Day Trip: Toulon

Today, my friend Allison and I took a day trip to Toulon, a city that lies 45 km (nearly 30 miles) west along the southern coast of France. The day began as all of my day trips usually do: bus from the Gare Routière in Aix to Marseille, Gare St. Charles for tickets to Toulon. 
The first thing we saw when we arrived in the upper town was the large fountain in the Place de la Liberté - the large square between the train station and the Boulevard de Strasbourg. 

We crossed over to the Rue Henri Pastoureau, wandering along it until we found a bakery where we could buy some sandwiches for lunch. In the course of our search for the Office du Tourisme, we passed the Stade Mayol, where a soccer match was about to begin and the crowds were frenzied. There were numerous food vendors cooking delicious French stadium fare outside, and what seemed to be a small parade to the stadium entrance. When we finally found the Tourism Office, we snagged a map and some advice from a kind woman behind the desk there - where to wander, which museums to see, etc. From there it was just a short walk to the harbor on the Mediterranean. Toulon has a large military harbor with a major French naval base. We walked along the quay, bought some postcards to send home to our lovely families, then eventually turned up a street that would lead us back into town.

The part of town that we discovered next was the old historic center of Toulon. The old town is, as Wikipedia describes it (of all places!) "a pedestrian area with narrow streets, small squares and many fountains." So much of France is like this, it seems. Especially Aix-en-Provence! We passed by the Toulon Cathedral and through the market on the Cours Lafayette, where the produce looked so fresh that we had to buy some as a snack! I opted for dried apricots - a favorite since I first bought them at the enormous mercado in Florence. At one point, Allison and I turned into an old building where ancient pottery, furniture, maps, etc. were on display. It was just the sort of chance encounter you might expect when you wander the pedestrian streets of any village in France, directionless and content to be so. 

Eventually, we found a photography exhibit in the Musée Maison de la Photo de Toulon. On show were the Lumière du Jour Portraits Nus 1999/2009 of Philippe ODDOART. The quotes featured alongside the photographs were thought-provoking. After spending some time appreciating the black and white portraits, we left the Musée for the Hotel des Arts, the Centre d'Art du Conseil General du Var. On display was an exhibit that had only opened the previous day, of paintings by Jérôme Dupin. His work was abstract, but vibrant and playful - just about the opposite of the elegant black and white nude portraits!  

Finally, we headed into the Galeries Lafayette department store to scent ourselves with expensive perfume and hand cream, and to apply a coat of Chanel lipstick. In the end, we made our way back towards the railroad station, but ultimately decided to take a bus directly back to Aix from Toulon for about 16 euros.