Toulon, the great French Mediterranean naval port, is our nearest city and where the Prefecture of our department (Var) is. (Apparently because Napoleon was afraid the British would seize Toulon he moved the prefecture inland to Draguignan and it was only moved back in the 1970s; a very long time after that particular threat had ended.) Toulon lies at the foot of the towering slopes of Mont Faron so that with limited space to expand the city has become rather congested and the traffic is legendary. Having had a busy week doing all sorts of things for Courmettes and others we decided to go and visit it before rising temperatures made it a sweaty urban obstacle course to be avoided.
We also wanted to go because there was a time-limited exhibition on the fossils of the Var at the Museum d’histoire naturelle de Toulon et du Var http://www.museum-toulon.org/. This actually turned out to be very well done and of interest even to those whose geological knowledge is limited.
It transpires that there are lots of fossils in the area including some spectacular reptile remains and some rather large fossil birds. There was also a display of the fauna and flora of the region upstairs which, if you can overcome any dislike of stuffed animals, was actually interesting and informative.
We then went on into Toulon for lunch and surrounded by an embarrassment of culinary riches stumbled upon an excellent restaurant, Le Table de Lilith run by a very aimble couple from Normandy. Then on westwards and then southwards to the peninsula of Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer. One reason why Toulon became the great port of the French Navy is that it has an enormous enclosed bay. The good news about this is that it allows vessels to engage in training exercises without going into the open sea: the bad news is that it is very easy to blockade — something that the British did for four whole years during the Napoleonic War.
Anyway on the road to Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer you can look back northwards to the port which is dominated by the stark grey vessels of the French Navy. Currently these include the mass of the Charles de Gaulle, France’s only aircraft carrier, which is undergoing an extensive refit.
We then had a brief walk along the coast at Saint-Mandrier in spring sunshine and then after puzzling why someone could let a lovely old house become ruined we headed back home through the city. It would actually be more accurate to say that we headed back under the city because we used the 3.2 km-long Toulon Tunnel which allegedly handles 30,000 vehicles a day. Not the place to be stuck in a traffic jam.