The beginning of the end

As I prepared to do just as Nina did and leave Madrid for Paris to begin the journey home, I reflected on our journey together. Sure, I took a slight detour or two, Estapona and Lanzarote – but our paths merged for one last time that final night in Madrid. Prior to leaving Madrid, Nina spoke to the maid, Rosita, about all the places she missed out on visiting. I too am thinking about places I missed out on seeing but more importantly, I am reflecting about all the places I have been. Not just in following Nina’s footsteps on this trip but my whole gap year. I was preparing to return to Paris – back to where it all began.

I took my last paseo from my hostel, up and through the Puerta del Sol towards the Plaza Mayor. I looked around me as I wandered through Sol. The usual buskers, beggars, touts and lottery ticket sellers were there. I remembered Nina’s description of the paseo. She wrote:-

“All the street-sellers are out, and all the beggars. Shabby and dusty, the necktie vendor moves hither and thither offering to the strolling crowd a score or so of silk ties flung loose across his arm. The cake-seller stands against the wall, an uncovered basket at his feet from which passers-by who have no fear of germs may purchase sugared buns or fine little pipes of bread or sponge-cakes smeared with jam and then rolled in coconut. The peanut man, the lottery-ticket man, the cool drinks man, the newsboys are all aboard for the paseo shouting their wares.”

The beggars and the lottery-ticket sellers remain but newsboys and peanut man are long gone, as are the tie-sellers and cake-sellers. Now the street-sellers offer trinkets from north Africa and children’s toys. There are mini trumpets that the children in prams blow loudly as their parents push them through the crowds. There are plastic things that light up brightly when propelled into the air by elastic bands. They don’t last long – after three to four trips up in the air the elastic gives and the children cry. Another plastic gadget changes the sound of a voice when it is spoken through. There are glasses and ears and headbands that light up in flouro-colours. African women walk through the crowds in traditional dress with baskets on their heads. Make eye-contact and the baskets are whipped off to show the wares, hand made leather wrist-straps, elephant and camel key rings, fruit baskets that fold into a bread board shaped like an apple. The statue buskers stand still hoping for a few coins to be thrown to them. Others dress up and charge one or two euros for a photo with them. Sol’s Christmas light and decorations shine brightly and the Christmas tree stands tall and shines brightly in its ever-changing colours. People stop to take their photos in front of the tree – and while all of this is happening, the Madrid crowd surges past at its own pace with its own sound.

I looked around Sol before seeing more of the same in the Plaza Mayor. I moved with apprehension. Not because of the Madrid nightlife or its people but I knew the following morning I would leave for Paris. Paris – it is the beginning of the end. It is the beginning of my trip home. It is the beginning of resuming a normal life at home. This time, home will not be to pick up a few months work in a different city. This time home is back to Sydney. To live, to work, to once again be with family and friends. The apprehension stems from the knowledge that I will have to find work and to start life over again. My optimistic self is telling me it will be ok. The pessimist inside is rolling her eyes and sighing heavily. There is the nine-to-five to get used to again. The crowded public transport, the traffic, the people – yet before all of this, there will be Paris. I reminded myself about Christmas in Paris before one night in London and home on New Year’s Eve. It seems to appropriate to sleep the last night of 2017 in Australia and wake up and begin a new life again in 2018 on its very first day.

When Nina spoke with Rosita before leaving for Paris they listed off places Nina should visit in the future. Reflecting on where I have been, I thought I would make some lists.

Top seven places I visited during 2017 that I had never visited before

  • Seville
  • Granada
  • Lanzarote
  • Sicily
  • Dresden
  • Burgos
  • Naples

Top seven experiences

  • Walking the Camino – this will be number one for life
  • Climbing Mt Etna
  • Boating around the feet of Malta
  • Spending quality time with friends in Melbourne and Victoria
  • Meeting the Italian relatives in Molochio
  • Feeling like a Parisian
  • Driving around Lanzarote (don’t mention the guard rail!)

