Visiting Toulon (Provence)
Our ship departed Ajaccio the afternoon before and we arrived into the port of La Seyne sur Mer early the next morning. This, of course, confused passengers who thought they were arriving in the port of Toulon (Provence), France.
Yes, there is a port in Toulon, but that is not where Royal Caribbean was docking the Adventure of the Seas. The port area is definitely not a touristy area, but it is a commercial port. To get to the city of Toulon, we needed to pay for a shuttle to get us there.
We were on vacation and not stressing so we paid the $15 per person to Royal Caribbean and boarded the coach to Toulon. The approximately 30 minute ride brought us to a parking lot near the port in Toulon where our coach would pick us up and return us to the ship when we were ready. If you use this service, have your passports ready when you enter the parking lot as they will ask to see them.
Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbour on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence.
Toulon is an important centre for naval construction, fishing, wine making, and the manufacture of aeronautical equipment, armaments, maps, paper, tobacco, printing, shoes, and electronic equipment.
The military port of Toulon is the major naval center on France’s Mediterranean coast, home of the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and her battle group. The French Mediterranean Fleet is based in Toulon.
You can see some of the military fleet alongside ferries and smaller ships and boats. Walking from the ship to the Old Town, we passed a deluge of boats docked nearby. There is a small pedestrian walkway along the water with shops and restaurants here.
I can imagine that during the warmer months it must be a beautiful sight to sit in a cafe near the water and watch the sailboats drift by.
The shops in this area are great if you don’t intend to venture into the city itself and are looking for a quick souvenir. One surprising item that we saw repeatedly was the grasshopper. Be it realistic looking or a painted ceramic keepsake, the grasshoppers were everywhere.
A little research revealed that the grasshopper isn’t unique to Toulon, but an Aesop’s fable, “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and later retold by a Frenchman.
In the 17th century Jean de la Fontaine set the story of “La cigale et la fourmi” at the very start of his Fables. In his retelling, the tight-fisted ant suggests that since the grasshopper has sung all summer it should now dance to keep out the cold.
In France the grasshopper (or rather the cicada) then became the proverbial example of improvidence: so much so that Jules-Joseph Lefebvre (1836–1911) could paint a picture of a female nude biting one of her nails among the falling leaves and be sure viewers would understand the point by giving it the title La Cigale.
Certainly the debate regarding the fable continues today including using it to discuss the plight of the disadvantaged at the hands of those who have more. Regardless of its meaning, you can’t go anywhere without seeing it on everything from soaps to shirts to postcards.
I was intrigued by the handmade miniatures in one store and took a few pictures. The details in the “Tosatore” or sheep shearer as well as the tailor next to him is charming to say the least. Then when you see dozens upon dozens of them on a shelf, you appreciate the amount of time and effort that it took to produce these little crafts.
Now for some unusual things we saw in Toulon. First up is a cactus and although a cactus in itself is not unusual, I don’t usually associate them with France.
Next is the scariest looking model on a pair of men’s long underwear. Talk about using Photoshop! A little muffin top with a six pack – yeah, ok! The really strange thing about this is that they were selling these next to all the food in the market and it seemed completely out of place. “Don’t forget the longjohns Pierre when you pick up the bread, tomatoes, and cheese.”
I happen to really love the stylish and contemporary fire hydrants and wondered why the ones in the US look frightfully old in comparison? I think it’s time for an update!
One of the last pictures I took in La Seyne sur Mer was of the police station. If you didn’t want to go into Toulon and wanted to stay in La Seyne you could as there are restaurants and shops, but it is still quite a hike from the ship. As long as you don’t end up in the police station, you should be all set.
Tomorrow we will visit the Old Town and its daily market before returning to the ship. Be prepared for lots of mouth watering yummy goodness because you’re not going to believe your eyes.