missed a few sites. And after all, Tunisia has a place in my heart since I worked there many, many years ago.
Tunisair offers great connections from German hubs to Tunis, but no business class. No problem since the flight from Düsseldorf only lasts a bit more than two hours. You even get a meal and drinks for free, and my veggie order works well.
The cab drive to the new Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis lasts just 20 minutes and costs less than 3 USD. The most recent hotel of the renowned Mövenpick chain is located in Berges du Lac on the border of the saltwater lake outside downtown. Over the past years, a very chic neighborhood has been developed here, I will get back to that later.
Ironed Shirts and a very brief Conversation in Arabic...
The Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis looks a bit like an oriental palace and counts definitely among the best hotels in Tunisia. Impressive lobby with a chic bar and mainly Arabian guests so far. My room is spacious and has a nice and fresh design. And hooray, there is an iron for my crinkly shirts, love it!
The shower is separate from the restroom and has a little bench like in a hamam. Nice idea, but I hope that I will not have to sit down during my shower. WiFi is free of charge, but does not always work properly. No big thing since I spend most of my time outdoors during these glorious spring days. My friendly chambermaid has loads of fun when I tell her a few words in Arabic. As a result, she starts a conversation in her mother language which I can only answer with a bif smile (meaning I don`t understand a single word). Aslemma, hamdulilah and have a nice day, Madame!
Alcohol-free delicious Dinner
For dinner, I check out the à-la-carte restaurant "Les Berges Saporiti". Fancy interior, great service – but: there is no wine. „In all of Berges du Lac no alcohol is being served,“ says the friendly waiter. This is due to the fact that many investments here were made by companies from Saudi Arabia. Ok, so I am enjoying a strawberry juice along with my delicious vegetarian risotto. Don`t we get used to (almost) everything? Days later Madame El Hanafi, the Marketing Manager of the Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis, tells me that the hotel management has made a virtue out of necessity. „We are offering refined alcohol-free cocktails and a wide array of very special teas which our guests appreciate a lot.“ Sounds good,but if you still wish to drink a glass of wine or a beer, you can, of course, get it also in Tunisia. After all, the country produces its own wine. My tip: when entering a restaurant, check out before if alcohol is served. And if not, your liver will certainly appreciate it.
As in all Moevenpick Hotels, breakfast is simply wonderful. There is even gluten-free bread and „ethnic food“ such as the extremely spicy „harissa“, a dip based on hot chili and little Tunisian cakes.
My waitress Khaloua is a real sweetheart who loves to speak a bit of German with me. After two days she has found out that I am used to have two double espressos in the morning which she serves automatically. Do I have to say more?
Going the extra Mile
Speaking about service, I definitely have to mention the concierge Nabil. On an evening drive, I had unfortunately left my camera in a cab – without a receipt to identify the driver. So I contact the concierge of the Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis to seek assistance. Nabil asks me a few questions and 30 minutes later he knocks on my door, with my camera in his hands. Simply wow – Nabil deserves the title „employee of the year“ in my opinion. He went more than the usual „extra mile“.
Sweet Sins and People Watching
Too bad that it is still a bit too chilly to have breakfast on the terrace. However, I am enjoying a nicely presented afternoon coffee on the cool lounge sofas with a stunning view over the lake and the Gulf of Tunis, accompanied with chillout music. Pure holiday feelings. You can walk along the lake up to the center of Berges du Lac 1, which is pretty relaxing. Better don`t walk to Berges du Lac 2 on the other side since the area in between is still under development. Just take a cab for a few dinars to check out the chic new restaurants such as the Pâtisserie Frédéric Cassel. The selection of cakes and macarons is just to die for and certainly nothing for people who are on a diet. I go for a delicious fruit tart on the patio next to the lake.
While sipping my espresso I do some people watching (free of charge!),since this place is a meeting point for „tout Tunis“. Maybe not too authentic or typical (at least not as Western people imagine Tunisia), but isn`t it also nice to simply enjoy a cool ambiance? Needless to say that the restaurants in Berges du Lac are a bit more expensive than in downtown Tunis but that`s ok (and still do not cost a fortune). And don`t forget – no alcohol is being served here.
Way to go, Tunisia
It is a pity that the environmental consciousness of many Tunisians is still pretty low. Whereas the popular areas such as Berges du Lac, Sidi Bou Said and Carthago are pretty clean, some places are a bit dirty. Hopefully, the awareness will change since Tunisia is aiming at becoming a destination of choice for high-end travelers. And there is no doubt that there is a lot of potential in this country with all its culture, history, stunning beaches, and beautiful landscapes. Tourism is Tunisia`s most important industry by far with approximately 8 million international arrivals per year, quite a number.
