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One way to do Toulon and Cassis

Another Mediterranean port that is becoming more popular on the cruise ship circuit is Toulon.

So welcome to an overview of  France’s major  Mediterranean military port and gateway to Provençal which my wife and I visited while cruising on the Viking Star last December…

And that’s the start of the good news, the cruise terminal is just around a 10 minute walk from the town centre.

Toulon is not an overly large town and it is therefore recommended that the possibility of either an excursion or DIY journey out of town be considered. As part of our visit to Toulon we decided on a visit to the attractive fishing and tourist town of Cassis: a 35 minute journey by train or 45 minute coach ride. To skip direct to the feature on Cassis just click the following link…

Cassis

Possibly the best introduction to Toulon is to take one of the local boat tours of the harbour…

There are a number of operators and they all depart from the Quai Cronstadt, less than 10 minutes walk from the terminal towards the town. Indeed, walking along the Quay they are just past the  ‘Genius of Navigation’ statue on the waterfront…

 

 

The Genius of Navigation is a bronze statue of French Admiral Jules de Cuverville with four bas-reliefs on the base. It was the original work of the French Sculptor Louis-Joseph Daumas  in  1847 and reconstructed after its destruction in World War II.

Once out into the harbour the sheer size of the naval base becomes more evident…

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Good views of the more modern French naval vessels…

…and some not so modern ones…

…moored and awaiting disposal.

There are of course more scenic areas around the harbour…

but most reflect Toulon’s Naval heritage…

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…and  examples of  the historic remains of its defensive installations…

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The harbour tour complete, a short walk along the waterfront and the visitor will discover the entrance to the naval base

…which is flanked to the left by an exceptional Maritime Museum...

Access to the museum is through the magnificent original door to the Arsenal, which itself dates back to 1738.

One hundred yards to the right of the Naval Base entrance is The Corderie…

 

…a very long and thin building ( some 400 metres long) where rope for ships’ rigging was woven in times gone by.

Heading into the town along Rue Anatole France from the Corderie one will shortly arrive at Place de la Liberté with its central Fountain of the Federation...

 

Dating back to 1890 the Fountain of the Federation brings together three figures carved in stone Calissane representing France, Strength and Justice. It also symbolizes the transport of the Statue of Liberty from France to America. ( more about that in the Cassis section to follow)

During the month of December the Place de la Liberté becomes a permanent Christmas Market.

The road that forms a boundary of the Place de la Liberté is the Boulevard de Strasbourg and just two blocks along here is the Toulon Opera House

Taking the street to the left of the Opera House will bring the visitor to the main entrance to the Opera House on the Place Victor Hugo…

…having passed in that narrow street the ornate offices of the Administrative Tribunal...

…and the statue of Raimu...

Raimu was the stage name of the famous French actor Jules Auguste Muraire.  He is most famous for playing César in the Marseilles trilogy.

The Place Victor Hugo has numerous quirky cafes, bistros and bars on three sides…

There’s that name Cesar again.

A further short walk to Place Puget is well worth the time if only to see the Fountain ‘des trois Dauphins’…

This curious garden-fountain is the work of two artists from Toulon. Nature has helped by filling the basins and thus concealing the dolphins under the moss, ferns, a medlar tree and an oleander.

Now following the general direction back towards the waterfront one passes the Cathedral Notre Dame De La Seds…

…and well worth an internal inspection…

Toulon loves its murals…

and lingerie shops…

…and of course its many cafes…

…though I didn’t get too much conversation out of those two locals.

And finally for Toulon it has its churches, one of the most famous being The church of Saint-François-de-Paule,  a Catholic Church very close to the waterfront…

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That concludes our tour of Toulon and now for our trip along the coast to…

Cassis

The picturesque town and harbour of Cassis is easily accessible from Toulon by either coach or rail but for this visit we chose a ship’s excursion timed to allow us to also make the most of Toulon.

The town is dominated on one side by the hilltop Château de Cassis…

and the other side by its pretty harbour…

…from where we embarked on a local tourist boat for our ‘Calanques’ boat trip….

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Cassis remains most famous for its stone. The Stone of Cassis, which was quarried here since antiquity, has been used for the quays of many large Mediterranean ports including Piraeus, Alexandria and Port Said.

A folklore claim that it was used for the base of the statue of Liberty in New York gained wide circulation and though probably apocryphal was reiterated by our guide.

The coastline soon bore witness to past quarrying activities…

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…and a more modern variation of their use…

 

before we entered the first of a number of the narrow inlets, Calanque de Port Miou...

and later Calanque d’en Vau…

…and following it along its length to the head…

As the old traditional industries declined so the Cassis workforce turned to tourism and wine making and Cassis was one of the first three vineyards to profit from the appellation d’origine contrôlée (label of controlled origin) introduced in 1936.

With this in mind our excursion had arranged a wine tasting at a local merchant’s bar…

…where we received a thoroughly enjoyable tasting of local wines and cheeses…

A little free time was available to wander either through the town to check out delicacies on offer…

…or along the quayside and enjoy the typical French waterfront atmosphere…

…and some more light refreshment and a sample taste of the fruits de mer on offer…

That concludes this review of what is achievable on a day ship visit to Toulon. At the risk of repeating an earlier statement, Toulon itself does not take a full day to visit and it is highly recommended to make some additional excursion if a full days sightseeing is what is required.

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