Holiday in Toulon
Two thousand years ago, when Toulon was still known as Télo, Roman sailors defended their purple dye production against pirates, who coveted its exceptional location. Since the 15th century, French kings made it the jewel in the crown of their navy, leaving Marseilles as the centre of trade. Victor Hugo took inspiration from the life of Toulon’s galley slaves to come up with Jean Valjean, the famous convict in Les Misérables.
When you discover the city, you'll be immediately impressed by the historic remnants of maritime defence, with the Porte Monumentale de l'Arsenal, the Navy Museum, the Place d'Armes, Fort Balaguier naval museum, the Tour Carrée lookout, the Eguillette fortifications and the huge cimetière marin, where decommissioned ships are moored. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle can be seen when it's docked, though it's not open to the public for national security reasons.
When it comes to the seaside, you can bask on Le Mourillon's 7 hectares of beaches, near the exotic jardin d'acclimatation. For those who like to seek out secret spots, a dip in the Crique du Cap Brun or the Anse Méjean is a must, in the shade of fishermen's cabins. Once the evening rolls around, go and try a cade, a traditional chickpea cake, outside one of the restaurants in the port of Toulon, which has retained a very Provençal village feel.
As for the town, Toulon is a major centre of culture: a grand opera house, the Place de la Liberté and the Haute-Ville area and its countless brasseries will make your walk among the fountains and palm trees extra special. Don't forget to take the cable-car to view the scrubland of the countryside from the top of Mont Faron.
Toulon is in the heart of the Mediterranean, situated between Marseilles and Nice, and is easy to get to however you travel, with Toulon-Hyères international airport, a high-speed station in the city centre, a ferry terminal and the Mistral bus network.