Chapter Fifty-Eight      April, 2011

After a revolution and a trip to the desert, “work” will seem as dull to you as it is to us. But we’re ticking off the boxes and getting to the bottom of the list. In addition to the regular jobs this year there are some additional ones to prepare Seraphim for the canals of France.

The haul-out was scheduled for March 5th. It was a perfectly calm morning and everything went exactly as planned until the yard manager told us his slings were not adjustable and Seraphim could not be hauled at their yard. Fortunately, we had a French friend with us who called down to the fishing harbor and made arrangements for us to be hauled in a half hour. Then nothing went as planned. The lift ran out of gas. (How many Tunisians does it take to refuel a lift? About six. And how long? Three hours minimum.)

But we were hauled and power-washed and the work began slowly. The yard is surrounded by fish distributors so the smell is very pungent but we got used to that pretty quickly. After four days Seraphim looked her old self.

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Back in the marina we got to the details. We fine-tuned Seraphim bit by bit. The interior, too!

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When the “To Do” list dwindles to almost nothing the waiting game begins. Waiting for weather. What to do? Travel! We hopped into a car and headed for the mountains. That is northwest of here, and we hadn’t been there yet. We heard it was fabulous. Well, it was! And green, too!

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We had two destinations in mind. The first is Dougga. A Roman city with a view. It is set on an enchanting hillside surrounded by olive groves and overlooking fields of grain, with forested hills beyond. Like nothing we’d seen in Tunisia! But that’s not even the best part! Here in Dougga are Africa’s most magnificent Roman monuments, startlingly complete with baths, theatre and temples. It is a beguiling glimpse into the posh lives of the second century Romans. Not to be missed. We loved it.

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The second day we drove to the hills about 100 km away to Bulla Regia, famed for it’s extraordinary underground villas. And extraordinary, they are. We walked among the superbly preserved Roman rooms complete with ancient mosaics. The city’s importance peaked during the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. To escape the summer heat the ever-inventive Romans retreated below the surface, building elegant homes underground complete with colonnaded courtyards. Here are some favorite shots.

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And if all that wasn’t enough, we even had a further glimpse into mountain life. A young woman strolled by as we were packing up our picnic lunch. In our best French we told her who we were and where we were going. She was intrigued that we were from America. She had never met anyone from America. Almost instantly the intrigue led to a request (a ride) and an invitation (tea at her home with her family). Now this is the true definition of “adventure”. We drove about 3-4 km through open fields, down and around muddy paths, “left at the cow” (no joke) and parked in their grassy front yard. We were greeted by mother and father; a photo session followed. By now we were holding hands and kissing. But things got a little uncomfortable. We couldn’t grasp the meaning of it all; only young Zina spoke any French at all and not much of that.  But we were urged to sit on the two (and only) stools and presented with a cup of coffee and two boiled eggs each. Zina peeled them for us while we smiled amongst the goats, cow and chickens. We said our goodbyes and went on our way.  Never before had we been so close to so much poverty.  This family of six live in two rooms with almost no furniture, no running water, and only a donkey for transportation.  Yet they took from what they had and welcomed us and fed us.  It was hard for us to accept such generosity from these poor people; the experience is imprinted on us.

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So now the waiting game begins. That means we’re thinking about departing. Today it looks as though we could set out at the end of the week. First stop is Sicily. We both agree it is important to stock up on our favorite Italian things like pesto, pasta, provolone, pecorino, proscuitto, Parmesan and anything else that we can’t do without.

Here's what we expect our route to look like for the next few weeks:

Click here to see a map: ch58route.doc 

From Sicily we will head for the west coat of Italy just south of Capri. Then we will hop up the coast as the wind permits stopping in several places to meet up with old and new friends. This will put us on the French Riviera in May. We expect to arrive in the south of France at Port St Louis de Rhone by early June. Here we will remove Seraphim’s masts and turn her into a motorboat for the trip into the French rivers and canals. Even though we have researched this carefully and spoken to many people who have done it before, there is still a lot of angst in making it all happen.  We’ll tell the tale in our next chapter. Hopefully the outcome is as successful as the haul-out!

Paris here we come! Another dream comes true. Isn’t life grand?

A bientôt.

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