Toulon is a town in southern France and a large military harbor on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Var department in the former province of Provence. It is the fourth-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille, Nice and Montpellier. Toulon is an important center for naval construction, fishing, wine making, and the manufacture of aeronautical equipment, armaments, maps, paper, tobacco, printing, shoes, and electronic equipment. The military port of Toulon is the major naval center on France's Mediterranean coast, home of the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and her battle group. The French Mediterranean Fleet is also based in Toulon. The old town of Toulon, the historic center located between the port, the Boulevard de Strasbourg and the Cours Lafayette, is a pedestrian area with narrow streets, small squares and many fountains. Toulon Cathedral is located here and the area is also home of the celebrated Provençal market which takes place every morning on the Cours Lafayette, which features local products. The old town had decayed in the 1980s and 1990s, but recently many of the fountains and squares have been restored, and many new shops have opened. Toulon is served by the Gare de Toulon railway station, offering services to Marseille, Nice, Paris and regional destinations. The port of Toulon is the main port of departure for ferries to Corsica. The nearest airport is the regional Toulon-Hyères Airport. The A50 autoroute connects Toulon to Marseille, the A57 autoroute runs from Toulon to Le Luc, where it connects to the A8 autoroute.
The upper town, between the Boulevard de Strasbourg and the railway station, was built in the mid 19th century under Louis Napoleon. The project was begun by Baron Haussmann, who was prefect of the Var in 1849. Improvements to the neighbourhood included the Toulon Opera, the place de la Liberté, the Grand Hôtel, the Gardens of Alexander I, the Chalucet Hospital, the Palais de Justice, the train station, and the building now occupied by Galeries Lafayette, among others. Haussmann went on to use the same style on a much grander scale in the rebuilding of central Paris. Fontaine du Dauphin, Place Paul Comte and the fountain, on the wall of the Bishop's residence, appears in drawings of Toulon made for Louis XIV in 1668. During World War II, after the Allied landings in North Africa of Operation Torch, the German Army occupied southern France, leading to the scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon on 27 November 1942. The city was bombed by the Allies in November of the following year, with much of the port destroyed and five hundred residents killed. Toulon was captured by the Free French Forces of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny on 28 August 1944. In 1974 Toulon became again the préfecture, or administrative centre, of the Var. Five years later the University of Toulon - University of the South, Toulon-Var opened. Toulon was one of four French cities where the extreme-right Front National won the local elections in 1995. The Front National was voted out of power in 2001.
Toulon harbour is one of the best natural anchorages on the Mediterranean, and one of the largest harbours in Europe. A naval arsenal and shipyard was built in 1599, and small sheltered harbour, the Veille Darse, was built in 1604–1610 to protect ships from the wind and sea. The shipyard was greatly enlarged by Cardinal Richelieu, who wished to make France into a Mediterranean naval power. Further additions were made by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Vauban. Le Mourillon is a small seaside neighbourhood to the east of Toulon, near the entrance of the harbour. It was once a fishing village, and then became the home of many of the officers of the French fleet. Mourillon has a small fishing port, next to a 16th-century fort, Fort Saint Louis, which was reconstructed by Vauban. In the 1970s the city of Toulon built a series of sheltered sandy beaches in Mourillon, which today are very popular with the Toulonais and with naval families. The Museum of Asian Art is located in a house on the waterfront near Fort St. Louis. Mount Faron at 584 meters in elevation dominates the city of Toulon. The top can be reached either by a cable car from Toulon, or by a narrow and scary road which ascends from the west side and descends on the east side. The road is one of the most challenging stages of the annual Paris–Nice and Tour Méditerranéen bicycle races.At the top of Mount Faron is a memorial dedicated to the 1944 Allied landings in Provence in Operation Dragoon, and to the liberation of Toulon. The Museum of Natural History of Toulon and the Var Musée d'Histoire Naturelle de Toulon et du Var was founded in 1888, has a large collection of displays about dinosaurs, birds, mammals, and minerals, mostly from the region. The Hôtel des Arts was opened in 1998, and presents five exhibits a year of works by well-known contemporary artists. Featured artists have included Sean Scully, Jannis Kounellis, Claude Viallat, Per Kirkeby, and Vik Muniz.
The Museum of the French Navy - Musée National de la Marine is located on Place Monsenergue, on the west side of the old port, a short distance from the Hotel de Ville. The Museum was founded in 1814, during the reign of the Emperor Napoleon. It is located today behind what was formerly the monumental gate to the Arsenal of Toulon, built in 1738. The building of the museum, along with the clock tower next to it, is one of the few buildings of the port and arsenal which survived Allied bombardments during World War II. It contains displays tracing the history of Toulon as a port of the French Navy. Highlights include large 18th century ship models used to teach seamanship, models of the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle. The Museum of Old Toulon and its Region - Musée du vieux Toulon et de sa Région was founded in 1912, and contains a collection of maps, paintings, drawings, models and other artifacts showing the history of the city. The Museum of Asian Arts - Musée des Arts Asiatiques is in Mourillon. Located in a house with garden which once belonged to the son and later the grandson of author Jules Verne, the museum contains a small but interesting collection of art objects, many donated by naval officers from the time of the French colonization of Southeast Asia. It includes objects and paintings from India, China, Southeast Asia, Tibet and Japan. The Museum of Art - Musée d'Art was created in 1888 and contains collections of modern and contemporary art, as well as paintings of provence from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century. It owns works by landscape artists of Provence from the late 19th century like Guigou, Aiguier, Courdouan, Ziem, and the Fauves of Provence - Camoin, Chabaud, Verdilhan. The contemporary collections contain works from 1960 to today representing the New Realism Movement of Arman, César, Christo, Klein and Raysse. Minimalist Art of Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd with Support Surface of Cane, Viallat côtoient Arnal, Buren, Chacallis. An important collections of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Dieuzaide, Edouard Boubat, Willy Ronis and André Kertész. The Memorial Museum to the Landings in Provence - Mémorial du débarquement de Provence is located on the summit of Mount Faron, this small museum, opened in 1964 by President Charles De Gaulle, commemorates the Allied landing in Provence in August 1944 with photos, weapons and models.
