Have you ever seen or read the Count Of Monte Cristo? The film version I have seen is gloriously tacky but no less brilliant for all of that. It stars Guy ‘Mike From Neighbours’ Pearce and Jim Caviezel and also features the late, great Richard Harris as well as Henry Cavill. The latter can currently be found fronting Hollywood’s bid to saturate the movie market with pointless, brainless superhero movies in his role as the latest incarnation of Superman. He’s devilishly handsome and as such is a hate-inspiring smug shitbag of the worst order.
But it’s a great film as I say. It tells the classic story of Edmond Dantes, stitched up royally by his best friend Fernand Mondego to the point where he ends up imprisoned at the remote, depressing Hell-hole that is Chateau D’If off the coast of Marseille. There he meets Harris’ all-knowing priest, learns all manner of skills from him from swordsmanship to the less obviously useful skill of being able to stick his hand under dripping water and pulling it back before it gets wet. Using all of his new found abilities he escapes, swims to the beach, meets a group of pirates from whom he acquires a small fortune, becomes rich and powerful and exacts a terrible revenge on Mondego and the authorities with whom he was in camp cahoots. Oh, and he gets his girl back from Mondego too, after the sleazy schyster had stolen her away following Edmond’s conviction. What? She had no choice, right? If your fella gets wrongly imprisoned for 13 years what else are you going to do but shack up with his best friend? Other men out there you say? Plenty more fish especially when you look like Dagmara Dominiczyk portraying the lovely but a bit dim Mercedes? Desist with your common sense, you’re ruining Dumas’ classic revenge thriller.
This glowing synopsis of The Count Of Monte Cristo is in here for a reason. Chateau D’If is a very real place and one you can visit by boat from Marseille. It’s no longer used as a heinous prison in which the one solitary officer comes to your room and beats the shit out of you every night whether you need it or not, but instead is open to the public to view, enjoy its history and surprisingly its not inconsiderable beauty. Unfortunately it is not accessible to wheelchair users such as myself but I’m kind of ok with that. You can’t really tamper with hundreds of years of history by putting in one of those shite single person lifts that they have at Tesco on Tithebarn Street or at Thatto Heath Rugby Club. I almost got stuck in the one at Tesco yesterday. I’d popped over to buy my lunch and the gate wouldn’t shut behind me. As usual an attractive lady came to my aid, the mortification elongated by the fact that it took her a good 10 or 15 goes to shut the fecking thing. Then it just started moving down of its own accord. At that point I had no choice but to descend, buy my lunch and then worry about how I was going to get back up and out of the building later. Sure enough it got stuck again on the way out, at which point one member of staff and one man who looked as if he had just wandered in from a night’s sleep on the street were the unfortunates charged (not by me) with the task of getting the thing to work. Finally it got going, but it might be a while before I buy my lunch there again. I told the member of staff that it might be a good idea to put a note on the gate telling people that it is out of order to avoid the risk of anyone getting stuck in the store like something out of a Simon Pegg/Nick Frost movie. She just looked at me as if I was disabled, which I suppose I am.
Back to France, and despite the lack of access within Chateu D’If you can still take your biffy arse on to a boat to get close enough to see its awesomeness and get some pretty handy snaps with which to bore all 300 of your Facebook friends. Which is exactly what we do. We sit right at the back of the boat and I climb out of my chair, half expecting to be collared by one of the teams of armed soldiers for behaving in a way not befitting someone using a wheelchair, but thankfully nobody seems to care much where I sit. The whole thing takes around 45 minutes which, although they advertise it as a one hour ride, is probably long enough. The weather is beautiful and so are the views of the coast and out to sea, but not so much that you want to stay for the three hours or so we did in Tenerife when three quarters of the people on board were throwing up at regular intervals when they should have been whale watching. Or looking for dolphins as it is better known.
So anyway, Chateau D’If. It was built in the 16th century as a fortress by King Francis 1, who saw the island of If as a strategically important location for defending the coastline. It later became the prison where Dumas based his famous revenge yarn until the end of the 19th century when it was opened to the public. As we sail past we can see scores of people milling around at the very top of the castle, with many more starting the ascent of the steps to have a snoop around. Apparently you can see the dungeons where Dantes is supposed to have been detained but I’ll never know what they look like. The boat stops here for a brief period and those who can visit the castle and have paid more than our €10 to do so get off. We stay on board and are joined by those who have already visited the castle and want to make their way back. Here’s one of the shots I managed to take of Chateau D’If for you to peruse while you try to bring to mind the image of Guy Pearce playing a dastardly French aristocrat trying to dump on his best mate’s parade. I'll add more later. Maybe;