With only 4 km between Tabarka and Algeria, I have to cross over to Europe. Algeria is one of those places that makes getting a visa very very hard. So I board the Carthage for Marseille, France. I nap until its more or less time for sunset at 6.15 that evening. The sea remains fantastically flat. The sun doesn’t so much set as fad away, loosing colour as it decends behind a thick low bank of cloud. Leaving Africa, it feels like the end of the trip. My mind is occupied more and more with thoughts of home.
When I get up on the open portions of deck the next morning land is already visible as a fuzzy line on the horizon. Protecting Marseille is a low lying rocky island around which a shipping race is taking place. The old port, where Carthage docks is vry walkable, with plnty of interesting and historic buildings. One is he black and white stone clad, multi-domed cathedral, which rang me into town. Marseille is trying to improve its image of a run down impoverished city. I get a sense of sudden prosperity, perhaps not seen since the days that the port was truely in action, the largest in France. I don’t think I could have found a nicer place to spnd 10 hours. Time passes more slowly at the station that evening. It empties out and takes on a sinister air, with dodgy-looking men wandering around offering hashish.
Couchettes are never as comfortable as they should be. Curiously, th quickest and cheapest way to Spain is an overnight intercity heading for Irun; I sop at Toulouse. This is after a long wait at Narbonne, the destination of my next connection early the following morning. That train leaves 3 minutes late, making it a tense time for me since on paper I only have a 20 minute window to get aboard the next train I need. This train is heading to Cartagene (New Carthage) in Spain, while I’ll stop in Barcelona.
There are about 20 coaches to the train as it departs Barcelona. The onboard computer shows we clock an impressive 301 km/h across the late summer Spanish undulations. Outside of Barcelona I see the sea and believe I can also see the Algerian coastline in the distance, until I realise its the reflected shadow of another passenger’s head in the window. Then the tracks lead inland until Malaga.
I had always assumed Malaga to be a hideous 20th century high-rise tourist bach resort, but the city cenre is oozing culture from very corner. I don’t really have time to explore Picasso’s birthplace, needing to get the ferry Juan J Sister back to Africa, though not out of Spain.