Leaving the bustle of the medina, through the jostling traffic around the rosy city walls and eventually out into the quiet, shaded lanes of the Palmeraie. Dappled light, birdsong.
A garden, several acres, lost behind high walls; and, within the garden, adrift among the untended palms and shimmering eucalypts, a perfect Art Deco villa three storeys high, unrestored. Curved glass, wide planes of white stucco, broad verandahs, all sharp in the morning light. High ceilings and floors of cool, figured, grey marble. A staircase in the same material sweeping up to lofty heights. Serene and feeling a thousand miles from our home deep within the maze of the medina.
It was uninhabited but only a little neglected. Here and there paint was flaking. No water came from the nickel taps to wash the dust from the basins. But the salon still held its furniture, paintings, ornaments, keepsakes and tabletops of framed photographs in black and white or faded colour: glamorous travels and glittering dinners and ftes champtres with family and the once famous: couturiers, ship-owners, politicians, opera singers.
The pond in the garden geometric, aligned with the faade and quartered by walkways had turned violent green, choked with a waterweed on which a hundred frogs sat and, left undisturbed, sang their croaky songs. The trees in the garden rustled in the breeze. Shadows moved with slow, geometric precision across the planes and curves of the house as the sun followed its arc. Sitting alone by the pond, I could hear the voices of my companions, distant in the high rooms.