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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

 

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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History

A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.

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Sailing to Saint-Tropez with Alexandre Dumas

By Donna Fletcher Crow ~ September 13, 2021

Well, no, I wasn’t actually with the great French novelist Dumas père. In reality I was with my food writer daughter-in-law Kelly, who had planned our fabulous Riviera escape. Our excuse was our “chaperoning” my granddaughter/Kelly’s daughter in her ballet intensive in Monaco. But it turned out to be something of an intensive for us as well, as we discovered writers and gorgeous food at every location.

We couldn’t have had a lovelier day to set sail westward along the incredibly blue Mediterranean for our two and a half-hour journey from Nice to Saint-Tropez. Just over half an hour of sailing took us past picturesque Antibes with its 16th-century fort on the cape and almost completely enclosed harbor.

My first literary thoughts were of Somerset Maugham’s delightful story “The Three Fat Women of Antibes,” which I wrote about last week. But I was also happy to learn that Graham Greene, one of my favorite authors, lived in a small apartment here in his later years. And Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek, owned a villa in Old Town.

Around another cape, the next wide harbor brought us to Cannes, where several of our passengers disembarked. I have read that the best way to get to Cannes is by sailing—especially if one has their own yacht. It seems that most of Cannes' noted residents have been sports figures, but the connection that first sprang to my mind was the wonderful movie, “Mr. Bean’s Holiday.”  

 In a less light-hearted vein, About half a mile offshore from Cannes is the Island of Sainte-Margurite.

This forested, 2-mile-long island is famous for its fortress prison (the Fort Royal), in which an enigmatic prisoner, who was arrested around 1670, was held before being moved to other prisons. The mysterious figure was known for remaining unidentified due to the veil worn over his face throughout his 34 years in prison, in the custody of the same jailer. He died on 19 November 1703 under the name Marchioly.

It is said no one ever saw his face, due to the mask of black velvet cloth he wore, and the true identity of the prisoner remains a mystery. His identification has been extensively debated by historians, and various theories have been expounded in numerous books and films.

Voltaire claimed in the second edition of his Questions sur l'Encyclopédie (1771) that the prisoner wore a mask made of iron rather than of cloth, and that he was the older, illegitimate brother of Louis XIV. What little is known about the historical Man in the Iron Mask is based mainly on correspondence between his jailer and his superiors in Paris. Recent research suggests that his name was Eustache Dauger, a man who was involved in several political scandals of the late 17th century, but this assertion has not been proven.

In the 19th century Alexandre Dumas featured the Man in the Iron Mask in the final installment of his D’Artagnan saga. In it, the prisoner is forced to wear an iron mask, and is portrayed as Louis XIV's identical twin. Dumas also presented a review of the popular theories about the prisoner extant in his time in the chapter "L'homme au masque de fer" in the sixth volume of his non-fiction Crimes Célèbres.

Then, on to Saint-Tropez for Kelly’s “research” into French culinary delights.

After a quick stroll along the harbor we made our way to the hotel White 1921 where we relaxed under the lovely white umbrellas on the patio of the restaurant “To Share.”

This is a tapas-style restaurant that offers a delightful array of creative, bite-sized dishes, which we did, indeed, share. “The MICHELIN Plate” guide offers the rather understated, but well—deserved, Good cooking rating. Kelly and I also gave it enthusiastic thumbs-up for creativity and relaxation. A perfect combination for a hot, humid, Mediterranean afternoon.

 

Toasted polenta sandwiches of mango and salmon

Ahi tune tacos with popcorn and cilantro

Deep-fried avocado

We then completed a perfect visit with a stroll around the Old Town before catching our boat back to Nice.

 

Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.

www.donnafletchercrow.com

Read More: Writers in France Then and Now

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Reader Comments:

Oh, Donna - I can't even begin to tell you how absolutely THRILLED I am with your script and photos in this blog! Your photos are wonderful and make everything look simply beautiful - as I know it was in actuality! Thank you SO VERY MUCH for sharing this. I can't wait to read and see more from this lovely trip you recently enjoyed!
-Carolyn H. Gilbert, September 22, 2021

Thank y ou so much for "joining me" on my adventure, Carolyn Your companionship--through all the years--is a precious gift.
-Donna, October 8, 2021

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