Sooner or Later

25 Jun

Sooner or later we had to find a town, village or place that compared to others was not as cute, photographic, engaging or attractive.  Perhaps even dreary by comparison.  We went to Toulon on Tuesday to complete our visa formalities, arriving early to allow plenty of time to look around.  I typically take 50~200 photos just wandering around a new place.  In Toulon I took 17.

To be fair we haven’t seen everything there.  As the home to France’s nuclear powered carrier the Charles de Gaulle with related military infrastructure and activity it is a big ask to also come across as picturesque.  Too much of a contradiction in requirements.  Anyway, we will go back armed with more information to seek out the attractive side of Toulon another day.

View into Toulon from the harbour

The Toulon Opera House has just completed a major renovation and looks quite imposing

This turned out much better than I expected – there is a huge naval vessel in the background that has virtually disappeared. Perhaps a new French defense technology?

As for the visa – the medical exam complete with chest x-ray was over for both of us within 15 minutes and we moved on to the OFII office early.  We were there at 2:20pm expecting to be told to wait until our 3pm appointment time but instead the lady took our papers immediately.  She already had our final visa stickers printed in a file on her desk so after finishing the forms, planting the sticker on a passport page with a flourish of the official stamp, we were gone by 3pm!  €698 poorer for the two of us on top of the €198 we had already paid in Wellington.  Grrrr…

The weather was again very nice on Thursday.  The highs have been 32~35˚C in the shade recently so getting things done outside means starting a bit earlier then stopping for an afternoon nap.  Very nice, but it can be hard to convince your body to get up again after an hour or so of sleep.  On this day though we didn’t have anything more strenuous planned than to drive back to La Garde Freinet for breakfast and a look around.

Breakfast was very nice, freshly squeezed orange juice too, then we headed towards the hills at the back of the village.  We couldn’t located the start of the walking track to the top but we did find a sign indicating the direction of the monument at the top and a parking area.  We had left the car on short term parking so we went back and retrieved it.  We followed the signs for the parking but instead of a car park at the bottom of the walking track it was a car park at the top of the hill 50m from the first of two points of interest!  That saved a climb in the heat.

So we set off past the first point which was a large cross where we met a group of a dozen elderly German tourists who wanted us to take their pictures for them – images of the Mr Bean sketch!  Turned out that the group leader had spent 3 weeks in NZ last year sightseeing.  Small world, huh.

We ended up at the ruins of a fort overlooking La Garde Freinet.  While there I checked my GeoCaching app on the phone and found we were 49m from a cache.  Had to find that one, which we did but not before ending up on the wrong side of a defensive ditch.

A bit hard to see, but at the bottom of the hill is the lake in the Plaine des Maures nature reserve where we have walk a couple of times

Part of the ruined fort atop the hill at La Garde Freinet

View to Trois Croix

Being the summer solstice, there were music events on in nearly every village.  We joined a group of locals in the village at Le Thoronet and had a nice time over food, drinks and conversation.

The main street of Le Thoronet transformed into Party Central for the summer solstice

After meeting Jeremy & Jo for drinks on Friday night we decided to go back to the Valensole Plateau to see the lavender again.  They had just spent the day up there with visitors and said it was looking great.  So at the risk of being a bore I am going to load the rest of this blog with pictures form Saturday’s photo outing.  You have been warned!

Compare this to the image I posted last week taken from the same spot – more colour but I think it will still get better

More lavender

This view from Puimoisson should get more striking as the patchwork of different crops mature

More lavender

More lavender

Wheat and the ruin of a barn

We thought this was a lighter shade of lavender from the distance – turns out it was digitalis. I assume it is grown for pharmaceutical manufacturing

More lavender

As you can see, not many of the florets are open yet so the colours should become a lot more intense yet

I was photographing lavender when this stopped up the road. I just managed to get this shot on full zoom before he drove away

The mountains in the background are surrounding the Gorges du Verdon

We stopped at La Taverne du Lac in the village of Sainte Croix for a gelato and a coffee. The sky looking towards the Gorges du Verdon looked so dramatic I just had to take a picture

That’s the place…

More lavender

More lavender

If you look closely there is a tiny bit of lavender to the right of the buildings

I did take the odd picture without lavender in it! This is in Quinson where they have a huge museum of pre-historic exhibitions

That’s it until next time…

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