Our last day in Aix was Saturday. We left late enough in the morning that we were able to shop at the farmer’s market downtown. The whole plaza is filled with fresh fruit and vegetable vendors, flowers, wine, cheese, etc. Across from the food stalls are bric à brac vendors selling everything from antique books to jewelry to oil paintings.
We hopped on a train for the 45 minute ride to Marseilles; it isn’t really that far but our regional train stopped at all the small towns on the way. It was a cloudy day, but we were able to see Mont Ste-Victoire one more time as we left Aix.
Our train to Barcelona wasn’t for an hour and a half, so we walked around Marseilles and grabbed some lunch. It’s an amazing city; over 2,000 years of history and culture makes it a melting pot of North African, Mediterranean, and European peoples. It’s France’s second largest city, behind Paris, and is one of the busiest ports in France. As we walked, we saw many people in their traditional dress: turbans, veils, and brightly colored dresses and suits.
It was a shame to leave France so soon, but Spain was calling. The train ride from Marseilles to Barcelona gave us a great view of southern France. We swept through the Camargue region, swamps and lagoons in the delta of the Rhône, home to white horses, black bulls, pink flamingos, gypsies and famous Roman architecture. Next was Languedoc, a sun-soaked land where estuaries full of birds spanned from green mountains to blue sea. We even caught a glimpse of the mighty Pyrenees mountains as we approached the Spanish border town of Port Bou.
The train slowed down so that the wheels could be moved to fit on the Spanish tracks. Spanish tracks are narrower then the tracks of the rest of Europe. The cars bumped and rattled as their hardware was transformed to fit the new size train tracks. A fellow traveler, an older gentleman from Argentina, and I conversed about Spain. He was full of tips and information as he had been to Spain before. He was traveling Europe promoting Argentinean tourism and quickly handed over several glossy maps and brochures proclaiming the attractiveness of his home land.
Our arrival in Barcelona was late and in the dark, around 11 PM, but the whole town was full of people walking and talking. We exited the station and walked along the wharf to our hostel. It was a broad avenue with sidewalk cafés on the right and boats and the ocean on the left. What a vibrant city! Our guidebook says that Barcelona started a huge renovation project to prepare for the 1992 summer Olympics and they haven’t stopped yet. After dropping our bags we ventured out into Barcelona for a late meal. In this part of the world bars and restaurants were just opening! Our tummies full, we hit the sack sometime close to 2 AM.