Worst seven experiences

  • Gibraltar – what a let down.
  • Taxi strike in Madrid
  • Hitting that guard rail with my little red car in Lanzarote
  • Avoiding all the cyclists that train in Lanzarote. I was pleased I avoided them it was just an added anxiety getting past them safely
  • My last dinner in Madrid
  • Loneliness that crept up on me at unexpected times.
  • My break-down on the Camino when the pain got too much

Places to visit or re-visit

  • Sicily
  • Seville
  • Lanzarote
  • The rest of the Canary Islands
  • Bilbao
  • San Sebastián
  • Granada

I guess that means I’ll be travelling to Spain again some day. Preferably not alone.

Good grief Cordoba.

Regrets? I’ve had a few. I regretted leaving Seville – eight days was enough to see all the things I needed to see in a leisurely manner. However, to experience and see all the things I wanted to see – I would need a life-time. As I pulled away in the taxi for the train station, I looked back at what had been my home for the past eight days and let out a sigh. The taxi whizzed me out of the San Lorenzo district and into the busy streets back out to the train station. I have been pretty pleased with my ability to do every day things, like order in restaurants, buy train tickets and stamps, send parcels back to Australia. As the station assistant handed over my ticket, he explained in slow Spanish that I was to take the train that said ‘Madrid’ on the departures board that left at 11:45. It would stop at Cordoba. I thanked him and made my way to platform 2, where a smart, new, bullet style train waited for me and the other passengers. Cordoba was the first stop and it took only 35 minutes to get there. I barely had time to admire the landscape – and rave on about it – as Nina would have in the slow all-stations trains of 1934.

I always plan the trip a day or two before I leave. I work out if I can walk, catch public transport or if I need to get a cab from the train station to my accommodation. I prefer to walk as it gives me the street level view of the new place I am in. However, dragging the wheely bag over cobblestones makes my arm feel like it is on one of those exercise machines that ‘blast fat’. At least I’ll have one skinny arm.

Cordoba was cold when I arrived. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, there was not a cloud in sight but it was cold. I commented on it to the taxi driver. He assured me if I stood in the sun I would soon be very hot and as it was only just after midday, the day still had a long way to go before it warmed up at about four or five o’clock. After checking in and dropping my bag at the hostal, I went out for my walk and to have lunch. I like to take in the town and leave the real sight-seeing and visiting of monuments, until a day or two after I arrive. I choose a café for lunch on my street and take a seat on the outside. A loud woman walks up to the café, chatting with the staff and orders a beer. She is short but is as tall as she is wide. She yells for a beer and continually yells at people she knows walking by, occasionally having a chat to herself. The staff bring her a tapa to have with her beer. She complains loudly about their choice of tapa and asks for olives and prawns. Once the prawns arrive, she picks one up off her plate. She holds it between two fingers with the prawn head looking at her. She starts talking to the prawn. This continues for a few minutes before she rips off its head, sucks and what is inside and then eats the rest of the prawn. This happens with every prawn. Although it takes her quite some time to finish the plate as she often jumps up and runs after someone on the street. A beggar comes up and asks for money. I shake my head and he moves on to the prawn woman. She swears loudly at him in Spanish – I suspect they know each other. Aware he will not get money from her he asks for a cigarette from her instead. Now, she really loses it, yelling, swearing and gesticulating wildly. I look on in amazement and can barely conceal my mirth. As I leave I say goodbye to her.

