Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Port Of Call......Toulon, France

Our day in Toulon began early, getting off the ship around 8am to meet our tour bus.  Our tour guide Monique lives in the tiny port city of Toulon, an area that covers less than 17 squares miles.  Home to a large French naval base, Toulon is also known for wine making, aeronautical equipment, paper, shoes and more. The hour long bus ride would take us to the historical city of Aix en Provence whose most famous inhabitant seemed to be painter Paul Cezanne.  Following the same path he walked daily as he headed to his studio, Cezanne is known for painting landscapes of the surrounding area with a great emphasis for the nearby mountain range.

The Famous Mountain Range Painted By Paul Cezanne

The Cours Mirabeau serves as the widest street in Aix which follows the line of the old city wall that used to divide the city into two sections. Lined with restaurants and touristy shops that featured copies of landscapes done by Cezanne we browsed but kept going.  The oldest and most famous  "brasserie" or restaurant in Aix was built in 1792.   It was frequented by the likes of Cezanne, Emile Zola and Ernest Hemmingway to name a few.

One Of The Many Fountains In Toulon, France

Moss Covered Fountain

 Hunky Guys Holding Up The Building

Also On A Building

We stopped at the Cathedral of the Holy Savior which was built on the former site of a Roman Forum. Since mass had just ended we were allowed to enter for a peek and photos. Our walking tour continued with a stop at Hotel de Ville which features a handsome clock tower built in 1510.  Nearby was a former "corn exchange" where farmers came to exchange all types of cereal grains.  The ornately decorated 18th-century building is one of the features of this picturesque little square. Not far from the square are thermal springs containing lime and carbonic acid that first drew the Romans to Aix.

Seats For The Choir

A Lost Tourist?

Often referred to as the "city of a thousand fountains," the most famous one features four dolphins.  Many of the beautiful fountains serve to decorate the main boulevard which was our first view of this antique, tiny village. Given some free time we stopped in a local bakery since most in Europe carry sandwiches and other prepared items. As it was time for lunch we picked up something that resembled a pizza with tomato and cheese for 3.50 euros.  It was plenty big for both of us to share so we found a step to sit on while eating and people watching.

That Round Thing Was Our Lunch.....Pizza

A Close Up

Back on the bus our next stop was Marseilles, the second largest city in France next to Paris.  We stopped at the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Guarde which overlooks the water.  Perched high above the city of Marseille the church was built on a former fort which served to protect the city. This Catholic church is an impressive landmark that serves as a destination for an annual pilgrimage.  We walked up the 200 plus steps to the top taking in the spectacular views of the city and Mediterranean Sea.

 Notre Dame de la Guarde, France

Notice My New Red Jacket Bought After The Beer Incident In Barcelona
Wearing A Radio Transmitter To Hear Our Tour Guide And The White Dot In Our Tour Group Number

A View From The Top

Here's That Women Again That Gets Into So Many Photos

Is This Cute Cherub Telling The Tourists To Shussh?

On our way back down the steep, winding roads we stopped to take photos at a castle turned museum.  The nice thing about booking a tour through the cruise line is that IF the tours get started later than scheduled they can run overtime and the ship will wait.  During our day in France our guide said the cruise line called to say they could keep us out an extra 30 minutes since we got started late. Our all aboard and sail away times had been adjusted also giving us extra time in port.

A Castle Turned Into A Museum Built Over An Aquaduct

According to Monique our tour guide, tall, stately cypress trees are often seen throughout France as a sign of welcome to house guests.  One tree planted near a home means.....come in.
Two trees planted near a home means....we'll offer you a meal.
And three trees planted near a home means....we'll also offer you a bed for the night.

We made our way back onto the ship after 5pm, tired from a long, fun day in France.  After a brief stop in our cabin to drop off our things and clean up we headed to dinner.  The host seated us near the large windows in the back of the dining room and we watched the wake of the sea behind us as we sailed away from Toulon.

Later that night we took in the early show at 7:30 pm before stopping for a snack and heading to our cabin for the night. This was just our first day of four in a row shore excursions before we'd have a day of rest at sea.  But that IS why we're here on this our first, sample trip to Europe on board the Norwegian Spirit cruising the Mediterranean......along the gringo trail.

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