Cote d'Azur, Toulon, France...Quite enticing....



Toulon,  Coted'Azur France, the French Riviera...what a place!

Toulon, France
Only a day spent in Toulon, Cote d'Azur, France, will remain in our minds for a long time to come.
Of all the cities we've visited thus far, Toulon, one of the charming towns along the southern coast of France, known as the French Riviera, left a special place in my heart.
Port of Toulon

As we neared the port of Toulon, Cote d'Azur (the French Riviera).
 

Boats packed the marinas at the popular resort destination.
Only a month ago, we wrote about our visit to Marseilles, France, further to the west of Toulon which is also considered a part of the renowned French Riviera, the area of many hot spots of the rich and famous. 
The beaches in Toulon were sparse of sunbathers, the summer season yet to come.
Surprisingly, Le Petite Train moved too quickly for us to take as many good photos as we would have liked, our camera skills budding.

Just love the pharmacies in other countries, far removed from our familiar Walgreen's.
Finally, feeling well enough to venture out yesterday morning, we purchased two tickets to Le Petite Train for approximately US $16 for the ride through the immediate area, checking out local architecture, usual tourist shopping area and local beaches.
Old naval buildings lined the coast, Toulon a substantial naval site hundreds of years ago, remaining so yet today, drawing many tourists.


Bicycles and motorized bike are quite common means of transportation in this beach side winding, hilly town.
 
 
We found Marseilles and Toulon, although different, offering the same local flair of quaint European cities, outdoor cafes and a seemingly easy lifestyle. Workers and shop owners engaged in lively conversations while standing outside  the door of their shops, rapidly puffing on cigarettes, arms flailing wildly in easy-to-read body language of pure passion.

47% of Toulon's buildings were destroyed in World War II, resulting in many buildings of post war design.

How often in the US did we see an employees at a Starbucks or a MacDonald's standing by the door of their place of employment talking in a fevered pitch, while waving their hand, holding a cigarette, in passionate fervor?  How different life is here!
Although many of the buildings are over 60 years old, the integrity of the familiar and revered French style was maintained.

Cafes and restaurants lined the boulevard, leaving the passers-by many options to relax.

We believe this was yet another naval building of some sort, whizzing by too quickly to discover more.  If you know this building, please write and I will update the information here.
We were not disappointed other than the difficulty we had taking photos as Le Petite Train quickly whizzed by spots of interest with little time to prepare the shot.  I'm not that good at it yet!

Tom was quick to alert me to topless sunbathers on the sparsely populated beaches, the peak of summer yet to arrive, as we quickly scooted past.  In my own state of pure delight as to yet another cultural difference (one we noticed in other ports of call and in Belize a few months ago), I couldn't turn my head quickly, only to miss the exquisite view.
It was difficult to get a good shot of our ship, obstructed by boats in the marina.

We continued to try for ship shot.

Not the best photos of us but we liked the mime, leaving him a tip in his basket.
How foolish we Americans are in our Victorian ways of hiding our bodies by centuries of supposed Puritanical beliefs about nudity? I doubt I'll ever go topless on a foreign beach with my own rigid morays ingrained into a lifetime, but its enchanting to witness the laissez faire attitude of others in foreign lands.
Finally, a decent shot of our ship as we walked back to our ship. Security inspected the contents of our mugs containing iced tea to ensure we hadn't put booze in them to bring back onto the ship, not for security reasons but to ensure we weren't prevented from spending money on the ship's $8 cocktails. 
Leaving the train at its final stop, we walked the short distance back to the ship passing marinas, outdoor cafes, restaurants, shops and vendors, each offering their own unique perspective of life in a coastal village in the much desired south of France, Cote d'Azur.
Upon returning to the ship, we lounged by the pool in the cool 70's degree weather, a far cry from the scorching 95 degrees in Dubai, easily letting also two hour pass before we decided to go inside.
I worked out for the first time in over a week in the ship's well equipped fitness center having struggled in doing so once while sick in Dubai, feeling refreshed and invigorated for the first time in weeks.
At 5:00 pm our phone rang in our cabin, a call coming from the lovely French Canadian couple, Nicole and Gerry, whom we met on the Le Petite Train, inviting us for happy hour in their cabin to celebrate Gerry's birthday.
Spontaneity, now our middle names after a lifetime of planning ahead, we immediately dashed out the door, still in our bathing suits and short, to join them as we all watched the ship leave the Port of Toulon while engaged in a series of storytelling and "guy jokes," a favorite of both Gerry and Tom, none of which I can (or will) share here.  Email Tom for details.
Later back in our cabin, unable to wipe the smiles off of our faces, we dressed for dinner in Windows, the second of the included restaurants to dine and see what the evening had in store for us.  Once again, little were we disappointed.

Seated at a table for four, referred to as "sharing" (which usually is at a table for six or more), we relaxed as we patiently waited to discover who our evening table mates would be, somewhat like going on a blind double date. No less than five minutes after being seated, a couple from Scotland, Anne and Chris sat down and the fun began. 

There again, more laughter, more storytelling, more inappropriate jokes while barely noticing our food as we gobbled it down between stories and fits of laughter.

At almost 10:00 pm with the restaurant closed, we said our goodbyes to Anne and Chris meandering off to our cabin for hopefully more restful repose.  We were still on Dubai time, two hours later.  No wonder I started nodding off once my head hit the pillow. 

In only 10 days from today, we'll be settling in to our new home for the summer in Tuscany.  There will be no new people to hang out with at happy hour or dinner each night.  There will be no easy meals prepared for us, unless we're willing to pay.  No one will make our bed providing fresh linen and towels twice daily.  We'll be on our own, in reality most comforting and familiar.

But there, will be a place to call "home" for the next two and a half months, a 17th century renovated stone farmhouse and a car at our disposal.  For yet another short time, we'll settle into a familiar routine reminiscent of our "old lives" except every few days or so, we'll take off to see the endless array of the breathtaking treasures that the country of Italy has to offer, too many to mention here now but will be shared with stories and photos as we go along.

It will be far cry from the usual trip to work, a visit to the local Cub Foods, a workout at the local Fitness 19, a casual stroll in the neighborhood, all of which at the time was appreciated and cherished in its simplicity. 

In our new life, simplicity has taken on a new meaning and that too, my friends, will continue to be appreciated, shared and cherished.

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