Cordoba feels like a big country town. People are relaxed and friendly. The bitter orange trees that line the streets are full of ripe fruit.  Many of the townsfolk say hello and the old men stare and say ‘guapa’ to me.  I walked for just a few minutes after lunch and all of a sudden, I am at I am at the Mezquita, The Mezquita is the old mosque –  now a Cathedral yet it still known as the Mezquita. Nina had appreciated the non-name change, as do I. I notice there is no queue to enter the Mezquita – therefore I break from my usual routine buy a ticket and enter immediately. It is almost empty – this huge forest of arches. I stand still, transfixed by the beauty and the silence. There is certainly no feeling of being in a Catholic church when you stand in the Mezquita. Nina described it as “uncompromisingly savage and beautiful. And the moment you walk in from the white glare of summer, and the Mosque reveals itself in it triumphant paganism, is the most thrilling, I think, in all of Spain”.  Nail. On. Head. Nina! I stood there for several moments before beginning my tour around the edges of this vast, silent space. Around the edges are Catholic chapels to the saints. I play my usual ‘spot the saints siblings are named after’ game. Two, St Therese and St Bernando. Surprisgly, I never make it past two. Three – if I count Mary but she is in every church. All the chapels are like all the chapels in every other Cathedral I have visited. Nooks with paintings and statues to the local saints and the Holy Family. I must be tiring of religious art. I am aghast but understanding that history – and more importantly my old friend, Carlos V, allowed what once must have been perfection, to be scarred by these alters. Although Nina reported “even the Emperor, Charles V, whose protection permitted the Cathedral chapter to carry out the scheme with impunity, stood aghast when he visited the Mezquita for the first time and realized the lovely perfection they had marred but failed to ruin with their banalities”.  I exited the Mezquita by the orange grove and feel the warm sun on my face. In every mosque turned cathedral in Spain, the once ablution area, where Muslims would wash before prayer, have been planted with orange trees. Bitter orange trees so that the fruit cannot even be enjoyed but the picturesque grove can be.

Once back at the hostal, I wondered what on earth I would do for the next three days. I had booked four nights here and had seen the main attraction. From the map given to me by the senora on reception, there didn’t appear much more to see – other than 14 churches. I have dinner at the restaurant where the bull-fighters eat. It is empty when I enter at 8:45 by the time I leave an hour later people are starting to arrive. The food is amazing and my theory on eating where the bull-fighters eat, passes the test. I am happy when I walk out into the night. The nights are now cold here – a chill in the air – that will only warm with tomorrow’s sun.

The next morning I woke up – early by Spanish standards at 8:15 to sad news from home. I had lost a friend suddenly. I spent the day remembering and grieving – glad to be in the warm city of Cordoba, that seemed to hold me close and comfort me. I go out for a small cerveza in the afternoon. To raise a parting glass for my friend. As I am sitting at an outdoor table an orange falls from the tree next to me. I let out an exclamation as it frightened me but I was thankful it landed on the road next to me and not on my head. Before I even have time to finish being thankful a speeding taxi passes by running over the orange, which squirts juice and pulp all over me. Through the tears of my grief I get a good belly laugh.

Life moves on so the following day, I set out again, leaving my grief and tears behind. When Nina visited Spain, in the spring and summer of 1934, she travelled through the fiesta season. She was fortunate enough to be in Cordoba on 25 May, which is the opening day of Cordoba’s annual fiesta and the day it holds the biggest bullfight of the year. Nina avoids the bullfight. She says “my curiosity concerning bullfights had been assuaged six years before”. She writes about her “pure repulsion” at the hideous sight and would no rather watch people be seasick. Here, Nina takes the opportunity to take a swipe at Ernest Hemmingway. I am always happy with a swipe at Hemmingway.  Other than visiting the Mezquita and attending the fiesta, Nina writes nothing more about what she did in Cordoba. I am not fortunate enough to be travelling through Spain during fiesta time but am happy that I am not here during the bullfighting season.  I find over the next few days that there is so much to see in this lovely town. The Alcazar has beautiful gardens and old roman baths, there are Roman ruins and an archaeological museum and the fourteen churches marked on the map to look at, sit in and spend intervals of grief which momentarily still lingers at different times. There are even Camino way markers to be found showing the way to Santiago by way of the Mazarabe route. At the end of my first day in Cordoba, I thought I would regret my decision to stay for four nights. I don’t. Unlike Nina I did not have to regret “the foolishness of having accepted somebody else’s estimate that no more than one day was needed for seeing Cordoba”. Indeed, spending a few days here was good for my regrets and my  heart.