Back to the hotel. The S Per Aqua Spa & Fitness at the Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis is one of the most beautiful spas I have ever seen. Discreet elegance and a very special, pleasant fragrance. I somehow regret that I did not go for a „traditional oriental massage“.
Hamam, a huge indoor pool with an outdoor terrace and a well-equipped gym complete the offerings. During my first workout, I am almost alone, apart from a muscle-bound guy who is busy with his cell phone. Two days later, I figure out that the tight-lipped gentleman is a trainer. He corrects a few things of my workout. And I had always thought I would know it all. No way, we keep learning all the time.
Expensive Wedding at the moevenpick hotel tunis
Weddings are often taking place in the sumptuous boardroom. „Sometimes we have up to 400 wedding guests here,“ says Madame El Hanafi. I better don`t ask about the divorce rate in Tunisia and have a look at the the La Boutique Concept Store of the hotel. Some international, but mostly Tunisian design. Here you can find wonderful coffee cups, modern shoes with an oriental touch, shirts, accessories and much more. It is remarkable that Tunisia has a lot of talented young artists who mix modern design with old traditions.
Perfume Shopping in the Medina of tunis
You should, of course, not limit yourself to the hotel and the Berges du Lac area. I have already written about the „medina“ (old city) of Tunis. If you want to shop authentic stuff, that`s the place to go. If you are more into fashion and the usual international brands, there are two Tunisia Malls in Berges du Lac, just a short cab ride from the Mövenpick Hotel du Lac.
This time I visit a perfume shop in the medina for a very special reason. The owner supports Tunisian women in mostly rural areas who produce oils and perfumes out of flowers, eucalyptus, lemon, and other natural ingredients. The avid shop owner scents a pretty good deal with that German blogger and keeps explaining the whole production in detail. He is so proud that only natural ingredients are used, nothing chemical. Ok, my friend, I will buy some massage oil to pamper my tired muscles. And on top, I get the traditional „thé à la mente“ (mint tea) which I order without sugar (knowing that many Tunisians have a very sweet tooth).
Transportation in Tunis
Just a few words about the means of transport. From the Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis you better take a cab every time and make sure it has a taxi meter. As mentioned, cabs are pretty cheap in Tunisia. For a drive downtown, you pay less than 3 USD (March 2019). Be prepared that many drivers try to get you on an excursion – I kept telling them that I was leaving back home the next day. That used to work. I also recommend to take a taxi from Carthage Airport to the Moevenpick Hotel Tunis which only take 15 to 20 minutes. For a day excursion to Carthage (Karthago) and the artist village Sidi Bou Said you can also take a train from downtown Tunis (station is at the end of Avenue Bourguiba). However, the train is a bit dirty and does not have European standards.
A truly world class Museum to discover
During my last visit to Tunis in early 2018, I missed the largest attraction of the city, the Bardo National Museum which has the worldwide largest collection of mosaics. Apart from that, it is one of the largest museums on the African continent. A cab ride from downtown Tunis lasts approximately 20 minutes, you can also go by subway. This place knocks my socks off, without any exaggeration. 30 rooms on three floors with an overview that ranges from the early history over the Punic, Greek, Roman, and Arabic era. There are no less than 1,000 mosaics which win you over with their beauty and represent a wonderful contrast to all the modern artworks. A perfect symbiosis of old and new.
A commemorative plaque reminds of the victims of the terror attack in 2015. Since then, the safety precautions in Tunisia have been increased, which is great. Tunisia remains the only Arabian country where democracy has been introduced after the revolution a few years ago. Another reason for a trip, also to support the local industry. When visiting Tunis, don`t miss the Bardo National Museum. The entrance costs less than 2 USD (March 2019), incredibly cheap for such a fantastic site.
What`s next? - Sidi Bou Said, of course!
What else did I do during my stay in Tunis? Sure, I had to visit the artist village Sidi Bou Said again. This is definitely my favorite place in all of Tunisia. This time, I have discovered a very special house and two awesome restaurants, apart from small alleys where hardly any tourists go. I will tell you more about Sidi Bou Said in my next blog post. And I can already assure you that I had – again – a real blast in Tunis and the Mövenpick Hotel Lac du Tunis which truly exceeded my expectations.
*My trip was kindly supported by Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts*