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roquebrune-cap-martin and a brief story about yeats

If I die bury me up there [at Roquebrune] and then in a year’s time when the newspapers have forgotten me, dig me up and plant me in Sligo.  –William Butler Yeats

He disappeared in the dead of winter . . . / What instruments we have agree / The day of his death was a dark cold day.  –W. H. Auden 

And that is what happened.  Yeats died in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin in January, 1939 and he was buried there.  His request was to remain in Roquebrune for one year and then his remains moved to Ireland.  Unfortunately, his request became complicated.

A French diplomat was sent to oversee the reburial, but he found that it was “impossible to return the full and authentic remains of Mr Yeats” and asked the local pathologist “to reconstitute a skeleton presenting all the characteristics of the deceased.”  The remains of several other individuals, including an Englishman named Alfred Hollis, were assembled in a coffin and sent to Ireland for reburial.

I was unaware of Yeats’s favorite village.  I thought I had visited them all, from Grasse to Menton near the Italian border, all the villages perchés along the Côte d’Azur.  I had taken busses and sometimes trains from Nice into the interior to explore them, going as far as Digne-les-Bains, the little town where Victor Hugo set the opening scenes of Les Misérables.  I thought I had seen them all, and several more than once, and many many times.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I  learned from two Americans whom I had met by chance during lunch at Bistro d’Antoine in Nice that Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, a small, gorgeous village perché, sat high on a colline above the Mediterranean Sea about 30 minutes from Nice.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The Americans loved the village, they had a favorite restaurant Casarella, a small Italian place in the central part of the village near the main square, and went there often.  With that recommendation, knowing I had not visited, and learning that Yeats had lived and died there was sufficient encouragement.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The Americans live nearby part-time in Villefranche-sur-Mer, and they have a car, so they go often to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.  I do not drive in France and prefer the public transportation.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

One can go to Menton by train (TER), and from the train station one will take the #21 navette to Roquebrune-Cap-Martin.  Or, one can take the train (TER) and get off at Roquebrune-Cap-Martin station and walk to the old village.  It is a climb all the way.  There are two stairs.  The steps are nicely separated.  I used the Moovit app on my phone for direction; it provided a map and path.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

The village is lovely.  The views from the small square are panoramic and spectacular.  A castle towers over the village.  It is worth a visit but will cost about 4 €, depending on your age.  Some of the buildings seem to grow out of the rock and the hillside like a cancer. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

I ate lunch at Casarella and enjoyed it very much.  It is small and popular and reservations should be made.  (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail. Cliquez sur une vignette pour l’agrandir.)

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