Walking the beaches of the Gower – staying in our luxury Mumbles cottage – video

Friday night and it’s time to cross the Severn Bridge and exchange a working week in Bristol for a weekend exploring the glorious beaches of the Gower peninsula and the seaside nostalgia of Mumbles. This part of South Wales is no stranger to me, in fact I was in Swansea only a couple of weeks earlier on the trail of Dylan Thomas and visiting my son who is at Swansea university. This time I wanted to see more of Mumbles, all lovespoons and Welsh-Italian ice cream, as well as combining my favourite activities of walking and being beside the sea (but not necessarily in it).

Caswell Beach, Gower Peninsula, South WalesPhoto: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather and Guy at Caswell Bay, Gower Peninsula, South Wales

Mumbles is one of those happy seaside towns that enjoyed its heyday in the early 20th century, when a trip to the seaside was a highlight of the summer for every family. With the establishment of the railway and steam trains running from Swansea from 1877, the population of this little seaside village grew and it became popular for the people of Swansea to visit Mumbles at the weekend and for holidays. Here you could enjoy an ice cream or pot of tea, take a walk along the promenade to the pier and reach the beaches of the Gower Peninsula that lie beyond.

Promenade View, the luxury holiday house that was our base for the weekend lived up to its name, with a perfect setting on the sea front and views through the trees across the curve of Swansea Bay. From our first floor bedroom we could watch a constant stream of walkers and cyclists passing up and down the promenade on the path that runs all the way from Swansea to Mumbles pier. In front of the house is a stretch of seaweed-strewn pebble beach where children were playing, with sailing boats parked in rows further up the promenade. The train line no longer exists, but there is a little tourist train that runs up and down to Mumbles from Blackpill Lido.

On the Promenade at Mumbles Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

On the Promenade at Mumbles

From Promenade View we took a stroll past Verdi’s Italian Cafe, a large glass building on the seafront where the participants from the triathalon earlier that morning were draped over the chairs outside, basking in the sunshine with wrap-around shades and wetsuits rolled down. Fishermen sat in their deck chairs with their rods propped up, where the restaurants and cafes that line the main road give way to houses with the rocky cliff rising steeply behind them.

Past the rocks exposed at low tide, where seagulls hopped between the stagnant rock-pools, we reached Mumbles Pier. Newly restored to its former glory, the building at the pier entrance was garlanded with exhuberant hanging baskets, with the Beach Hut Cafe serving fish and chips, a small boating pool for children to navigate pirate ships and the thumping and clanging of slot machines in the background. The man taking money at the pier entrance wasn’t doing a roaring trade but we were impressed by the secret sandy beach that you can reach by the steps down beside the pier.

I hope that you enjoy the video below of our weekend in Mumbles exploring the glorious beaches of the Gower

If you can’t see the video above, view it on my blog here or on YouTube here and please do subscribe using the button above
Download the Video of Glorious beaches of the Gower
Subscribe to all my videos in I-tunes
If you enjoyed this video, check out the others in my Video archive

Promenade View Holiday House

Our Promenade View holiday home provided a delightful weekend base for exploring Mumbles and the Gower peninsula where we were hoping to do some walking on the coastal path. The house has been recently renovated by owner Kim Davies, who grew up in Swansea and often returns to visit family. The colours are light and soft with a subtle seaside theme, plenty of personal touches and the amenities that you would normally expect from a hotel. Kim eventually hopes to run the house as a boutique B & B, so every room has its own en suite bathroom, with fragrant toiletries, limestone tiling, oak topped vanity stands and walk-in rain showers (or rain-forest showers as our kids know them).

Our master bedroom on the first floor had a practical wooden floor with soft green Welsh wool throws and cushions and a cosy rug on the floor. With the plantation shutters open we could lie in bed and watch the world go by, with a fabulous view of Swansea Bay through the picture window.

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Master bedroom at Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales

The two other bedrooms on the second floor were beautifully furnished in similar light, muted colours. The double bedroom at the front also had views over Swansea Bay and was decorated in a dove grey theme with woollen throw, linen cushions with a Welsh dragon motif and sparkly bedside lamps. The third bedroom which can be set up either as a double or twin had a velux window giving views over the trees and rooftops at the back of the house, with navy and white striped knitted throws and a large en suite bathroom. All the bedrooms had a flat-screen TV and we spotted kettles, hairdryers, full length mirrors and all the little conveniences that show the care and thought that has gone into making this house a home-from-home.

