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I took my toddler to Algeria – and we were welcomed warmly everywhere | Algeria holidays

I took my toddler to Algeria – and we were welcomed warmly everywhere | Algeria holidays

Waking after a night at sea, I was elated to look out of the cabin window and see the city of Algiers, blazing white. The splendid capital rises from its Mediterranean bay in improbable layers, from the arches of the French colonial port to the warren of the Casbah, to the clear blue sky, all overlooked by the Martyrs’ Memorial, which represents the country’s fight for independence. “Never was town more nobly placed,” wrote Edith Wharton, who visited by yacht in 1888. In the cabin, my toddler son was still sleeping. I looked at him and thought, we’ve made it, baby: all the way from West Yorkshire to north Africa by rail and sea in 48 hours.

The journey would have been familiar to British travellers of the 19th century who arrived here by steamship, but these days few foreign tourists come to Algeria. Political unrest since the civil war of the 1990s, the administration’s focus on internal matters and a lack of infrastructure have knocked it completely off the tourist map. So when I was invited as a guest of the British Council Algeria as part of a literary exchange, I jumped at the chance.

My one-year-old son was too young to be left, so I cheekily asked if he could come too. To my delight, the British Council agreed and my capable friend Karen Hinckley accompanied me to help with childcare while I was working. The events were to be on an environmental theme, so it was appropriate to make the trip without flying. Karen and I come from the Orkney Islands, so are undaunted by long journeys.

Amy Liptrot on the ferry from Marseilles to Algiers with her toddler. Photograph: Amy Liptrot

Applying for Algerian visas and booking the ferry was a confusing process and required assistance from our Algerian contacts, but we were pleased to find we could get as far as Marseille in one day. We took five trains, leaving home at 7am and arriving around 8pm, with tight changes in Leeds, London and Paris. On the train, two adults to one small child was a good ratio. One of us was able to take him for a walk, where he pushed buttons and smiled at strangers, while the other rested.

After a 40-minute dash across Paris to change trains, we boarded the spacious double decker TGV, travelling at more than 150mph and watching as city rooftops turned to vineyards and lavender fields as we headed south.

Martyrs’ Square and Ketchaoua mosque, Algiers. Photograph: Saad Bakhouche/Getty Images

On the huge Algérie Ferries ship from Marseille, the three of us seemed to be the…

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