No rest for the weary! After our first night on the ship, we docked in Toulon, France, an hour behind schedule. And here’s why:
If you remember from my planning post, our plan for Toulon was to go to Cassis, a fishing village west of Toulon, which has beautiful limestone formations jetting up from the water. It looked amazing and I was excited to see the town. We researched how to get there by train and once off the boat, we got our bearings thanks to a map from the visitor’s center right in the port and made our way to the train station on foot. It took about 20 minutes and we got to the train station around 11am. When we got to the station, Mr. BFT used his limited high school French to try to read the ticket machine, but we couldn’t get it to work. While he kept at it, I searched for someone who spoke English. Meanwhile, a couple trains came and went while we were trying to buy tickets. Finally, we found an employee who spoke English, and she informed us the next train wasn’t until 1:15pm – way too late for us since we had to be back in port by 5pm. Womp womp.
Our backup plan was a city called Bandol. Bandol was closer, so the 20 minute cab ride wouldn’t cost as much as trying to go to Cassis. Since Toulon was quite unappealing, we inquired with a cab driver about the price to go to Bandol, and we were told 40 euros. We decided to do it!
While on our way, Mr. BFT asked me what there was to do in Bandol. I said I couldn’t remember, but that pictures looked pretty. He was not amused.
But as soon as we were dropped off, we knew we made the right choice! Bandol is a cute, sleepy little down adjacent to a harbor. The waterfront had tons of cafes and shops that were still in the process of opening, since it was still pretty early in the day. We decided to walk along the waterfront and scope out menus and prices, and see where we wanted to eat later on. I spotted a cute outdoor cafe with pink and blue decor and decided I wanted to eat there. Alas, the prices seemed too high, so I took a picture to remember it forever.
After walking through the commercial area, we decided to walk along the harbor a bit. It was so quiet and hardly anyone else was around. We kept saying … “We’re in France. WE’RE IN FRANCE.” It was pretty cool.
During our wandering, a local noticed us reading signs and seeming somewhat lost. She spoke English and pointed us in the direction of a secluded beach. We were lucky this local was so friendly to us, because this spot ended up being one of our favorite locations for the entire trip. This was my first dip into the Mediterranean Sea. The water is CRAZY crystal clear. Top 5 highlights of the trip for sure!
After about an hour soaking in the scenery on the beach (“WE’RE IN FRANCE, OMG.”), we walked through the village away from the ocean for a little bit, just looking at store fronts and sighing over cute French villas.
One thing that we found totally amusing was that everyone, quite literally everyone, who was out and about that morning was carrying a french bread baguette! We decided to follow suit and found a bakery that seemed to be very popular. I wanted to get some french bread but was swayed by a chocolate pastry in the display case. Of course, it was amazing!
Not long after leaving the bakery we stumbled upon a cemetery. You may or may not know that I am obsessed with old timey cemeteries. I think they are fascinating. This was my first foreign cemetery so I just had to look around.
By now we were getting quite famished and we decided to head back to the pink and purple cafe. This is where we first discovered that wine in Europe is CHEAP. We were looking at the prices and the sizes and were so confused. So we each picked the “middle” size for wine and they brought us each this huge carafe! And it was only about 5 euros, for the equivalent of about 2 glasses of wine in the US. Yeah, I was pretty much in heaven!
After some language barriers we were able to order our lunch – I had a “Cesar” salad (not so much like the Cesar I know and love but it was still good) and Mr. BFT had a salmon plate that came with rice in a tiny Le Creuset pot, of course. I couldn’t go to France and NOT try the creme brulee. It did not disappoint. The food was tasty and overpriced, but with the cheap wine it balanced out.
At around 3pm we decided we should start figuring out how to get back to Toulon and our ship. We walked along the waterfront shops and kept our eye out for a taxi, but couldn’t find one. So we stopped in the Visitor Center (which is awesome – everyone speaks perfect English), and they called a few cab companies but no one could come immediately. So they gave us instructions to walk to the train station with a map and the train schedule. We found our way to the station easily and were greeted by someone who spoke English. It was a much easier experience than Toulon! We located our platform and waited. When our train was about 5 minutes late, we got up and read on the LED schedule board that the train was delayed due to a breakdown! The next train would arrive in 20 minutes. And that, my friends, is why you give yourself plenty of cushion when using public transportation. Even though the train was late, we estimated we would arrive back in Toulon around 4pm, an hour and half before All Aboard for our ship.
Once the train arrived, we had an uneventful ride back to Toulon, except for me staring out the window and muttering “I’m in France…. I’m in France ….” The locals must have thought I was “tres fou” (very crazy).
Once back in Toulon we had a full hour before we had to be back on the ship, so we found a little cafe where we could order a coffee, use the toilette, and access wifi. We found wifi access in most ports and were able to update social media and send pictures to our parents. When we were done with our coffees, we walked back to the port and got on the ship with plenty of time to spare.
All in all, it was a wonderful day! It’s true there’s not much to see or do in this part of France, but we knew we had a bunch of crazy days ahead of us and we really enjoyed just wandering around Bandol with no agenda. If your cruise ship stops in Toulon, I highly recommend a day trip to Bandol!
That evening on the ship was another uneventful one. We were still exhausted and feeling a little “off” from jet lag. We ate our dinner in the main dining room – I had a melon, prosciutto, and fig appetizer (AMAZING) and some kind of beef slab, and Mr. BFT had a burrito.
I think after dinner we wandered around the ship a bit and then went to bed. We knew we had an eventful day in Florence, Italy tomorrow!