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in  Mumbles, South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales

Downstairs, we relaxed in the elegant sitting room with the same plantation shutters that are found throughout the house, allowing light in while giving privacy from passers by. The wooden floor was covered with pale striped rug and we sank into the cream linen squashy sofas, with cushions of striped silk and soft, shaggy sheepskin. Under the flat screen TV was a cream leather Barcelona chair with cosy knitted throws and plenty of seaside touches like the jar of polished pebbles, pottery lighthouse lamps and rope covered doorstops.

At the back of the house, the kitchen and dining room had been knocked through to make one large area, with a painted dining table and chairs where we found a vase of flowers, as well as a welcome pack of some local goodies like Welsh cakes and biscuits, milk and breakfast cereal. The kitchen was extremely well equipped with plenty of attractive touches and the sunny patio at the back was the perfect place to sit with a coffee. We really enjoyed the many personal touches around the house, such as the old prints of a town in Italy that Kim had visited and the model sailing boat in the dining room, given to Kim by her sister.

If you’d also like to stay at Promenade View, you can check out the Facebook Page and book through local holiday rentals company HomefromHome.com.

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles,  South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Promenade View Holiday Cottage in Mumbles, South Wales

Vintage motorbikes in Bracelet Bay

For the three years our oldest son has been at university in Swansea, I’d always planned to walk the coastal path that encircles the Gower peninsula, with views of some of the most stunning beaches in Europe. Since he’s now finished, this weekend was going to be a case of better late than never, but I was determined to cover at least some of the distance. On Saturday morning we strode forth from Promenade View, wearing our walking boots and an optimistic covering of sun cream.

Once we reached the Mumbles Pier, the path took us up the steps for a view of the lighthouse and round the headland to Bracelet Bay where the annual “Under Milkwood” classic vehicle road run was gathering in the car park. Guy immediately spotted one of his favourite classic motorbikes, an Enfield Bullet and we stopped for an in depth discussion and photo opportunity with two older gentlemen of the road, Terrence and Derek, or “Tel and Del” as they introduced themselves. They would be taking their vintage motorbikes to the Dylan Thomas heartland of Laugharne later that day, while we continued a little further down the road to Limeslade Bay.

Vintage Enfield Bullet at Bracelet Bay, Gower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Vintage Enfield Bullet at Bracelet Bay, Gower

Gelato at Limeslade Bay

Here we found more distractions in the form of Fortes ice cream parlour, another of the numerous cafes run by Italian families who emigrated to South Wales in the early 19th century. We stopped in conversation as we ordered our cones from the young lady behind the counter, ” Is it still heaving in Mumbles?” she asked, “we were very busy this morning with the triathlon” . We asked whether the ice cream was made on the premises, and she confirmed as we expected, “yes, my Mum makes it out the back”. We took our black-current and caramel ices and walked on licking them, following the path as it climbed away from the road.

The path here was newly paved in concrete, cutting through heathland above the old one lower down the slope, which looked as if it had been about to slide off the cliff. Below us the swell of the sea rose and fell with the white foam licking the rocks and a little robbin hopped in the hedge beside the path then flew away. A couple of cyclists passed us and got off to push as the path steepened, then turned into steps as we neared Langland Bay.

Limeslade Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Limeslade Bay, Gower Peninsula, Wales

Retro beach huts at Langland Bay

Langland Bay has a wide expanse of beach which is popular with both families and surfers, since there is easy parking and it’s not too far from Swansea. Along the back of the beach are rows of cheerfully retro green and white beach huts that are in hot demand to rent for the season, where you can store all your beach essentials, make a cup of tea and sit in a deckchair sunning yourself with your friends. The good weather had brought the families out in force, making sand castles, playing with dogs and passing round the sandwiches, surrounded by colourful wind breaks and beach tents.

