03 February 2010

Au Revoir Toulon

Toulon has been my home for over a month now,
and like any place you truly get to know, it ends up being difficult to say goodbye.

While Toulon is not my favorite city in all of France, there were some
truly great things about it that I am really going to miss...

Mount Faron rises ominously in the distance behind the Toulon skyline, a few miles of
high rise apartment complexes, and the house that was my home for 30 some odd days.

To get a better sense of the scale of the city, we climbed to the top of Mount Faron one day
to see what we would see: the very modern, quite ugly buildings and industrial port,
and the glorious water and tree-covered land across the bay.

Back down in the center of Toulonian life is Cours Lafayette, the huge pedestrian
walkway that hosts the market every single day- shocking.

It was always a joy during market hours to wander up and down amongst the
produce stands and tables of cheap, lacy lingerie on Lafayette.

And every day around the 1:30PM vendors would pack up their goods,
leaving enormous piles of trash everywhere.

So...the clean-up crew was badly needed to keep the center of Old Toulon looking spic and span.
And boy did they do their job...not a single Lima bean was left behind.

Brand spankin' new by about 2 in the afternoon...

And ready just in time for kids getting out of school
to parade down Lafayette looking for trouble.

Sunshine on the streets of Old Toulon.
This part of the city was great- older architecture, narrow streets and good vibes.

It was run down in many parts, but still great for adventuring.

One thing about living a place for a while, is that you find all the good spots.
This bakery was our favorite in all of Toulon, and just a short walk from home. People double parked daily to run in and grab a baguette.

Free Sunday concert!
Toulonaise came dressed to the 9's- furs and suits- to hear the orchestra.

They weren't the greatest orchestra, but they sure had good turnout.

Something I will miss dearly and was so glad to find? My dear friend Lauren who showed me around and let me practice my French. Our last day together we took to the boat to hang out with ...an old French guy in spandex, just what we were hoping for.

Oh, the retired life in the South of France. Not too shabby.

BYOC- bring your own chairs, and catch some rays.

Yellow sun of late afternoon.

Last but certainly not least- the sunrises and sunsets.
I have never seen them more vibrant and beautiful.

Thank you Sarah and Phil for everything.
It was a month well spent in every way with your family.

01 February 2010

Cistercian Abbey of Provence

The air was crisp and chilly, a perfect day to visit the grounds of Le Thoronet Abbey.
Nestled between the bend of a small river and a spring, it is one of 3 Cistercian Abbeys in Provence- along with Silvacane and Sénanque.

Built in the early 13th century, Le Thoronet was home to around 20 monks. . .
and what a beautifully constructed home!

Cistercian architecture followed the belief that less is more- very simple in line,
form and even color, using the smoothest, palest available stone.

The quality of light let in by window just big enough is truly stunning.

Archway after archway lead to seemingly endless narrow passageways between
the different parts of the building. You never know where you might end up.

Note the precise stonework. The Cistercians were known for their mastery of metal,
extracting it and using it to cut stone. It was real tough competition for who got
to be the stone-cutter for their monasteries.

Enjoying the leaves and a sunny day in the south of France.

Mama and her baby boy.

This fountain sits under the beautiful arcade surrounding the simple, green grass courtyard.

One secret passageway leads down to the cellar, where the monks made olive oil and wine.
The nice ventilation chimneys prevented buildup of alcohol vapors.
Sorry, no parties allowed.

Farewell Le Thoronet- our last family outing before I depart from Toulon.