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How to do a flight-free holiday from the UK to Marrakech

Simon Calder’s Travel

Walking along Margate seafront one evening as the colourful swash of another Turner-esque sunset melted into the sea, I began to plot my flight-free adventure to Morocco.

I usually work as a photographer, but I’d been remote working at a desk-based editorial job in an ever-lengthening contract all year and I’d saved up more than enough for a proper escape. I booked myself onto a cycling holiday and it began with a meet-up in Marrakech. I pondered, as I walked in that sunset glow, could I get there without flying?

I’d originally moved to Margate to live cheaply while finishing my MSc in environment and sustainability in late 2019 and I’d been talking the talk about flight-free and environmentally conscious travel for a while – it was now my turn to put it into action.

It’s about 2,000 miles between Margate and Marrakech and therein lies a multitude of options. To make the most of those precious few hours in each destination, I turned it into an art treasure hunt: Margate, famously, is home to the Turner Contemporary art gallery but, rather infamously, it doesn’t have any paintings by JMW Turner on display.

Many years previous, my undergraduate degree had been in art history and my formative travels were all themed around seeking out works by the artists I’d studied. This seemed like a good way to connect where I’d come from and where I was going.

My stop-off points would be other places that lay claim to famous artists: Vincent Van Gogh (Arles), Salvador Dalí (Figueres) and Pablo Picasso (Málaga) and see how they compare before heading onwards to Tarifa and the boat across to Morocco.

This is how the journey unfolded.

Day 1: Margate – Marseille

The journey began in Margate, 2,000 miles from Marrakech
The journey began in Margate, 2,000 miles from Marrakech (Diana Jarvis)

Long-distance rail travel is often prefaced with “romantic”. As I zipped across the hills and vales of Kent and agricultural flatlands of northern France, I realised “romance” requires a window seat. There’s nothing romantic about an aisle seat next to an almost window-less window seat. And there’s nothing “slow” about whizzing at top speed with all of France passing in a blur with tantalising glimpses of endless places ripe for exploration.

Three trains, 700-odd miles and Marseille was dripping in rain when I arrived, too late for most of the restaurants and bars. I was here only for a…

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