Green Beach huts at Langland Bay, Gower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Green Beach huts at Langland Bay, Gower

Langland beach has an almost tropical air due to the spiky palms planted in front of the beach huts. The tide was a long way out and we could just spot a few surfers and a kayak lesson going on. Walking along the path above the beach we reached the Langland Brasserie at the end, the smartest of the three beach cafes, where we had enjoyed a coffee in the rain on a previous winter visit to Langland and Caswell.

Langland Beach, Gower Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Langland Beach, Gower

Buckets and Spades at Caswell Bay

After Langland Bay, the path was still good but the flat concrete surface disappeared and the shore became wild again with pock-marked rocks like calcified sponges exposed at low tide. On our right the heathland sloped upwards, with new growth sprouting in places and other patches that were dry and brown, even blackened as if by fire. Offshore a lone paddleboarder was taking a parallel course to us, making surprisingly good progress despite or perhaps because the sea was calm with hardly any waves. The day was warm but now becoming overcast, with a patch of blue sky topped by a lid of grey clouds and we hoped there wouldn’t be rain ahead as Caswell Bay came into view.

Where Langland has a touch of old world elegance about it, Caswell feels much more buckets and spades, candy floss and burgers. I had been rather looking forward to stopping for a light lunch in the Surfside Cafe, but Guy was put off by the crowds on the beach and so we only stopped long enough to eat our Welsh cakes and have a swig of water. We continued across the sand in front of the lifeguard hut to where the path passed through woodland and around the cliff.

Caswell Beach, Gower Peninsula,  South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Caswell Beach, Gower Peninsula, South Wales

Wildflowers and woodland by Pwll du Bay

The path was so narrow in places that there was not much to stop you falling down if you missed a step, although we could look back down on Caswell with a sheen of water like a mirror over most of the surface. The coastal path took us through a very pretty stretch of lush undergrowth with wildflowers like ox eye daisies and pink foxgloves blooming, contrasting with the lunar landscape of rocks below us, exposed at high tide.

Through a stretch of woodland we came down to the National Trust beach at Pwll du Bay which was more remote than the others we had passed with no car park and access that seemed to be only via the footpaths, although there were a couple of cottages with cars outside. A large bank of shale backed the beach and behind it a stream was running, creating a marshy area with a small pool and a bridge to cross. The area was once a limestone quarry and the buildings that remain were inns for the thirsty quarry men (and maybe smugglers) according to the National Trust website.

Up the steep path we now skirted the open headland through a field of cows, heading for Pennard where we were able to catch the bus back to Mumbles using the excellent regular bus service that makes it easy to walk parts of the coastal path as we had done. The information leaflets in the welcome pack that came with the cottage gave us plenty of information about the walks and bus service but you can also pick them up in the local tourist information office or check the BayTrans website here.

Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula, Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula, Wales

Surf’s up at Llangennith

On Sunday morning we decided to check out one of the Gower beaches that I’d heard a lot about from my son, but never visited, the surfer’s favourite beach at Llangennith. Half an hour’s drive from Mumbles, we parked by the cafe above the Hillend campsite and walked down to the beach, although we afterwards realised that we could have parked right by the sand dunes.

This beach is huge and extends in both directions, bounded by Rhossilli at one end and Broughton Bay at the other. As we arrived it was low tide and there was a constant stream of surfers walking through the dunes with their boards under their arms, across the flat sand, sheeted with water and down to the surf. As every good surfer knows, winter is by far the best time for surfing, when the wind and storms in the Atlantic create the swell, but in June the water was quite flat. Every so often a surfer would pop up and make a few curves, otherwise there seemed to be a lot of bobbing heads in the water.

Llangennith Beach on the  Gower Peninsula, Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Llangennith Beach on the Gower Peninsula, Wales

There were plenty of people sitting close to the beach entrance through the dunes, but as we walked further along we had the beach to ourselves with wide open skies and a gentle breeze. I love the sense of freedom and space you get beside the ocean on a wild, unspoilt beach like this. Those in the know were pulling their belongings along the sand in a beach cart so that they could walk further along to the quieter end of the beach. Even in the most crowded weekend in August I imagine you could have plenty of space here if you can be bothered to walk.

