The swallows continue their air war in the bright sky above Tunis. They slice up the clouds like Battle of Britain champions.
The Avenue Habib Bourguiba parades with enduring French pomp from the harbour to the medina. It is the most momentous slab of Tunis’ New Town. The Cathedral of St Vincent de Paul and the standout Théâtre Municipal de Tunis look as pale and weightless as if they are sculpted out of ice cream. Both are classics from the glory days of Art Nouveau, with the former opening its doors in 1897 and the latter 1902.
The Avenue is comparable in its aged magnificence and its faintly festive atmosphere to Barcelona’s La Rambla. A footstep into the Avenue and I can see immediately that I am undoubtedly the worst dressed person here. With my faded, shapeless jacket and sloping shoulders, I must look like the janitor in the fashion school.
Everybody is dripping with style. The men are grouchy and hangdog, but coiffured and tailored with rapier sharpness. Each woman is so beautiful that she would send the sun scampering away in shame. Well, you get the picture. There are lots of designer and high quality clothes on sale in piles everywhere.
I also let the whole street down by proving defective at crossing the road. The Avenue, I should say, is for the most part pedestrianised in the centre with the road flowing in two channels on either side. The correct way to cross the road is to swing insolently into the moving traffic, with a regal flutter of the hand in the faces of the crashing motorists. My own method – that of standing marooned piteously on kerbs – incites passers-by to help me and volunteer themselves as human shields. With their help, I am soon a pro.