I got up at 8AM yesterday and took a 9.15 train from Montpel to Marseille. In Marseille, I took the bus to the airport. (Oh, wait, back up – I left Rome on Thursday night, took the overnight train to Nice and then a train from Nice to Montpel on Friday. I really need to update more often.)
The Marseille train station has recently finished their bus terminal wing, which is made entirely of glass as far as I can tell. It’s very smart and crisp and is built as a continuation of the train platforms – you just keep walking and the train tracks turn into bus bays. It’s kinda cool. However, the ticket windows for all the buses are perpendicular to the bays, and in their own little niches – which made for a lot of running and poking around while trying to find where to buy my ticket.
The bus to the airport is easy and fast, and costs around 8 euro. All the cheapo airlines are in a section of the airport called “mp2” – Ryanair, German Wings, bmi baby, etc. – and luckily, the bus now makes a stop there before heading on to the main terminal. This was not the case a couple of years ago.
mp2 is bare-bones and open-plan – it seems like they could clear out everything and turn it into a disco at night with very little effort. You can see every beam, every bolt. There are a lot of corrugated surfaces.
I forgot about the stupid liquids rule, and lost my hair stuff and my precious Occitane White Tea Lotion. I’m on a strict travel budget, but at the duty free I bought a small Occitane Shea Butter Hand Creme. I might look like Harpo Marx, but I’ll be damned if I have crocodile skin.
I had done my research beforehand (thanks to this blessed soul) and knew my plan once we landed in Malaga – beat it out of the airport, turn right and walk 50 meters to the bus that would take me directly to the Marbella train station. But, it turns out that we landed 20 minutes early (!) – Ryanair played a triumphant musical recording as we taxied to the tarmac in honor of this, and everyone applauded – so I did some quick reading of the signs posted and switched up my plan a little.
To make a very long and boring travel story short, let me just say that paying attention has its benefits. I realized as I took the bus from Malaga to Marbella that, while doing my research, I had mixed up the direction – the resort was BETWEEN Malaga and Marbella, not AFTER Marbella. I asked the bus driver in my best Spanish (which is a combination of Italian, Taco Bell and my old, tattered phrase book) to let me off at the Don Carlos Hotel stop.
He did, but on the wrong end. So, at 5-ish in the afternoon an hour north of Africa a week before the summer solstice, I walked about a mile along a highway with my bag, dressed all in black as I am wont to do, and finally arrived at the Marriott Marbella Beach Resort in dire need of a glass of water (I hate drinking while traveling alone; schlepping my shit into public restrooms is a pain). The guard at the gate checked my name, hydrated me, and sent me on my way.
There is an episode of Alias that features a training compound for Soviet spies. In the middle of Russia somewhere, they constructed a perfect replica of an American suburb in which these spies could learn how to be American. I don’t love Alias, but it was a very interesting and surreal episode.
This place reminds me of that episode. It’s filled with Americans, but not teeming full. It has all the American amenities – dishwasher, clothes dryer, even the furniture says America to me. There are manicured lawns and large bath towels and everything is in English and people travel around in golf carts. The grill menu features chili burgers, nachos and hot wings. People sit on their porches and chat, or walk in pairs in sensible sneakers and leisure suits.
It’s messing with my head.
I live in France. I just came back from two months in Italy. I arrived in Spain – only to be deposited smack dab in the middle of Florida. I can’t wrap my brain around it.
Compounding this confusion is the fact that this entire area seems to exist solely for tourists. I have absolutely no sense of the area, from what I have seen (admittedly not a lot, but two hours on various buses along the coast gave me some idea). Along the coast are large, ugly, Franco-era apartment blocks and local stores reminiscent of 1970s Detroit coexisting with tremendous amounts of new luxury construction; cranes dominate the skyline; signs in English advertising condo sales; a shopping mall that rivals any in America, complete with a Ben and Jerry’s; and decidedly non-Spanish people at every turn. The rugged, dusty hills against the coast are littered with sprawling developments.
Tomorrow, more about the trip. I just wanted to get down my initial impressions.