By lunchtime it was time to head back to Mumbles, leaving Promenade View and on back to Bristol, our heads a little clearer for the coastal walking and sea breeze. Next time I’d love to continue my walk around the rest of the Gower, passing some of the other fantastic beaches of Three Cliffs Bay, Oxwich and on to reach Rhossili and Llangennith again. Until then I’m holding on the memory of that wind in my hair and the lovely, luxurious Promenade View in Mumbles.

Visitor Information for Visiting Mumbles and the Gower Peninsula

Our holiday house at Promenade View can be booked through local holiday rentals company HomefromHome.com and you can also follow the Promenade View Facebook Page . Promenade View has 3 en suite bedrooms and sleeps up to 6 people in comfort with off street parking for one car and a small courtyard garden. The house is very well equiped with washing machine, dishwasher, dryer, internet as well as games and useful information for the area supplied in your welcome pack. Promenade View can be rented by the week from £535 (low season) – £1085 (high season) per week

You can find out more about visiting the area on the Visit Swansea Bay, Mumbles and Gower Website and for holidays in Wales on the Visit Wales Website

Thanks to Kim Davies who extended me a complimentary weekend stay at Promenade View

View my photos on flickr here.

More stories from Swansea and South Wales

A winter weekend on the Gower in Wales – Langland and Caswell
An ugly, lovely town Part 1 – a return journey to Swansea with Dylan Thomas
A long day’s walk on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path

Sunset from Mumbles, South Wales Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Sunset from Mumbles, South Wales

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

A quick tour of Celebrity Eclipse with Celebrity Cruises – video

I have to admit that since I took my first cruise last year, I’ve really caught the bug, so it was a pleasure to be invited to spend the day on board Celebrity Eclipse, a ship and cruise line that I didn’t know much about. Being quite new to cruising I’m realising that every cruise line has its own unique style and atmosphere and each has points of difference that will appeal to different types of guest. This does mean you need to do your homework before you book, in order the choose a cruise that’s right for you, but the good news is that there really is a cruise line for every age, budget and taste. Although I was only on board Celebrity Eclipse for a day, these were my first impressions of what you can expect when sailing with Celebrity Cruises.

Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Celebrity Eclipse in Southampton – big but not too big?

Size Matters

Size is one thing to watch out for when deciding which cruise ship to book and the new ships being built seem to get bigger and bigger. My first sight of Celebrity Eclipse as I came up to Dock 10 in Southampton is of a pretty big ship, accommodating around 2800 guests, but not as big as some. However, as I walked around the ship throughout the day there didn’t seem to be too many large open spaces, like the open atriums on other ships, but instead a larger number of medium sized bars and restaurants, all with their different character. Of course, we were visiting the ship on changeover day, before all the guests had boarded, but I got the impression that the guests would be well dispersed in the different areas of the ship which makes for a less crowded feel, and that’s a big benefit on a larger ship.

I hope you enjoy the short video below I made from my day on board Celebrity Eclipse

If you can’t see the video above, view it on my blog here or on YouTube here and please do subscribe using the button above
Download the Video tour of Celebrity Eclipse
Subscribe to all my videos in I-tunes
If you enjoyed this video, check out the others in my Video archive

A boutique country house style

Considering that Celebrity Cruises is a mainstream cruise line with larger ships I loved the appearance of the ship which I’d describe as Contemporary Country House style. The colours were warm and welcoming, the furnishings stylish and each different part of the ship seemed to have a slightly different character. I loved the library, not so much for the books, as an elegant space with the tall bookcases and wing chairs where you could sit quietly and relax. Another favourite spot was the lawn club on the top deck. A lot of things in cruising can feel a bit fake, but here the grass was real and I could imagine enjoying a drink up here with the sound of croquet being played or the clink of a game of boules on the lawn. So very English.

Celebrity Eclipse; Contemporary Country House style Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Celebrity Eclipse; Contemporary Country House style

I loved the library as a welcoming space where you could imagine coming to escape with a good book.

Library on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Loved the library on board Celebrity Eclipse – a place to curl up with a good book

The Lawn Club on the top deck is a special place to relax, and yes, the grass is real!

Lawn Club on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lawn Club on Celebrity Eclipse – yes the grass is real!

