6 to 16 May 2019
We were thrown out of Cannes marina as they ramped up to the film festival. They had much bigger and more important boats to welcome. So while Stefan returned to London for a funeral I had a week to myself in Toulon, further west along the French coast.
Without the same levels of glamour of its Riviera sisters, this more everyday town, part pretty, part gritty, served all my needs whilst in charge of Pintail solo. The marina was safe and secure and the staff friendly and helpful. There were lots of liveaboards in case I needed help or advice including the American crew of SV Justina next door.
There was a wonderful market and huge supermarket nearby and all the cafes and bars I could need to keep my morning caffeine and afternoon rosé wine habit fed. So despite a feisty forecast midweek I was happy to be left home alone.
The streets revealed Toulon to be an arty kind of place – there was street art everywhere – so with time to myself I decided to have an art day.
On my way in search of Toulon’s art museums I found an al fresco exhibition of photographs by Alejandra Carlos Tolra which included a series called Saving Face, consisting of portraits of people in Vietnam wearing face masks, and another of portraits of a women’s rugby team, The Bears.
My first intended stop was at the Musee d’Art but I found its doors firmly closed due to a major refurbishment.
I had better luck at the nearby Hotel des Arts which houses more contemporary exhibitions. For free I was able to wander around an exhibition of Street artist, Speedy Graphito, the French equivalent of our Banksy only without the anonymity.
His huge canvases referenced Da Vinci, Dali and Warhol
with more modern use of images from Disney and the world of social media.
After lunch I visited La Maison de Photographie and had it entirely to myself. There was a wonderful exhibition of the work of Franck Purcel, Ulysses ou les constellations, chronicling his journeys by sea throughout the Mediterranean.
I sat for ages watching a slide show of his voyages to familiar places like Albania, Tunisia and Corsica
and enjoyed the hundreds and hundreds of images of his travels.
Between museums and on market days I wandered amongst Toulon’s grand public buildings
and popped into its churches and cathedral.
Toulon’s natural harbour has served as a safe, strategic base for trading and warships over the centuries and with another afternoon to kill I headed to the town’s Naval museum.
Ancient artefacts that adorned ships of old
led to more recent reminders of conflict at sea. During the German occupation of France in World War II warships were deliberately suck and the harbour destroyed so as to make it unusable.
Pintail and I sat out some feisty 40 knot winds in the harbour midweek but kept each other safe and in case you think my week was all museums and markets, I did get on with some important boat jobs. Before Stefan returned I sanded and re-varnished all six galley cupboard doors and gave Pintail a good spring clean.