The Frioul and the Count of Monte Cristo


“Life is a storm, my young friend. You will bask in the sunlight one moment, be shattered on the rocks the next. What makes you a man is what you do when the storm comes. You must look into that storm and shout as you did in Rome. Do your worst, for I will do mine! Then the fates will know you as we know you.” -Alexandre Dumas, Le Comte de Monte Cristo

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Sunset over the Frioul Archipelago from the Notre Dame dela Garde

I was strolling Vieux Port when I saw a ferry filled with tourist sailing away from the harbour. I was curious, I want to see the Mediterranean away from the coast, I want to jump in but I was too late the ship has already sailed. So I continued walking on the northern part of the marina thinking what would this cruise might offer. Then suddenly, I remember a friend who told me that Marseille was one of the setting for Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. I was excited, maybe its going to If and indeed it was.

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Sailboats at the Mediterranean

I got a ticket and found myself in one of those boats going to Frioul Archipelago, the sun is shining but the wind is cold. I was cold and in moments of solitude I ponder. The words of Dumas reverberated in my mind, “I don’t think man was meant to attain happiness so easily. Happiness is like those palaces in fairy tales whose gates are guarded by dragons: we must fight in order to conquer it.” How long will be the fight? I asked myself.

The boat initially stopped at the fortress, famously known as Château d’If, it was immortalised by Alexandre Dumas in his novel in 1844, Le Comte de Monte Cristo. Originally, the castle was constructed under the orders of King Francois I however as time passed by it became a prison for political prisoners and the protestants. The most famous of them all is the fictional character known as the Count of Monte Cristo. Now, I think it’s barren and expensive so I decided to skip it and rather admire its beauty from afar.

I continued the journey until the ship docked at the Frioul Harbour in Ratonneau island. The island is 93.9 hectare wide, I wonder how to explore it with such limited time and with an unconventional footwear- leather boots. The terrain was a challenge considering what I am wearing, I never expect to be on a trek that day but I just went with the flow and found myself on top of the hill (the Scottish will describe it as a hill, but i think its a mountain) overlooking the harbour. I am alone, how did I made this? I just don’t know. But I am not the only solitary soul, from afar I saw a man also walking on his own, finding shortcuts on this rocky terrain. Me? The strong winds and the steep ravine sends butterflies in my stomach. I still fear heights, I am afraid to fall especially alone. To add to my anxiety are the gulls flying and squeaking around. Unable to withstand it, I decided to went down.

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Château d’If was immortalised by Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo

From the top I saw Château d’If and the azure waters of St Estève Beach, I wanted to join the lone swimmer but I failed to bring my swimming shorts that I brought with me from Londres. Contented, I just watched the lone swimmer and wonder why he was alone.

It was about dusk so I decided to head back to the harbour, I would not want to spend a night in this isolated island together with the gulls and lizards. As I look at the map, I have only covered small portion of it, the isle is so wide and I did not even have time to cross the dike towards the Pomègues since the boat has arrived.

As we sail back to Vieux Port, I decided to stay at the forecastle to have a good view of Marseille. As I bid goodbye to the islands, I was again reminded by Dumas’ words – “Live, for a day will come when you will be happy and bless life.”

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