A Grown up feel

The atmosphere on board Celebrity Eclipse felt quite grown up, although I suspect the upcoming cruise to Iceland and Norway would attract an older crowd anyway. Although there is a kid’s club on board, the average age of guests seemed to be 60+ and I noticed a few areas of the ship, such as the solarium, that were reserved for adults only. I think this ship would be ideal for couples and groups of adults or perhaps families travelling with older children but the atmosphere didn’t seem conducive for those with younger children.

Where are we staying?

We were treated to a tour of all the suites on board which generated lots of oohs and aahs and certainly had the wow factor. The penthouse suite was like a small apartment with the biggest bathroom I’ve seen and a baby grand piano in the sitting area.  If you have a cool few thousand to spend I could imagine the wealthy grandparents staying here and inviting all their extended family in for an evening en famille. My favourite was the slightly more modest Sky Suite where Celebrity Ambassador Ben Fogle had recently been staying with his family, which had a corner location and was lovely and light with colourful artwork. Back to reality, the ‘normal’ balcony stateroom we saw was still very nice with a light and classic theme and lovely bed-linen. There seemed to be sheets on the bed rather than a duvet, perhaps due to the unusual rounded ends of the bed.

I was also impressed with the staff that we met, who even though we weren’t staying on board, greeted us with a “Hello, how are you?” and a welcoming smile. As we came on board there was a glass of wine or juice waiting for guests and everyone had a little joke or a laugh to put you in the holiday spirit.

The Stateroom on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Stateroom on board Celebrity Eclipse

The Penthouse suite on Celebrity Eclipse had a baby grand piano and a meganormous bathroom for super wow factor!

The Penthouse suite on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Penthouse suite on Celebrity Eclipse

My favourite was the Sky Suite with colourful contemporary artwork and a corner position with double windows.

The Sky suite on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Sky suite on board Celebrity Eclipse

Food glorious food

Celebrity Eclipse is definitely a ship for those who enjoy food and wine and are looking for a gourmet experience on board. There are so many different speciality restaurants that I was starting to lose count by the end of our tour. We had lunch in the main restaurant which is of course a complimentary part of your cruise package, but there were examples of the different dishes laid out in each speciality restaurant so we could see what was on offer. For those special celebration meals there is the high end Murano restaurant, that wouldn’t be out of place in a 5 star London hotel, with over the top flower arrangement and a private dining room. More my style for less formal dining there was the Tuscan Grill for steaks and meat dishes with red glassware and wine bottles on barrels, or the Qisine restaurant serving contemorary Asian fusion small dishes with menu selection from an iPad. I also liked the look of Bistro on 5 which was a great lunchtime venue.

Murano restaurant for high end dining on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Murano restaurant for high end dining on Celebrity Eclipse

I could totally imagine having a nice juicy steak in the Tuscan Grille restaurant

Tuscan Grille restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Tuscan Grille restaurant on Celebrity Eclipse

A classy lunchtime venue in Bistro on 5

Bistro on 5 on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Bistro on 5 on Celebrity Eclipse

Here’s a flavour of the dishes you might try in the Qisine and Tuscan Grille restaurants on board Celebrity Eclipse.

Top: Asian Fusion small dishes in Qisine, Bottom: Tuscan Grille Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Top: Asian Fusion small dishes in Qisine, Bottom: Tuscan Grille

The speciality restaurants are all very well if you are prepared to pay the extra supplement charges to eat there, but what about the main dining room where guests will eat their evening meals on most nights? Well that’s where we ate lunch and it is an elegant, light and airy restaurant, double height with a huge sparkly central lighting. On the lower level is the set time dining, with two different sittings, which you choose at the start of the cruise, while on the upper level is Celebrity Select dining, where you have flexibility on the time you come to dinner, just like a normal restaurant. Of course there is also a self-service restaurant on board, but we didn’t have time to look at that on our tour.

The Main Dining Room on board Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Main Dining Room on board Celebrity Eclipse

We chose from a shortened menu which had a couple of choices for each course but would also normally have some classic favourites too. I tried a prawn cocktail on a bed of lettuce and a very pretty and colourful salad with pomegranate seeds and raspberry vinaigrette, followed by a delicious filet mignon steak and a soft chocolate mousse cake and strawberry dipped in caramel with ice cream. It would be a treat to eat food of this standard every day, as well as trying out some of the speciality restaurants during the cruise to spice things up a bit.