Picasso, all saints, history and sunshine

I don’t have the patience for Picasso. Don’t misunderstand me. I like his work and he rightfully holds his place in the art world – but I get a bit bored of much of his work quite quickly. Perhaps I don’t have the right attitude or perhaps I am being deliberately obtuse when it comes to his work. I thought I would test out my theory and go to the Picasso museum in Malaga today. He was born here in Malaga but his family moved away to the north of Spain when he was about ten years old. His socialist leanings, his painting of Guernica – one of my favourite paintings – forced him into exile in France during the reign of Franco’s dictatorship. Still Malaga claims Picasso as its own.

Last night, I took in a sunset drink on a roof top. I went home early, not just to get up early, but to avoid the Halloween festivities that were happening on every street. Today is All Saints Day. In the Catholic church, it is a Holy Day of Obligation which means you must attend Mass. In Spain they take it one step further and it is a Public Holiday. Lucky for me as this means Spaniards get up even later than they would normally, so I am off to the Picasso Museum without much of a crowd. In fact, the streets are almost deserted with the exception of the odd stray cat. Apart from the permanent Picasso exhibition there is a second, temporary, exhibition ‘We are completely free’. I get the double pass to see both exhibitions. I walk around the galleries looking at Picasso until I spot a sign and a staircase going down. The sign says “Archaeological Site”. I go down the stairs. I am the only person there. The silence is beautiful. I had not realised that the ground beneath the museum preserves important evidence of Malaga’s past. Malaga is the second oldest city in Spain and one of the oldest in Europe. The Phoenicians and the Carthaginians were here well before the Romans. There are exceptional Phoenician, Roman and Moorish remains, as well as those of the Renaissance palace. In Australia, I get excited about bits and pieces that have been dug up from sites that date back to the early days of the colony. Here on display was not just the ancient bricks and stones of houses, the ancient bricks and pavers of Roman roads, or the ancient embedded earthen jars for storage of food and water but there were other fragments of Malaga’s history some dating back to the seventh century BC. I walked around the walkway taking it all in with just the sounds of my footsteps and my breath.

Once, I finish marvelling at history, I visit the temporary exhibition ‘We are completely free’. It is an exhibition of women artist and surrealism. It is an astonishing, international collection of art created by women who would have been painting around the time Nina was touring Spain. Now I am marvelling at the achievements of woman who lived in a man’s world of the 20s and 30s. Nina included.

I walk back out into the sunshine and onto the palm shaded streets. Malaga has – on average – 350 days of sunshine every year. The smell of the river, canals and drains are further proof of this fact. It is now almost midday and the Spanish people are coming out, hitting the cafes for breakfast, which will then turn into lunch before returning home in the evening and coming out again at 9:00 or 10:00 pm for dinner. I can’t manage this. I have been trying to get into and onto Spanish time but years of conditioning of the nine to five (plus) make it difficult. I head back to my room to work on the logistics for tomorrow. Tomorrow, I am taking a break from Nina. After all I am completely free and it’s good to take a break from your travel companion once and a while. My friend Jan, from the Camino, recommended I visit Estepona. It is on the way but I am cursing Nina and her reluctance to travel backwards in the same direction. She has me travelling in what is essentially the size of a big six. Starting from the inside and doing a big circle before shooting up to the north east for Madrid. I shall meet up again with Nina in Cadiz. Nina spent just one night there but I hear it is worth staying a few nights. After all, Cadiz is the oldest city in Spain.

Wandering about in Ronda

On the afternoon of my arrival, I did what Nina did. I walked around the streets exploring. Through the narrow passageways and laneways of the cobblestoned streets of the old town. I looked at the incredible  breath-taking rural views of the Gorgo de Tajo and the rural landscapes out past the gorge. With hundreds of other tourists, I crossed the Puente Nuevo, the new bridge. Puente Nuevo was started in 1759 and took almost 35 years to build. It spans the 120 metre deep chasm of the gorge created by the River Guadalevin.

