Hotel Miramar Club-Skanes-Tunisia

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hotel resident spa spa

Tunisia was for thalasso. Or "cure" as Europeans sometimes call it. Or spa, in American vernacular. What did I cure?

  • a nagging bit of Arab-phobia that has crept into me from coverage of the Iraq war. On the contrary, Tunisians are hard-working, non aggressive (EXCEPT for store sales people, who are unstoppable). Tunisians don't smile much, not because they are sad, it seems, more in neutral waiting to respond in kind to the mood encountered.
  • a preconception about north African desert dryness. Recent rains left standing pools in fields, which unfortuantely provide optimum incubation for mosquitoes. Our hotel activites were water-centered—pools, thalasso bubbles, herbal drinks. Evidently, climate changes are benefitting Tunisia. The last 20 years it's been getting more rain, making it the green spot on the north African coast.
  • anxiety about whether I would ever get back to the physical shape I was in before chemo. The thalasso was soothing and oxygenating. I felt like walking and swimming again, although regaining strength will take more rigorous exercise.
  • self consciousness that one breast is no longer shaped like the other one. Happily, I noted that the small dent in my breast from the lumpectomy is hardly noticeable amid the fat, misshapen bodies converging onto this spot from numerous countries. Normal human appendages stick out of paunchy cubes,reined in at places by bikinis. Men take on a sway back posture balancing huge bellies. The food was not conducive to adding to this bulk, but guests' overladen plates indicated they weren't the least concerned.

I warily stayed out of the sun, but there was so much of it, my freckles couldn't help but get excited. The breezes are Mediterranean, as are the palms. It's the architecture that sets this place apart. The half moon or half circle is everywhere—in domes, ceramics, sculpture. In neighboring Monastir you see them in an artful floor mosaic, so repetitive that you get an optical illusion. Looking down you see half circles in a regular pattern. Looking across you see straight lines at 45 and 90 degrees.

First impression was that our hotel has seen better days, but, then, so had our bodies, so the thalasso week could even things out, we reasoned. Later we understood that it was one of the better maintained ones in the area. The staff works hard and is responsive, which helps you overlook occasional peeling paint.

Daily routine was quickly established. First, guzzle caffeine so I can get to the thalasso center to relax. Herbal tea is served between treatments that would sedate a lion. Rev up. Calm down...a wierd default pattern when your regular habits are combined with a week of thalasso. After the massage finale, it's an effort to open my eyes, find my clothes, walk back to the room.

Bubbly, bouyant half-hour thalasso treatments target every part of the body. Maze-like sections of the especially engineered pool have dedicated tasks. Frothy, tiny hydro-massage bubbles stimulate the feet, then"waterfalls" aim at your shoulders and head, large 100 mm, bubbles knead the knees, back and chest.

Bio-marine treatments use equipment that strongly ressembles an MRI scan. The whole body except the head gets slathered with algae mud and is covered under a lid (not for claustrophobics!). The apparatus steams and rinses you, all without your having to move. Purpose: skin softening, anti-inflammatory measures. Steam in a hamman is used another way—first to soften and loosen dead skin; a coarse horsehair glove rubdown takes it away. Then, slathered with algae, you go back into the steam before showering off the algae, emerging softer and shinier.

Herb-scented oil rubbed into the skin during the massage counteracts any drying from salt water in the pool. Masseuses rub to the rythmn of twangy, arabic music that's fast moving, but fluttery, like their hands.

Less pleasant handling is sometimes encountered at medinas, which are more an exercise in self-defense than pleasurable shopping. Some shop owners actually grab you and try to drag you into their stores. Others try out likely languages—German, French, English—to get a passerby to respond. This usually means several minutes of declining and pulling away, unless you concede to look at the store's contents. Once you're in, leaving is difficult. You must determinedly walk out without looking back. Any faltering indicates to shopkeepers that they are obligated to get you to buy something you didn't know you even wanted before entering the store. Getting to a purchase price entails haggling to about a third of the starting figure. It is especially refreshing to find a place that starts with a low fixed price that is the price.

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