Lunch in the main dining room on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Lunch in the main dining room on Celebrity Eclipse

The Spa difference

Celebrity Eclipse is a wonderful ship if you take your spa holidays seriously and you can even book a special Aqua Class package, with luxury staterooms that are close to the spa area. Aqua Class guests also have exclusive use of the Blu dining room and the Persian Garden spa relaxation area with heated lounge chairs and different steam areas. During our day on board, we were offered a spa treatment and I decided to go for the pedicure to get my feet in good shape for the summer.

I sat with Kelly, one of the other bloggers in a little private area for pedicures which had a view out to sea and spent a lovely hour having my feet massaged and my toe nails groomed and polished to a professional gloss finish that I could never have achieved myself. It would be a treat to have a pedicure with a friend, as there is room for 3 people at one time and the nail technicians from Jamaica were also super-friendly and easy to chat to.

Having a pedicure on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Having a relaxing pedicure on Celebrity Eclipse

After the beauty treatments we relaxed for a bit in the Solarium area, just outside the spa which was for adults only, where I wouldn’t minded have spending an hour or two on the sun lounger with a magazine. There was a very nice cafe area which served healthy snacks and small salad dishes which were a complimentary part of the cruise.

Relaxing in the Solarium on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Relaxing in the Solarium on Celebrity Eclipse

Unfortunately the weather was not being kind as we passed through the outdoor pool area – where did those Caribbean blue skies go?

Pool deck on Celebrity Eclipse Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Pool deck on Celebrity Eclipse – where did the blue sky go?

Overall Impressions?

I had a lovely day looking around Celebrity Eclipse. Of course it was only one day, rather than a full cruise, but my impression was of a ship that has a luxurious, grown up feel, with great service, spa facilities and superb food options if you are looking for a gourmet experience.

Thanks to Celebrity Cruises who hosted my day on board Celebrity Eclipse

These were the other lovely lifestyle and travel bloggers that I was on board with, all of whom I was meeting for the first time. From left to right they are: Elle from a bird in the hand, Sarah from Energy for Life, Kelly from Around the world in 80 pairs of shoes, me, Inna from Start up your happiness. Nice to meet you ladies!

The Destination Bloggers on board Celebrity Eclipse; Elle, Sarah, Kelly, me, Inna Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Destination Bloggers on board Celebrity Eclipse; from left Elle, Sarah, Kelly, me, Inna

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Tunis and Carthage – Day 6 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise – video

Day six of our Mediterranean Cruise with MSC Cruises took us from Europe to Africa in just a few hours as we arrived in Tunisia. The modern port of La Goulette where the MSC Splendida docked was a 15 minute drive from the centre of Tunis and we had pre-arranged a private taxi to take us sightseeing for the day.

Heather at Sidi Bou Said Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Heather at Sidi Bou Said

Just outside the cruise port we met our taxi driver, Mr Faouzi who took us first visit the pretty village of Sidi Bou Said, which was a 15 minute drive up the coast. The village is known for its picturesque white houses with blue painted doors and windows and is known as the Santorini in Tunisia. We arrived before most of the coach excursions with the souvenir stalls in the pedestrianized main street just starting to open.

Main Street at Sidi Bou Said Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Main Street at Sidi Bou Said

Walking up street, we admired the pretty white and blue houses, every so often exploring down a side alley to investigate a hidden courtyard, old studded door or building draped with pink bougainvillea. We could see below us a small harbour area and the MSC Splendida at the port in the distance. We passed a few cafes and smart hotels with terraces overlooking the sea and at the end of the road was a viewpoint, where the path continued down the hill to the harbour. We retraced our steps, just as the cruise excursions were arriving and took a look around the small Dar El-Annabi Museum (€2.50 entrance).

