The good thing about tourist traps is that they usually have some redeeming quality that attracts tourists in the first place.

Visitors might first have to squeeze between tour buses, past sunburned sightseers and through a horde of vendors, but in the end they’ll likely find something worth the effort.

Those who find themselves in the Tunis area will likely hear a common message from the tourism and hotel people: "You should go to Sidi Bou Said!" "Go to Sidi Bou Said." "What about Sidi Bou Said?"

Not exactly Tunisia through the back door, as Rick Steves might say. But if you’ve got a half-day to spare, the village of Sidi Bou Said rates a look.

Sidi Bou Said is built on a hill overlooking the Gulf of Tunis, about 12 miles north of Tunis, the Tunisian capital.

Cobblestone streets and walks wind their way through the tightly bunched homes — all whitewashed with doors and shutters painted sky blue or yellow. Flowers ranging in color from light pink to deep purple practically tumble from window sills and down walls.

Nothing frames beautiful flowers like a white wall under a sunny sky.

The village would make for quite the lovers’ stroll, especially toward the top with an expansive view of the Gulf of Tunis and Mediterranean Sea. Up there, the crimson flowers flutter in the sea breeze and seem to come to life.

But one must first get to the top of Sidi Bou Said.

A bus, train or taxi can drop you at the base of the hill that leads up to the village. No cars are allowed beyond that point.

At the base of the hill there is a traffic circle, a mosque and a corner cafe, where the locals sit drinking coffee and watching pink people in baseball caps get off the buses and, with cameras around their necks, trudge up the hill to where the vendors wait.

And be assured, they are waiting.

The gantlet begins about 100 yards up the hill. There a vendor sells chess sets, water pipes and belly dancing outfits. And that’s just the first guy.

This is where the determined tourist must push forward. Past the ice cream salesman. Past the guy waving you inside to "have a look." Past the guy with shiny mirrors, colorful scarves and jewel-encrusted oil lamps.

After clearing the 50 or so vendors and continuing to push ever upward, the neighborhood appears, all cobblestone and white houses with blue doors and shutters and gates. And flowers. There are art galleries and a few small, expensive hotels tucked into the side alleys. A couple of cafes. But mostly, it’s just walking and looking at the pretty houses.

At the top of the hill, there’s a grand view of the gulf and, far below, the marina with dozens of boats including several jumbo yachts. Relax and take it in.

After the sun sets and most of the tourists leave, the locals come out. Men sit and gather around a water pipe, drinking tea and chatting in Arabic. There’s a restaurant on top of the hill called Au Bon Vieux Temps worth checking out, if dining on a delicious meal while sitting on a patio and enjoying a magnificent view is your thing.

On the way back down, you must again run the vendors’ gantlet. If you haven’t bought your sweetie something, now is the time. I recommend the jewelry. If she doesn’t like it, at least she can put it in her jewelry box and it won’t take up too much space.

Sidi Bou Said is a half-day trip; for the other half, a good option would be to visit the nearby North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial.

As with all the American overseas military cemeteries, the one outside Tunis is a peaceful place, a field of green on which 2,833 white crosses mark where fallen troops from World War II are buried. There is also a wall of the missing on which 3,724 names are inscribed.

The cemetery is an excellent place to learn about the North Africa campaign from the literature available to visitors, and to pay your respects to those who died during the fighting there. It’s also a nice change from the pack of vendors, and one you won’t soon forget.

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