Contributed by Kathleen Haynes
Contact Myrtle Bridges June 01, 2008
On board SS CRETIC
Thursday July 11, 1912
My Dear Mother,
Early yesterday morning we sighted the coast of Africa after having sailed along in the trades
for two days where the trade wind blows steadily from the North East all the time and the water
is pretty rough. What we saw was part of the Atlas mountains, big red dirt hills coming down very near
the coastline. Then later the coast of Spain came into view. Canoru are washed away, almost devoid
of any vegetation. Port Tariffa a little old town with a port and garrison and light house where
long ago pirates lived, and where they collected toll from passing vessels, whence comes our word
"tariff." It has a strategic position, but Spain is not allowed to fortify it heavily by Gt Britain
owing Gibralta, which is one hour to the eastward. Here the rock rises 600 ft. just at the straits
which are about seven miles wide. I don't think even a row boat could pass if it was forbidden.
The town is hot and dry, dust like alkali and filled with Canoruers and soldiers and a floating
cosmopolitan population and sailors. It reminds you much of the garrison towns that Kipling writes
of, Tommy Atkins and his Canteen, and all that. We drove around through the narrow shop lined streets
and past some gardens and over across the neutral line into Spain. This line is a strip of land 100 ft.
wide bounded by two high steel fences. It's from Spain that you get the "Prudential" effect of the rock.
Everywhere were casements and soldiers and construction going on. We went in one of the galleries about
200 ft. up, leaving our addresses and hollars and hoopees about in these tunnels cut from the solid rock.
Everywhere, even up here, were great steel gates and numbered passages running this way and that with which
the rock is honeycombed. To be sure you can't go on the other side that commands the Mediterranean and where
the modern guns are. But even so it's very easy to understand England's greatness when you think of this,
and then seeing at the other end. The post card I'm sending gives a good idea of it. Some time this afternoon
we reach Algiers, and then that's the last stop before Napoli, and I begin to travel. I'm still well. I'll
write some more on this tomorrow and post it from Naples.
All day yesterday we steamed through the Mediterranean and in the afternoon sighted the hills of Africa,
beautiful they were too in the evening light. Huge mounds of the red earth they looked, and as you watched
them you couldn't help but think of all that lay beyond of the desert and the strange peoples. Around the
mountains played the most beautiful lights in a cloudless sky.
Then we landed at Algiers, a populous town of 150,000 people. F---s of stone and a harbor full of ships and
up in the square the French military band was playing 'Carmen' while all around sat and walked the cosmopolitan
audience. Englishmen with panamas, and Frenchmen, here and there a big German, and soldiers, light blue coats
and red trousers, and sailors with their white caps and little red pompoms on the top, and the native militia,
swarthy and with fierce mustachios and zouave coats, hats and swords.
We drove down the Boulevard of the Republic past the shops and lovely apartment houses. It looks like picture
of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris. Then past the Governors Palace, took a hurried peek in, then around the heights
over the town, in some mosque and down and walked through the Arab quarter where 12,000 of them live, narrow
streets that are really alleys with the queer figures here and there, native shops and drinking places. Everyone
eyeing you silently and all very spooky and dark. This was all away from the beaten track, but we got on all right
with a guide. It was all so very strange. I shall have to tell you more when I get home.
We land at Naples late tomorrow evening. Tonight is the Captain's dinner and then a dance, and everyone is packing
up now. Trunks out at nine in the morning. Oh, it's all been so nice and fine. I've had such a good time, and the
people have been so nice to me. Two or three parties asked me to join them and go and come when I pleased. I think
I shall go through Italy some of the time anyway with a party from Illinois. Eight girls and two chaperones, dandy
people all of them. The one having them over is Wilhelmina. [I am] quite well and feeling fine. Keep writing as
often as you can to BS&C London.
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