I hope you enjoy the video below of our day visiting Sidi Bou Said and Carthage on our cruise stop in Tunis

If you can’t see the video above from our visit to Sidi Bou Said and Carthage, view it on my blog here or on YouTube here

Download the Tunis and Carthage Video
Subscribe to all my videos in I-tunes
If you enjoyed this video, check out the others in my Video archive

This traditional house was built at the end of the 18th century and used as a family summer residence, but is now open to the public showing scenes from Tunisian life. The house had been set up as if preparations were underway for a wedding, with figures in Tunisian costume showing the bride being decorated with henna and receiving guests with her family. The internal patio at the entrance was decorated in Andalucian style, with a central fountain, flowering jasmine and bougainvillea and stairs up to a terrace with a panorama over the town. Through the big studded door were sitting rooms with figures in costume, leading to a large open courtyard where an underground cistern collected rainwater from the roof. We really enjoyed this insight into Tunisian life and highly recommend the museum for those interested in local culture.

Wedding scene at museum in Sidi Bou Said Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Wedding scene at museum in Sidi Bou Said

Next on our taxi tour was the visit to Carthage, which is not a single site like Pompeii but a succession of different sites with residential and shopping areas in between, so it would be difficult to see them all without a car. The legendary city of Carthage was founded in 814BC as the capital of the Punic Empire and exerted influence over the whole Mediterranean for many centuries. The empire’s power waned during the Punic wars, fought between 264 and 146 BC when military commanders such as Hannibal were unable to avoid defeat by the Romans. Although Carthage was destroyed during this conflict, it was later rebuilt by the Romans and became the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Later the city was conquered by the Vandals, Byzantines and Arabs and fell into oblivion until archaeological excavations were begun in the 19th century and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our tour started at the Carthage Museum where the ticket (cost around €5) gave us entrance to all the different sites. The museum is situated at the top of the hill of Byrsa that was the site of the Roman Forum, with a commanding view over the ancient city and the sea. We had a look around the museum with some fine mosaics and larger statues from the site. Outside were gardens with fallen columns and their decorative pediments and we could also see the remains of Punic houses built on the slopes of the hill.

Mosaics in the Carthage Museum Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Mosaics in the Carthage Museum

Next we drove to the Roman Amphitheatre, which had a capacity of 40,000 people and was used to stage gladiator combats, circus games with wild animals and mock naval battles. Only the perimeter of the arena remains today, with some of the internal walls, broken columns and the underground tunnels.

The Antonine Baths was the largest of the archaeological sites we visited, in a beautiful location beside the sea. The baths covered a very extensive area, including the cold frigidarium, sauna or tepidarium and hot calidarium in a large complex with a central hall supported by columns and domed roofs. The site that you can see today consists mainly of the underground portions of the building made up of storage rooms and boiler rooms, with only a single column showing where the ground level would have been.

The Antonine baths at Carthage Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

The Antonine baths at Carthage

The final stop on our tour was the Punic port which was considered a feat of engineering in ancient times. There were two communicating basins which can still be seen and we took a walk around the circular one with a central island where we could see the remains of the berths where war ships could be drawn up out of the water on wooden rollers. Now the basin is surrounded by desirable houses overlooking the water, with small boats moored up all around the perimeter and a few fishermen sorting out their nets.

Boats in the Punic Port at Carthage Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

Boats in the Punic Port at Carthage

After our visit to the various sites of Carthage, we drove the 20 minutes into the modern town of Tunis, for a look at the old town or Medina. We stopped for lunch in a café on one of the boulevards in the centre of town, planning to afterwards walk into the Medina. The weather had been overcast and showery all day, but since it was now raining heavily we decided against our walk and asked our driver drop us back at the cruise port, where we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing on board.

MSC Splendida at Tunis Photo: Heatheronhertravels.com

MSC Splendida at Tunis

Tomorrow we have a day at sea as MSC Splendida sails back to Barcelona where we will end our week’s cruise.