Then I visited some of the old houses and palacios – the Casa Don Bosco, house of St John Bosco, with beautiful gardens and stunning views. You can only visit two rooms of the house which are more like religious shrines than liveable rooms. I went to the hanging gardens and walked around as the tourists started to thin out. Most tourists that visit Ronda are day tourists, bussed in by luxury coach from Granada, Gibraltar, Sevilla and Cordoba. They get off the coach, walk over the bridge several times, take photos with their selfie sticks and walk through the old town before following the flag, or the upheld umbrella to the designated restaurant for lunch. By twilight they have gone. This is when Nina went out walking in the rain.  I look up at the sky, large, bruised clouds threatened rain but it did not happen. I was left high and dry on my last walk over the bridge for the evening.

Nina, stayed somewhere near the gorge in a room that contained a bed, a basin and a rocking chair which she loved. She could hear the rush of the river as it pelted its way through the gorge. The river is a mere trickle at the moment and I do not get the spray as I hand my head over the bridge looking at the gorge below.

The next day, I visit Casa del Rey Moro which Nina tells me “nearly 900 years ago dwelt a Moorish chieftain with a bizarre taste in drinking cups. He had the skulls of his enemies set with jewels and fashioned into goblets”. When Nina visited the house was owned by a Duchess who had the place “skilfully restored”. It must have fallen into ruin since Nina visited, perhaps during the Spanish Civil war as it is again under restoration and I could not visit the house. I could visit the gardens where peacocks and the chicks wander around avoiding the stray cats and kittens. Although it may be the other way around.

I visit the bullring, one of the oldest in Spain built in 1784. It is beautiful. Bull-fighter aficionado and writer, Ernest Hemingway also visited Ronda. In his book, For Whom the Bell Tolls, Hemingway describes the execution of Nationalist supporters being thrown from the cliffs, this was based on killings that took place from the cliffs of Ronda. He also described Ronda as one of the most romantic cities in the world and it must be for a blokey bloke like Ernest to describe it as such.

The following morning I walk down the gorge to a place that is illustrated in Nina’s book. I want a photo of the same location. Walking down the path takes me back to my Camino days and I curse leaving my sticks back in Australia and giving my boots to a homeless person in Paris. My toes were so black and sore at the time I never wanted to put my feet in them again. They would have been welcomed on this walk down. The steps start off ok but soon disintegrate into goat tracks and river beds. I get to the spot about three quarters of the way down, take a photo and contemplate walking to the very bottom. The path by now is pretty bad so I decide to go back up. My calves burn and my knees ache.

On my return to Australia, I had told people that I had no problem walking the Camino de Santiago, with my knees. “They were fine”, I would proclaim. Not so. As I lay in bed that night I remembered how they would ache at night. Something I had wiped from my memory. Two voltarian and an extra strength Spanish Panadol would dull the pain at night and prior to walking each day. How could I have forgotten this?

By this morning, my knees felt better, so off I went to walk the city walls and ramparts, built by the Moors. I walked up steep, high steps – about knee high – and only slightly wider than me. No hand rails, no safety nets. I am not great with high places at the best of times, so I clung to the wall like a huge crab. Once up, I walked the lengths of the bits left. Stopping to enjoy the view and look at the openings were soldiers protected the city from any advancing army. I walked back into the town.

When Nina travelled in 1934, Spain was in a very sad state. She describes the begging children, in every town, in every street.  They call to her “Mon-ee! Mon-ee” and describes show they twiddle their fingers in “approved Spanish fashion”.  She goes on to say “For the impertinent insistence of begging children, the revolting methods of grown-up beggars, and the numbers of the importunate the poor are always with us”. To date, I have not seen too many beggars, the odd older man asking for some money to eat or others silently standing on a street corner with a cup or cupped hands. Last night I was accosted by children after money. However,  were in school uniforms and carried what looked to be official donation buckets, and they were collecting donations for their Catholic school. If a person donated they were given a sticker, to ensure they were not asked again my their classmates further down the square.

