Discover Annaba and Constantine

…and there we were: in Algeria! I love the thrill of being in a country of which you know nothing, you have no idea what to expect and you’ve never met anyone who has ever been there. For me, this was the case with Algeria. For more info on the border crossing, read my other blog on Algeria.

Algeria is stunning. The landscapes are beautiful, the weather was great (late April and about 25-30C) and people were friendly and the streets were clean.

Annaba

Annaba (pronounce as Annaaaabaa) is about 3 hours from the Tunisian border. It’s a sea town that has a cooling sea breeze and therefore quite relaxed. My travel book described it as a ‘laid back’ city. Not sure I would describe it like this, but it’s for sure a city that has village-vibes. We stayed in the stunning hotel El Mountazah. This hotel is built in Seraidi, a small village in the hills above Annaba. If you have a chance, stay here! You’ll have beautiful sunsets over the bay, the hills and Annaba. Though at the time we were here (April 2017), they were about to close the hotel for renovations.

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There’s a funicular going up from Annaba. From the funicular in Seraidi it’s about a 10 minute walk to the hotel. In those 10 minutes you’ll have seen the entire village.

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When we arrived in the hotel, we were exhausted after a long day of travelling, and the hassle at the border. All we needed was a shower and food. But the receptionist thought differently about this. Even though she was super friendly and tried to make it as comfortable as possible for us, there was no way an unmarried couple can stay in the same room. ‘But madam, we are married’. Well, not without a marriage certificate (does anyone ever take that on holidays?) We could’ve known this in such a conservative country, and for our next trip I’ll fake a beautiful marriage certificate in a language that no one can read. There was no way to get around this, no matter how beautiful we made the story (married for 1,5 years in a beautiful castle far far away and if it helps the story, we’ll fake being pregnant as well. Good excuse for eating a lot). Apparently it’s the law in Algeria, though we didn’t hear about this in the next hotel. So the solution was that we paid for 2 rooms and the consequence was that we only stayed in this beautiful hotel for 1 night.

 

Anyway, after the shower I’d longed for all day, some chill-time at our balcony watching the sunset, it was time for food! For a vegetarian, the Northern-African countries (frankly, most countries) are a bit of a challenge. It’s all meat! So, eventually we found a lovely pizzeria at the town’s square. The owner, ready in his purple sweatpants and on Nikes, prepared us a delicious pizza (no other customers so it was ready in no time) which we finished in the blink of an eye. All we needed now was sleep!

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The next morning we went to the Basilica of Saint Augustine. What a gem! Ok, to be honest, we didn’t go in the basilica. It’s on a hilltop so we had a pretty good looks from the Ruins of Hippone; the ‘old’ basilica. The Basilica of Saint Augustine was in my book described as the modern version of the Sacre Coeur in Paris. We’d visited that a few months ago, and if you close your eyes you might see the comparison ;). Even though I didn’t see it, it’s still stunning!

We left our bags with the security at the entrance and took our time to explore the ruins, which are surprisingly well preserved. The security guard knew a lot about this place! And showed us around, just because he liked it, not to earn some extra money.

After our private tour, we went to the taxi station (within walking distance from the ruins) and took a shared taxi to Constantine, which was about 3 hours.

Constantine

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Look at this picture: fascinating how they built an entire city on a cliff, high above the Rhumel gorge, isn’t it? In Constantine they did, which results in spectacular views and sunsets. It’s also referred to as ‘city of bridges’.

Constantine is the perfect city for a stroll (when it’s not burning hot). IMG_7034Walk around the city center and you’ll always have spectacular views. Ok, I have to admit; it took us quite a while to understand the city. All these bridges can be quite confusing as well. We took as a reference point the Sidi M’Cid Bridge. Especially at night it’s quite easy to recognize this bridge, since it turns into a disco-bridge.

When you cross the Sidi M’Cid bridge, you’ll reach another lovely district of the city. This is also the area with the hospital. Really interesting to see all these ambulances having to cross the bridge (and being heavily slowed down). Go left and climb up towards the Monument of the Dead for breathtaking views. A monument that was built by the French to remember the people that died in WWI. My guide book warned me that it might be dangerous (ok, to be honest I only read that after visiting) but I guess this got a lot better over the years. There’s a lot of police around, but seems quite safe.

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When you walk down and a bit past the bridge, you will find the funicular that can take you down to the medina again. Always nice to do! The only downside is that the altitude is quite high, and so we were exhausted all the time. We therefore spend a lot of time near the bridge, but didn’t explore the entire city thoroughly (though I have the feeling that we have quite a good impression now).

Just 1 must do in this city: watch sunset over the Sidi M’Cid bridge. Stunning! We spent quite a while here, but hardly anyone seemed to do it. Bring some food and just sit and absorb the spectacular views.

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Speaking of which: for food in Constantine there’s only one recommendation; go to Tiddis. Haha, almost every restaurant carries this name! There are a few good ones at the end of the Av. Achour Rachmani. I would recommend trying the ‘briks’.

After you’ve filled your belly, you might want to go for a drink. Well, not in Algeria. Constantine is a young town, with a large university. But this isn’t reflected in nightlife. Not much is happening here after 9pm. Though the times that we were out on the streets in the dark, we didn’t feel unsafe. If you’re craving for a drink, you can go to the hotels on the Place de la Pyramide, though it won’t be cheap. Note that you the market is here as well; right under the Place de la Pyramide. Always good to buy some fruits (and to be honest, I love markets).

In Constantine, we stayed at Hotel des princes; a really nice hotel in the city center. Not the cheapest, but worth the money.

 

For us, this was our trip to Algeria for now. We took a taxi back to Tunis after a few days. You can read more about the border crossing in my other blogs.

 

 

 

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