Options for visiting the main sites of Tunis

  • The main things to see on a cruise excursion to Tunis are the various sites of Carthage, the blue and white village of Sidi Bou Said and the Medina or old town of Tunis. The Bardo Museum with ancient mosaics is also recommended but is situated in the suburbs of Tunis, so you may not have time to see this as well as the other places.
  • Booking a cruise excursion is probably the most convenient option, but as always you will be in a large group of around 50 people, and will probably have to choose two of the sites above, as there is not time to see them all.
  • Another good option is to hire your own taxi for the day to take you to the main sites of Carthage, Sidi Bou Said and the Medina. There are taxis waiting in a rank as you exit the cruise terminal and prices are posted on a board. The prices posted were €60 for Medina/Carthage/Sidi Bou Said for 4 seats, €80 for 6 seats, €100 for 8 seats. As I did not take the taxi from this rank I can’t confirm whether these were the fixed prices, but my general experience in North Africa is that even when the price is shown, you should agree a price with the driver before setting off and may need to bargain to achieve a price you are comfortable with.
  • If you turn right out of the terminal and walk down the road to the port exit, you will pass a parking area where other taxis are waiting and some drivers may approach you to offer a taxi tour. Again, if you wish to take one of these you may need to bargain and agree a fair price before setting off on your tour.
  • Once you reach the exit of the port (turn right and 10 minutes walk from the cruise terminal) immediately ahead of you there is an Oil Libya gas station and beside it is another rank of taxis. These are public taxis that do not have a permit to come into the port and many of these will also offer to take you on a tour. Again you may need to bargain to agree a fair price, and the price here may be lower than in the port.
  • Because we wanted a private taxi tour but also the certainty of a pre-booked service and a pre-agreed price, we contacted a Tunis based travel agent that I had seen recommended in the Cruise Forums, Ben Jebara M. Tahar through his website http://www.expertraveltunisia.webs.com Twitter: @expertravel  Although he was not able to offer us on a personal tour, he arranged a taxi for the day with an English-speaking driver at around the same cost as the official cruise excursion. Although this probably cost more than bargaining ourselves for a taxi, we were very happy with the service, which was arranged by e-mail, with a follow-up phone call via the driver’s mobile. This gave us a tour that was more flexible than the official excursion and with a less crowded experience, since most of the sites were empty when we visited them.
  • If you are on a budget, there is a train that runs from outside the port to the centre of Tunis in one direction and to Carthage and Sidi Bou Said in the other direction. I did not take the train but you can find information about it on Cruise Forums.

MSC Excursion Options

The Historical and Cultural tour (4 hrs, £49 Adult) of Tunis features the archaeological ruins of ancient Carthage, ancient baths and a visit to Sidi Bou Said. The Beach Tour (4.5 hrs, £35 Adult) is trip to Gammarth, a lovely seaside resort a short drive from Tunis. If it’s shopping you’re after try the Shopping Tour (4.5 hrs, £45 Adult) to the old medina quarter and its traditional spice market with hundreds of stalls selling a huge variety of local produce. For a dose of colour there’s the History & Colours of Tunis (4.5 hrs, £42 Adult) tour to the Bardo Museum, a former 13th century palace famous for its outstanding collection of mosaics. Finally, choose Exploring the Colourful Souks of Tunis (4 hrs, £42 Adult) where you can stroll the streets of the medina for Arabian style shopping, admire the handicrafts and spices and visit a traditional carpet shop to learn about the history and traditions of the Berber people.

Other articles in my Mediterranean Cruise series

Join me on a week’s Mediterranean cruise with MSC cruises
All aboard at Barcelona – Day 1 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Bonjour Marseille – Day 2 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Palazzo and Gelato in Genoa – Day 3 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Naples and an excursion to Pompeii – Day 4 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Messina and an excursion to Taormina – Day 5 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
Tunis and Carthage – Day 6 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise
A day at sea and back to Barcelona – Day 7 of my MSC Mediterranean Cruise

MSCCruiseslogoThanks to MSC cruises who hosted Guy and Heather’s Mediterranean cruise. Heather and Guy travelled on MSC Splendida from Barcelona on a 1 week cruise calling at Genoa, Marseille, Naples, Messina, Tunis. Prices for a similar cruise start at around £700 per person. For more information, visit the MSC Cruises website or follow them on Twitter @MSC_Cruises_UK or on the MSC Facebook page.

This article by Heather Cowper is originally published at Heatheronhertravels.com - Read the original article here

Click to subscribe to our monthly newsletter, news and reader offers

HOHT newsletter

You’ll also find our sister blog with tips on how to build a successful travel blog at My Blogging Journey

Next Page »