We stayed and extra day so we could see some of the local sites. One of Marseille’s really interesting places to see is the Chateau D’If, the setting of “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexaner Dumas. I knew I wanted to visit it when I saw it from the Notre Dame de la Garde, the cathedral high above Marseille.
Four of us took the metro down to the old harbor to catch the ferry. The day was hot, the line was long, and tempers were short. Things were going alright until suddenly, without warning, they opened another window. For some reason the people from the back of the line were able to best capitalize on this development. There was some grumbling but we were pretty far along the line so most near us just shrugged it off. After about a half an hour, they closed the window again and all the people from the back of the line started to shift into the line we were in. No one was happy, there was a lot of muttering but no physical threats. Some time and some ticklish merging later, we were at the ticket window. We asked the girl at the window, “what was the deal with closing the window.” She said, “I have no idea, I’m from Germany.”
With our tickets in hand we went over to the mob waiting to board the boat. This was another long wait. Finally the boat arrived, the gate was about to open, and some guy wearing a motorcycle helmet jumped the fence and ran for the boat. The ticket guy threw his clipboard down and ran after him. We never saw the guy with the helmet again, even though there was only one way off the pier, well actually two, but only one dry one.
The ticket man came back looking angry, he milled around near the gate a bit, then did a surprising thing. He went over to another side gate and opened it. At this point the crowd thought he was punishing them for…letting the helmeted man go? I have not idea, but when he opened the gate, the crowd got really ugly. I really thought they were going to take apart the gate. What I think the guy was really doing was letting the locals and a school group board first, but now he started shouting too. I was glad we were kind of on the side where we could kind of step out and enjoy the show cause it would be hard to pick a side and participate. Eventually he opened the main gate and we all boarded. Before we left the ticket guy came on and apologized…I think.
Off we went to the island If, home of the Chateau D’if. It was well worth the trip. The place was sometimes used for a prison, and sometimes for a home for royal hostages. There was grafitii in some of these rooms hundreds of years old. It looked pretty gloomy but when you think that it’s usually really hot so the thick walls would be cool. Add candles and tapestries to the walls and the bigger rooms could be pretty comfortable, if you weren’t there against your will. One big difference between the real thing and the Chateau D’if you see in the “Count of Monte Cristo” movies is that there is no vast series of underground dungeons. This place is built on top of a rock. There is nothing underground, just rock. It’s big, but only big up. This place reminded me of and expression I heard once, “in Europe a hundred years is a short time and a hundred miles a long trip, in the US a hundred years is a long time and a hundred miles is a short trip.”