Our first year in London we drove our Allard M2X down to Sicily and back. And when we got home, there was an invitation to a wedding. My great friend Joe Mygatt was marrying a red head firecracker. Or, rather, had married the firecracker while we were fooling around in Sicily. We were too late for their wedding, but there was plenty of time to hop on a plane for Tunis and spend Christmas with the newlyweds.
Their Christmas tree was a little orange tree in a pot with three oranges and four ornaments.
Joe and Laurie were in the Peace Corps and eager to show us around. One day we went to the market where old blue Peugeot Station wagons sat in the sun while gentlemen in robes ran around the market screaming MADHIA MADHIA MADHIA. And MATMATA MATMATA MATAMATA.
The old Peugeots were Louages, mini busses, and Matmata was where we were headed.
You may think of the desert as graceful shifting dunes with a caravan of camels in the distance. Tunisia’s desert on the way to Matmata was dirt and rocks under a blaze of sun. When we got to Matmata there really was no there there. No houses, trees, no nothing. A closer look revealed large holes in the ground. Our hotel was a doorway into the ground.
|Hotel Hole-In-The-Ground. As always, click on image to enlarge|
You went down through a tunnel to emerge at the bottom of a large hole, dug over a thousand years ago. The rooms were on the sides of the hole, reachable by footholes carved in the side of the big hole and a rope. When you got up to your “room” you pulled the rope up after you so the robbers could not reach you. It made perfect sense, warm in the winter and cool in the summer. And you never had to replace the roof. We slept on slabs like statues on top of tombs.
|Laurie Mulally Mygatt buzzing with energy. Note the rope to the "room"|
Later, when we got back to London, I had a mysterious disease. The British Doctor assured me it was psycho symatic, ie. I was just reacting to the “stress” of London Life. My temperature rose.
Finally, on the third visit, my temperature had risen to 104.F. And I’d turned Easter Egg yellow.
“Ah,” she said, with an air of great satisfaction, “now I have it. You have jaundice. Lie down, and when you feel better, get up.”
Which I did. Our flat was in the basement of a house in Queensgate Gardens so not all that different from the Hotel in Matmata. It took 6 weeks before I got out of bed. Not before I’d given my wife hepititis. “Observe all normal hygiene" the old fraud told me when I asked if the disease was contagious. Evidently kissing your wife is outside the boundaries of normal hygiene in England.
The last pic is the first day I’d got out of bed, crouching cautiously alongside the old M2X Allard that Karen called “The Anteater”. The Anteater and I looking a little worse for wear from our southern jaunts.
Never mind. I gotta run. Laurie Mulally Mygatt is comin to town and this is gonna be fun.