|KM standing in the garden at the Villa Isola Bella (1920)|
Many writers and artists have loved this part of the south of France, but I didn't know that W B Yeats died there. In 1938, he came with his wife to stay in a hotel in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, the next small town along the coast. He died there in January 1939 and was buried in the town's cemetery up on the hill. The war intervened so his remains couldn't be returned to Ireland until 1948, by which time it took some detective work to identify exactly where his grave was.
Katherine loved Menton, and she adored Isola Bella, a villa on the side of a steep hill, not far from the Menton Garavan railway station. She said about Menton: "I love it as I've never loved any place but my home." The villa is now privately owned, and the KM room is the basement part of it,with a small garden and a bathroom around the side. It's not far at all from where Mandy and Brian are staying - down one road, up another one and under the railway bridge.The same train line runs below Mandy and Brian's flat, which makes a nice connection between the two places.
Just as you can’t go to Gallipoli without remembering the men who were there 99 years ago, so here in Menton, you try and picture KM looking out at these views or walking these streets. At dawn when the buildings in the old town glow in the early morning light, or in the evening when the sunset colours are pretty but muted (like the pastel shades of the houses) and the air is still and clear, like Wellington on a good day, you can’t help wondering what she was thinking: did she feel far from home, or did she feel at home? Did it remind her somehow of NZ – the houses perched on cliffs, the blue sea, the sunsets, the wide sky?