We docked in the port of Toulon on the morning of November 7. The cold front had passed through the area, and it was a cool but bright morning.
Since we had had a busy day in Florence. we opted for a quieter one today. The ship had docked on the opposite side of the harbor from Toulon and although there were options to take a ferry to the city itself, we decided to stay on the shore where we docked and to visit the smaller village of La Seyne sur Mer (within easy walking distance of the ship.)
Once outside the secure port area we got our first full view of the ship since we embarked in Civitavecchia.
Our first impression of La Seyne wasn’t too favorable. We walked past these grotty factory buildings which I suspect were part of the old shipbuilding yard that closed in the 1980s. There were signs indicating that this area was going to be redeveloped. I would anticipate that these buildings will be demolished and you won’t recognize the area in five years’ time. The buildings don’t look like they have much architectural significance but you never know.
Things improved markedly once we passed the old factory buildings. We saw a nice park and a casino built on the former shipyard grounds. Then we approached this interesting structure – La Seyne’s version of the Eiffel Tower. What it actually turned out to be was a former railway bridge (built 1916-1920) that enabled steel and other material to be brought over to the shipyard from the other side of the harbor. It was closed in the mid 1980s, locked in its upright position , and turned into a 40 meter high observation tower.
Admission was free, we rode the elevator to the top and came down on a steel staircase.
We got a nice view of La Seyne from the top.
And an even nicer view of Toulon across the bay.
The bridge machinery building is now glassed in and you can see all the cranks and gears needed to raise and lower the structure back when it was in service.
After leaving the bridge/tower we went into the village to immerse ourselves in the culture of Provence. La Seyne has lots of little narrow streets like this one.
Maria was looking to get a sewing kit and some thread to do some clothing repairs. La Seyne is more of a real life village than a tourist area so we found a “2 Euro” store just opposite this cafe which had everything she needed.
Next we walked up to the village church which has the entirely appropriate name (for our circumstances) of Notre Dame de Bon Voyage.
The interior was lovely in its simplicity – quite a change from the Baroque architecture in Rome.
There was a nice little square outside the church.
And the church tower gleamed in the late autumn sunshine.
We walked down past the local cafe. A few locals were hanging out enjoying the fine weather.
And Maria discovered the Public Library (which unfortunately was closed.)
We finished our tour of La Seyne and on the way back we passed the former main entrance to the La Seyne shipyard. It now serves as the entrance to the casino, and inside the gate is a War Memorial with the names of the shipyard workers who died in World War I.
La Seyne shipyard was in operation for more than 150 years and built ocean liners, battleships for the French navy, and lots of cargo vessels. A couple of yacht builders remain but otherwise it’s all gone now.
A final view of the “tower” from Parc de la Navale.
Toulon is still a naval base and service port, so once back on the ship we could see lots of French navy vessels anchored not far away. This one looks like some sort of marine assault ship.
A last look back at Toulon in the afternoon sunshine as we prepare to sail away. It was a quiet day here, but a most interesting and enjoyable one.