Dar Bibine

For the first two nights in Tunisia we were stayed away from the hustle and bustle of Djerba's touristy beaches (though we would certainly hit those up later in the trip).  However, as our taxi cab driver whisked us along the "Djerba Expo" direct from the Mellita/ Zarzis Airport - in almost complete darkness - we were not quite sure what to expect!  By avoiding the road more traveled from the onset, I think we were both a little unsure that first night as to how rough-and-tumble this North African experience might be.  (As it turned out, we needn't worry.) 

The town of Erriadh is located almost smack-dab in the middle of the island, and as we bypassed through a maze of whitewashed buildings by dark, it was very hard to see exactly where we were going.  After asking a few locals in nearby open-air markets, our taxi cab driver finally dropped us off at our hotel, the Dar Bibine...  Upon our arrival, we saw a bright blue door adorned with gold studs; we knew we were in the right place.  Entering through the blue door here is like going down Alice's rabbit hole into a whole other world, and this little oasis was exactly what we needed after our long flight from Paris! 

Gérard and Isabelle are the owners, and brainchildren, behind the Dar Bibine, a well preserved Djerbian compound with a futuristic feel and utter sophistication.  We had found the hidden gem while randomly surfing the internet while preparing for the trip.  As soon as we saw the photos, we knew this was the place to stay!  Tutored in the design school of Philippe Stark (?), our caretakers have styled the Dar Bibine with crisp blue and white accent pieces, an homage to the local Islamic art aesthetic.  (We soon found out this was a theme that would follow us throughout Southern Tunisia.) 

Gérard and Isabelle greeted us with a bottle of wine and some snacks and let us choose our accommodations from one of the four uniquely styled rooms, all of which face a small courtyard lap pool (a splendid respite after a hot day at the beach).  Gérard and Isabelle, who had purchased the property after visiting a few times from their home country of Belgium, told us that we were fortuitous to arrive on this evening as it was the only night of the year that the poolside cacti were in full bloom!

The Dar Bibine is well suited with a modern kitchen, dining area and living room which can be shared by all of the hotel guests.  (Feel free to check your emails at your leisure.)  The current property already includes a small hamman (spa) where you can purchase customized massages or beauty treatments.  The room we chose was just as impressive as the grounds.  While water, beer, fresh fruits and books about Djerbian culture were at our immediate disposal, it was the littlest of touches that really made it so special.  (A clever mascot - a mosquito light – was positioned in an alcove, and functioned not only as a source of illumination, but also a reminder to keep our "electrical mosquito repellent" on during the night.)

Morning breakfast, included in the price of the room, is perhaps where the Dar Bibine shines brightest!  We were treated to one of the most spectacular and original breakfast presentations we have ever seen.  No detail was left out!  The fried eggs on our plates were shaped in the form of little fish, complete with bubbles made out of onion slices and eyes made out of drops of harissa, a local spice used almost like ketchup.  The freshly squeezed orange juice arrived in test tubes alongside freshly baked pastries, French cheeses and baguette. Yummy.  Table d'hôte is available for other meals on request.

For all of you looking for a truly unique boutique hotel experience, do yourself a favor and check into the Dar Bibine.  Your friendly hosts Gérard and Isabelle have thought through every detail to make your stay a completely unique experience.  Prices for B&B for one night/ room are €120 (about $160 USD).  A supplement of €30 is charged for a third person, though babies are free.  If you are a resident of Tunisia, check with Gérard and Isabelle first about tariffsFor European citizens, a valid passport is required to stay. Pets are not admitted.  

Dar Bibine - Rue Abdel Wahab 7, Erriadh, Djerba, 011 (216) 75 671 196,


Radisson Blu Ulysse Resort & Thalasso

Most people visiting Djerba tend to hit up one of the large resort hotels along on the Mediterranean coast, taking in the scenic views, white sand and hot sun!  Who can blame them?  The Park Inn Ulysse was our last stop in Tunisia after doing an extensive road trip across the country (and back); the resort was certainly very welcoming to this weary "set of drifters." 

Upon arrival at our room, we were very impressed   with the decor, a clever mix of classic Tunisian shapes and colors incorporated into a functional hotel suite.  The beds were very comfortable, and we were impressed with the fine quality of the bath amenities as well as the good selection in the mini bar.  Our room featured a balcony with both views of the exquisitely landscaped courtyard garden and the crystal blue ocean!  There was even a stylish divan next to the window where you could nap or read a book.  (It's these types of small details that make it a joy to stay at one resort over another.)

The resort itself had so much on offer in way of restaurants, bars, and activities.  We had not nearly enough time to hit them all up.  Aside from the many on-site fine dining restaurants, five bars, fitness center, two pools (and the private beach), Ulysse Resort (now part of the Radisson Blu brand) also features an extensive hamman/ thalasso spa and a concierge that will help you organize tours to the mainland if you do not have a car (see "essentials").

Our favorite attractions at the Park Inn Ulysse, however, were in the form of three kittens that hid in the bushes  just beyond the main restaurant.  We made sure to feed them cans of tuna and sardines... but we clearly weren't the only ones interested in their well-being.  Visitors from all over the globe were leaving treats for these cuties, making them the luckiest cats in all of Tunisia!  (After seeing so many wayward emaciated kittens in our week-long trek, it was nice to see some actually looking healthy!)

Ulysse Resort & Thalasso is themed after Homer's classics (and Tunisia's Mediterranean connection to Carthaginian history.)  The current management does a great job of providing you a very high-end boutique hotel experience with all the amenities of a resort, and at an affordable price.  If we were to critique anything it may have been the brusqueness of the front desk staff.  Still, the waiters in the restaurants were all very friendly and enjoyed sharing with us stories about living in Tunisia.  Set of Drifters video:  Check out our YouTube channel for video from this event!

Radisson Blu Ulysse Resort & Thalasso- Route Touristique, BP 239, Zone Touristique, Djerba, 011 (216) 75 758 777 or (800) 765-0996