A busy harbour and major navy base - no wonder it's twinned with Norfolk, VA
[Maryanne]On the edge of the Côte d'Azur, on the French Riviera, Toulon is a place few stop, they might drive through it perhaps, but rarely stop.. It’s not terrible, but there are plenty of other places along the coast that do a much better job of attracting the tourists (Nice, San Tropez, etc). The area was heavily bombed (by the allies) in the war, so much of its original charm is lost. It’s also the main home of the French Navy so there is plenty of military boats in the harbour; very much like Norfolk, VA – so much so they are twinned cities!
So why did we stop here? Primarily it's somewhere with good transport links (the train for Kyle), and good access to stores for me. Kyle left me with a host of chores to do and I’ll hardly bore you with laundry, grocery, scrubbing the decks, etc, but one of the main ‘different’ chores this time was to source a passerelle. Passerelle is the French word used for what we'd know as a gangplank (oh, sorry, you already knew that?).
The method of securing the boat to the dock in the Mediterranean is generally anchor down, reverse back, stern-to the dock and tie up, fenders either side make a nice boat sandwich. Footprint can optionally reverse this and go bow-to the dock and pick which seems best for each marina. This approach gets many more boats in the marina, but generally means a pretty big gap from the back steps of the boat to the dock. Now imagine leaping that gap with a bicycle, or full cylinder of propane, or a week’s supply of groceries – it is NOT going to happen. Hence the need for a Passerelle! Ideally we should have resolved this need much sooner, but better late than never, and Kyle is so weight conscious he didn’t want extra stuff on board for the passage from England.
Back in Cap d’Agde I’d priced them out – oh about €600 ($860, or £525) for a cheap one (oh boy!!). What most people do is rummage around in the back of their garage for parts to make one.. a good secure, 2.5 m (8’) gangplank. The primary solution seems to be an old ladder with a board secured along the length supported by the rungs; a couple of wheels at the dock end to cope with the constant motion and a hook or hinge of some sort to connect to the boat end. Voila!
So off I went to find a ladder. Now, remember I’m on cycle or foot here, so I can hardly drive along the motorway and find the biggest and best DIY store, but luckily there is one not too far away; unfortunately it doesn’t have any suitable ladders.. Hmmm.. what is a girl to do? I’m pretty sure when we need one, we are really going to need it, and most likely very soon, so I decided to buy wood and work from scratch.. First I buy a big 2mx30cm board, then 3 2.4m x 5cm x 5cm timbers. Now, can you picture me managing all this on my bicycle? I do believe I entertained much of Toulon. After much drilling, swearing, and testing I hope I’ve something passable and functional, but only use will establish that – so far I’m surviving crossing the gangplank, but it might be a good idea to kick start the diet again.
The docks and our new Passerelle - long may it last - we'll the season at least!
For the whole week we’ve had Internet on the boat for just €20 (orange wifi reaches the marina), but I’ve been too busy to abuse it much. It’s been so nice to catch up with banking and basics without having to hang out in a bar or café (or even McDonalds).
It’s not all been work though; I’ve made some time to explore the town and surroundings a little. I made and met-up with a www.couchsurfing,org friend for some French insight, and even sampled a couple of museums (neither especially great, one especially terrible). Oh and I was warned off taking a picture of an ancient bell tower as a matter of national security (it happened to be within a Navy base - you can look, but don't take pictures).
A feel for Toulon, much of it's ancient past was bombed away, but there are still patches of old city walls
Giant sculptures and ancient overgrown fountains
Markets and street painting competition
Despite not being popular on the tourist trail, the town is filled with lots of grand architecture, an old naval yard, shaded squares, a wonderful daily fruit and veg market, and lots of great cafes with tables tumbling into the squares. Not bad at all!
Squares to relax in
I’m here too early in the season it seems; I took a cycle ride along the coast and was met with the fantastic looking Royal tower guarding the bay.. The notices informed me it was free to enter but didn’t open until 2pm.. When I returned at 2:15 it still wasn’t open, a quick check of the small-print revealed I’d have to come back in July, until then it’s closed. Oh well! The next fort I stumbled across is now a restaurant with open air tables among the crenellations overlooking the sea, I took a quick sneak look, but without a reservation I couldn't stay long.
Towers, Forts and beaches - pretty cool coastline
For just €8 I can buy a day pass that lets me use all the area buses, the ferries in the bay (it’s a big bay) and have a cable car ride up the local mountain, and I’ve been hoping for a full day without chores to make the most of that. The day finally came, unfortunately so did the wind (cable car won’t run) and the sun went away! Oh well, again, maybe some other time?
Kyle will be home soon, and we'll be off to explore the next place, this time together - much nicer.