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Château d'If
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Chateau d'If : Click to enlarge picture
Chateau d'If
The Château d'If (daily: Jan–March & Oct–Dec 9.30am–5.30pm; April–Sept 9.30am–6.30pm; €4), on the tiny island of If, is best known as the penal setting for Alexandre Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo. Having made his watery escape after five years of incarceration as the innocent victim of treachery, the hero of the piece, Edmond Dantès, describes the island thus: "Blacker than the sea, blacker than the sky, rose like a phantom the giant of granite, whose projecting crags seemed like arms extended to seize their prey". The reality, for most prisoners, was worse: they went insane or died (and sometimes both) before reaching the end of their sentences. Only the nobles living in the less fetid upper-storey cells had much chance of survival, like de Niozelles, who was given six years for failing to take his hat off in the presence of Louis XIV, and Mirabeau, who was doing time for debt. The sixteenth-century castle and its cells are horribly well preserved, and the views back towards Marseille are fantastic. Boats for If leave regularly from the quai des Belges on the Vieux Port (hourly 9am–5pm, last return at 6.50pm; journey time 15–20min; €8).


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