Heading home

29.03.09 — Overnight in Algeciras 11:45pm

A brutally early start to the day was followed by an excellent journey from Marrakech to Tangier, with a stop in Casablanca. The first-class compartment was extremely cosy and I dozed my way through the Moroccan countryside to Tangier.

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Not so impressive was our Straits crossing which left half-an-hour late and ran an hour and a half late, leaving us stuck in the bay outside Algeciras waiting for a berth to dock. We arrived at out hotel two hours late — too late to get any food from their kitchens. Luckily the fantastic hotel barman was able to give us the number for pizza and we had one delivered to the hotel. The hotel Reina Christina is bizarre, straight out of The Shining. It has a very odd feel to it — as though we’ve missed the party sometime in the 1930s — but it has a lot of charm and I’ll sleep well tonight in my art-deco room.

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30.03.09 — Leaving Madrid 7:00pm

After so many days of travelling I have been surprised at my alertness and pleasantly pleased that I’ve not hit the wall — well, until a couple of hours ago. I finally succumbed to the strains of the trip home and needed a restorative café con leche to bring me back to life.

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Our day started well with a nice journey from Algeciras to Madrid through some of the most beautiful countryside southern Spain has to offer. The train weaved its way between lush green hills and deep valleys, presenting us with some amazing views. As we passed into central Spain and neared Madrid the landscape became noticeably more arid, the greens replaced by browns and yellows. The major drought Spain is suffering from was much in evidence. We arrived in Madrid with five hours to kill before the overnight train to Paris, which we filled with a visit to a museum focussed on Goya’s work, and then a final visit to Sol for an excellent café con leche before catching the Francisco de Goya back to Paris.

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We’re weaving our way through the northern suburbs of Madrid now, the sun setting over the distant hills. I feel I know Spain a lot better than I did a couple of years ago — with two visits to Barcelona, two to Madrid and even the dubious delights of Algeciras, I’ve got to know a whole lot more than I did. This is a lovely country, filled with genuinely lovely people. They understand the need to balance life, to find that happy medium between working hard and kicking back. This country has a beautiful heart and their reputation for hospitality is much deserved. I dare say another trip to Barcelona, or even perhaps Bilbao, where the Guggenheim beckons, is looking likely later in the year.