22 January 2010

Across the Toulon Bay

If I hadn't made a French friend, I would have never known
that the water taxis from Toulon only cost 2 Euros!

Toulon is on the eastern side of a large bay. The boat taxis go out about
every 15 minutes from the harbor and make the twenty minute trek to the
neighboring cities along the bay- Le Seyne & Saint Mandrier.

This day was particularly glorious. . .

Toulon fades quickly as the boat picks up speed. . .
good thing too because the skyline is unfortunately no Chicago folks!

Massive cranes busy in the foreground, giant mountains looming
in the background. . .man v. nature anyone?

The only one brave enough(well, besides me I guess) to man the biting
cold wind outside on the boat deck.
Everyone else was huddled inside wearing their parkas and reading the paper.

This massive Navy ship was nothing less than incredibly, totally and completely intimating-
it's size, shape, and overall militant feel. It clashes with the
beautiful, serene surroundings.
Along with tourism, the military has a huge impact on the town's economy due to
its close proximity to the Toulon port.

Saint Mandrier welcomed me with an oh-so-colorful arrival.
The land was originally an island- Isle de S├ępet. It was connected to the mainland
in the mid 1600's, which lead to the construction of the town.

A worker for the ferry to Corsica, enjoying the sun.

Each little boat has a cute little name.
Saint-Mandrier was home to sail-making in the 19th century. It is still a big
fishing village with loads of tiny, painted fishing boats.

Two bays created by the causeway to the mainland.
The hike up to the top opened up into a lush green wonderland with this view!

Many homes in this town have a space carved out of the stone wall for an old bell.
The walls that surround the houses are just high enough to ensure the optimum privacy, which the French lifestyle demands.

Adieu! Saint Mandrier- another little gem de France,
tucked away amongst the deep
turquoise ripples of the Mediterranean Sea.

19 January 2010

The Frugal's Delight

This is a call to the thrifty- come one, come all.
January and July- only 2 times a year-
a wonderful phenomenon occurs across the whole of France...

These two months are designated as the time where retail stores in France are permitted
to have sales on their merchandise, and it works perfectly to draw people out of their houses and descend upon the endless racks of sale items like a vulture to its prey.

The signs are everywhere.
It's official- January has indeed arrived.

During this time it is more rare to see someone NOT
carrying a shopping bag of some size, color and design.

Ok, so we too are guilty of giving in to the pressure of cheaper goods. Sarah made a
wonderful purchase of black, knee-high boots...which one cannot survive without in France,
or at least not in Toulon.
Lily's school is up on a hill, and mother's walk their children up and down the hill(some of them 4 times a day) IN their black, high-heeled, knee-highs. Pas de problem!

Even the mattress guy at the market has his items on sale.

And even the chain grocery stores, like Ed here,
have their produce and home goods on sale.

How can one resist a poster signifying -50%?
And who cares if the sale price may be a bit high yet, it's still 50% OFF the original!

In the end, people may think that Christmas is a crazy time full of shopaholics and
moneybags spending their entire year's wages on one day of happiness... but come to France during July or January, and you'll be glad that Christmas only happens once a year.

17 January 2010

A Lucky Sunday Find

On a weekend excursion away from the bustle of Toulon, we found ourselves face to
face with nothing but an ANTIQUES MARKET! in the small town of L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
We stumbled across this town on the drive to Arles, and thus, never
actually made it to Arles...maybe next time team.
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is an old mill town. The small but gushing River Sorgue provided
power for the mills, fish for the villagers and great access to trade and industry.

One of the old mills, moss-covered and still crankin'.

The town is known for housing many, many antique shops, and
Sunday is the big day for the open-air markets.
Oh, and what goodies we found!

While the weather wasn't perfect, it didn't keep these people home!

Trinkets galore.

Oh yes, you BETTER get dressed up for antique-gazing here...
no slackers allowed...well, except us of course.

Another little Venice anyone?
Walking around the streets and over iron foot bridges crossing the turquoise water,
I felt like I was back in Annecy(minus the freezing snow!).

So, Sunday is antique day and the regular old market day as well- with the
fresh veg, piles of 5 Euro plastic jewelery and leggings of every color.

One guy serves the food, the other one wishes it was for him...
mmm mmmmm looks good

Children only section.
Lily looooves this part and is drawn to anything pink, because
if it's not pink it's not worth it, right?

Caught red-handed buying lettuce for her salad later.

New friends are always welcome. This is Geraud and his lovely, colorful bike that he so kindly let me try out. Oh, and he plays the recorder, too.
He then wrote me a note asking for an email with the photo, scribbling in all caps

Goodbye L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and thanks for your cheery charm on a cloudy day.

Back on the road, and home to Toulon...
where it was thankfully sunny and almost 60 degrees!