This morning I visited the church of Santa Maria la Mayor. When Nina was searching to visit this church she first accidentally went to the church of Santa Cecilia. In this church she was outraged by the Cathedral’s guidebook standing “in the same glass case as Alonso Cano’s exquisite ivory Crucifixion”. I wonder what she would have made of the Tapas recipe books on sale at the church of Santa Maria la Mayor, along with all the other souvenirs. Nina went to Santa Maria because “for a peseta and a half you are allowed to gaze upon an arched doorway and the capitals of two pillars ornamented with Arabic designs”, all that remains of a mosque the Moors built over a Visigoth temple. Nina was not too impressed, and neither was I. Now four and a half euros to enter, the door is mainly covered and it is only if you look carefully you can see the very top of it behind glass. The entry fee allows you to go up the stone spiral staircase to the bell tower, once the minarete of the mosque. I started up but my knees were complaining and my fear of heights not happy. So I stopped on the first level. Nina had walked to the top with her guide. When they reached the top her guide ‘bade’ her to “lean over and look down. There below, so that I looked clear down the core of it, hung the stone railing, like the skin of a neatly peeled apple”. I looked up and could see exactly what Nina was saying.

Next on my list, in following Nina, was to be a mule ride to see the sights of Ronda outside the township. I could not find a tour offering mule or a donkey sight-seeing tours. I could take one by jeep but it was fully booked and the dune buggies were just way too expensive. I think the noise of dune buggies would not have suited Nina’s sensibilities or mine so chose not to do it this way.  I could do a taxi but that just seemed too modern. After thinking it through, I decided not to do anything. Nina’s tour consisted of her guide waving his hand towards some particularly beautiful hillside crying, “Look over theah!” and then add, “’Sluvly, isen it”. He would then tell Nina how English women adored Spanish men.

“They come ovah heah because the lov Spanish men. They lov them! … you will see how good-lookeeng the Spanish men can be. I will tell you! Theah was a lady, an English lady; not middle-class – or no! She belonged to the high-life, the aristocracy … and she came here to Ronda and stayed at the Hotel C_____. And she fell in lov with one of the mozos – one of the waiters, you understand? She was mad about heem.”

Nina’s guide tells her that the English lady invited the waiter into her room one morning when no one was about.  Nina asks him if the waiter went in, he replied “Why would he not? He was not a cold Englishman! He was Spanish, and very good lookeeng!” Throughout Nina’s trip she hears stories of this kind, sometimes the woman would be American, sometimes English. They didn’t go to Spain for the art or architecture but for a “romantic adventure with a Spaniard; the Spanish men, of course, being noted for their good looks and their irresistible manner of making love!” I suspect Nina thinks the Spanish men are full of themselves.

I don’t know how long Nina spent in Ronda but three days are enough for me. Tomorrow Nina and I travel to Granada.



My friend Nina … and North Africa

There is a small biography on Nina Murdoch on Wikipedia and in the Australian Dictionary of Biography. It is the standard biography and covers facts such as where Nina was born, North Carlton; where Nina grew up – Woodburn in Northern NSW, not far from where my family live; who Nina married journalist Adams McCay; and, where she worked, the Sydney Sun. Nina was one of the first female reporters to cover Senate debates.

There are things you find out about Nina while reading her book She Travelled Alone in Spain. Nina likes reading the rules on the back of hotel room doors. I have a vague memory of the days when hotels had rules on the back of the room door. Pertinent things like check out time. I have started checking out the back of my hotel room doors. There usually tends to be just the information in case of fire. The doors Nina read back in 1934-35 had rules such as ‘no spitting’ and ‘women are not allowed male visitors in their room’. Rules that obviously hark back to a different time in a very different country to what Nina was used to.

