So we went to the ship board port talk, got a map, and set our agenda. Coming into port the next morning was amazing. Toulon has been an important port forever, and I have read about it’s glory days in Napoleon’s time. The approach takes a long time, as the harbor is enormous, with all shapes and sizes of islands providing lee protection to literally thousands of boats and ships.
Franch Navy in Toulon
Toulon from the sea
We had a very leisurely breakfast, while the madding crowds debarked. We walked ashore, heading toward the Cours de Lafayette street market, and whatever fate put in our path. Toulon is charming, filled with wonderful funky shops and the street market is fabulous. Though mostly fresh produce, there were also handmade soaps, toys, purses, clothing and the like. Nicer than a flea market—an upscale farmer’s market.
Famous French cheeses
We found ourselves in a wonderful shop with Christmas figurines; these are called Santos [saints] and are very popular around the Catholic Mediteranean. These were exquisite and therefore expensive; hard to justify when my best friend hand made my crèche. We then discovered we were in the shop for the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Chair. [It seems to refer to the bishop's seat, which is what a cathedral is, by definition]
So we walked around the block, through a charming pocket piazza with a fountain. The church is beautiful, though not terribly old. A very nice brochure guided us through the chapels and art works. We were very impressed with this high altar sculpture.
The Virgin ascends to heaven
Continuing on, we looped through a Napoleonic-era drawbridge and through a large shopping mall. We bought a few things at Carrefours, the French grocery. Toulon is home to many many Muslims [as it has been for centuries], but French law dictates that their faces must be uncovered.
Drawbridge in the old city walls
Stop for refreshments
We elected to eat at the ship’s trough2 for lunch and then spend a lazy time on our balcony watching the scene. It was very windy and many a fine sailing yacht, with many a perhaps less-that-fine crew were struggling to dock. An official in a motor launch was going from one to another helping, advising and sometimes getting on board and taking over. He had to tow one yacht in. It was an excellent example of the 3 laws of sailing: keep the water out, keep the people in and keep the boat off the ground. Sounds so easy!
“Yachts in the wind / all we are is yachts in the wind…” Right, Kansas?
N4: 135 Toulon France edition
1 Cousin Vinny’s: a stop on a bus tour that involves a store, often with a demo of what they make there and a long opportunity to purchase. Always includes restrooms.
2 Trough: an all –you-can -eat buffet. Always looks more delicious than it is.
3 CTC is Cheap Tourist Crap. It is not necessary inexpensive. Often to be found in Cousin Vinny stores. One must sort through and can sometimes find treasures.
4 The Euro was about $1.25