Nina also like walking in the rain. She believed the Spanish didn’t like the rain so she enjoyed being out in it. I often said on the Camino that it doesn’t rain on me. Largely – and until today – the truth. Even on the Camino I never had heavy rain. Small showers, a bit of drizzle and three hail showers in one day but apart from that – it doesn’t really rain on me. Or didn’t. Until this morning.

Nina was described as ‘an independent woman’ who travelled alone in many countries. I don’t think Nina travelled to Morocco but I wanted to, so I booked a day-trip to Tangier. I had an early pick up point about ten minutes away from where I was staying. As the hostal door closed behind me the sky opened up and it poured down. With no raincoat or umbrella, I rain through the rain in the dark. Trying my best to avoid puddles, I usually ended up ankle deep in them. Maybe because there were so many puddles. By the time I reached the pick up point I was soaked through. Luckily my day pack proved to be water resistant and hence I had a dry back. The pick up point was undercover. As I stopped to wring out my scarf, the rain stopped, the sky cleared and it was over. I waited for the mini-bus and again watched the hundreds and hundreds of Spaniards cross the border into Gibraltar to work. Only five minutes, late the bus turned up and I met my nine other travel companions for the day. It would be a forty minute drive to Tarifa and then a short 35 minutes ferry ride across the straight of Gibraltar to the city of Tangier.

I went to Morocco in 1987. Back then it was so different from any other international place I had travelled in – which up until I took that particular ferry ride thirty years ago – included Bali, London, Paris and Spain. My companion and I crossed the Gibraltar Straight and spent no time in Tangier. The guidebook of the day warned it was full of hustlers, scammers and thieves. Instead, along with my travel companion, two Swiss, a French Canadian and another young Aussie guy from the ‘Gong’, we jumped into a Mercedes driven by two Moroccans with a boot load of stolen tyres and car wheels. We travelled on each other’s laps with back packs piled on top of us down to a little beach town further away from Tangier.

Memories of that first visit, thirty years ago flooded back. We were taken down into Portuguese pirate caves by a couple of fishermen. We came out about half way down a cliff with a clear view of the Atlantic Ocean. Afterwards, the fishermen took us back to the top of the cliff and cooked freshly caught crabs over an open fire. They used rocks to break open the legs and pass us the freshly cooked crab. I think we gave them the equivalent of two Australian dollars. It is still one of the best meals I have ever eaten. I remembered the Square of the Dead in Marrakech, walking around at night, seeing snake charmers, mongeese, belly dancers and drinking mint tea. I remembered my companion being offered 25 camels for me as we strolled through Essouira, a town made famous by Jimmy Hendrix. I wondered if I had held my value, if it had gone up like age and weight, or down ……

Today I visited Tangier properly an on an organised tour. Something I rarely do, I prefer to travel outside formal tour groups. As soon as our group were sat down for the ‘carpet talk’ I knew why. It’s the places they take you to so that you can buy goods from their preferred traders that I can’t stand. Next it was a herb and spice shop. One of the other tourists, a guy from Derby said to me ‘next up, its the time share’. That made me laugh. Despite the shops it was a pleasant tour, in the rain. We stood at the point on the shore where that Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea. We went down into the cave of Hercules near this same point. Apparently the ancient Greeks believe this is the spot where Hercules ripped apart Europe and Africa. I wonder what Nina would have made of Africa. I suspect she would have liked it.

Friends asked me about Nina’s journey before I left Australia. Questions such as, how did she get to Spain, how did she travel around, how long did she take travelling? Some of these questions I can answer along my journey, some I may not be able to. Of one thing I am certain, it would have been a lot slower in the early 1930s than it will take me in 2017. Tomorrow, I begin my journey following in Nina’s footsteps, where she began hers. On the train from Gibraltar to Ronda.

If you would like your very own copy of She Travelled Alone in Spain, there are two copies available from Amazon.  She travelled alone in Spain