Toulon figures prominently in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables. It is the location of the infamous prison, the bagne of Toulon, in which the protagonist Jean Valjean spends nineteen years in hard labour. Toulon is also the birthplace of the novel's antagonist, Javert.One portion of the wall of the old bagne, or prison, where Jean Valjean was supposedly held still stands to the right of the entrance of the Old Harbour. In Anthony Powell's novel What's Become of Waring the central characters spend a long summer holiday in Toulon's old town. Powell himself stayed at the Hotel du Port et des Negociants on two occasions in the early 1930s and writes in the second volume of his memoirs The naval port, with its small inner harbour, row of cafes along the rade, was quite separate from the business quarter of the town. A paddle steamer plied several times a day between this roadstead and the agreeably unsophisticated plage of Les Sablettes.Joseph Conrad's last novel, 'The Rover', is also set around Toulon. The last half of Dewey Lambdin's historical fiction novel, H.M.S. Cockerel, the sixth novel in his Alan Lewrie naval adventure series, details the Siege of Toulon from Lewrie's perspective, as he commands a commandeered French barge carrying sea mortars against Lieutenant-Colonel Bonaparte's forces.
Archaeological excavations, such as those at the Cosquer Cave near Marseilles, show that the coast of Provence was inhabited since at least the Paleolithic era. Greek colonists came from Asia Minor in about the 7th century BC and established trading depots along the coast, including one, called Olbia, at Saint-Pierre de l'Almanarre south of Hyères, to the east of Toulon. The Ligurians settled in the area beginning in the 4th century BC. In the 2nd century BC, the residents of Massalia (present-day Marseilles) called upon the Romans to help them pacify the region. The Romans defeated the Ligurians and began to start their own colonies along the coast. A Roman settlement was founded at the present location of Toulon, with the name Telo Martius – Telo, either for the goddess of springs or from the Latin tol, the base of the hill – and Martius, for the god of war. Telo Martius became one of the two principal Roman dye manufacturing centres, producing the purple colour used in imperial robes, made from the local sea snail called murex, and from the acorns of the oak trees. Toulon harbour became a shelter for trading ships, and the name of the town gradually changed from Telo to Tholon, Tolon, and Toulon. Toulon was Christianized in the 5th century, and the first cathedral built. Honoratus and Gratianus of Toulon (Gratien), according to the Gallia Christiana, were the first bishops of Toulon, but Louis Duchesne gives Augustalis as the first historical bishop. He assisted at councils in 441 and 442 and signed in 449 and 450 the letters addressed to Pope Leo I from the province of Arles.A Saint Cyprian, disciple and biographer of St. Cæsarius of Arles, is also mentioned as a Bishop of Toulon. His episcopate, begun in 524, had not come to an end in 541; he converted to Catholicism two Visigothic chiefs, Mandrier and Flavian, who became anchorites and martyrs on the peninsula of Mandrier. In 1095, a new cathedral was built in the city by Gilbert, Count of Provence. As barbarians invaded the region and Roman power crumbled, the town was frequently attacked by pirates and the Saracens.
In 1486 Provence became part of France. Soon afterwards, in 1494, Charles VIII of France, with the intention of making France a sea power on the Mediterranean, and to support his military campaign in Italy, began constructing a military port on the rade of Toulon. His Italian campaign failed, and 1497, the rulers of Genoa, who controlled commerce on that part of the Mediterranean, blockaded the new port. In 1524, as part of his longtime battle against Emperor Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire, King Francis I of France completed a powerful new fort, the Tour Royale, Toulon, at the entrance of the harbour. However, a few months later the commander of the new fort sold it to the commander of an Army of the Holy Roman Empire, and Toulon surrendered. In 1543, Francis I found a surprising new ally in his battle against the Holy Roman Empire. He invited the fleet of Ottoman Admiral Barbarossa to Toulon as part of the Franco-Ottoman alliance. The residents were forced to leave, and the Ottoman sailors occupied the town for the winter. King Louis XIV was determined to make France a major sea power. In 1660, his Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert ordered Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban to build a new arsenal and to fortify the town. In 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Toulon successfully resisted a siege by the Imperial Army led by the Duke of Savoy and Prince Eugene. However in 1720, the city was ravaged by the black plague, coming from Marseilles. Thirteen thousand people, or half the population, died.
In 1790, following the French Revolution, Toulon became the administrative centre of the département of the Var. The leaders of the city, however, were largely royalists, and they welcomed the arrival of a British fleet. At the siege of Toulon, the British were expelled by a French force whose artillery was led by a young captain, Napoleon Bonaparte. To punish Toulon for its rebellion, the town lost its status as department capital and was briefly renamed Port-la-Montagne. During the Napoleonic Wars, from 1803 until 1805 a British fleet led by Admiral Horatio Nelson blockaded Toulon. In 1820, the statue which became known as the Venus de Milo was discovered on the Greek island of Milo and seen by a French naval officer, Emile Voutier. He persuaded the French Ambassador to Turkey to buy it, and brought it to Toulon on his ship, the Estafette. From Toulon it was taken to the Louvre. In 1820 Toulon became the base for the conquest of France's colonies in North Africa. In 1820 a French fleet with an army departed from Toulon for the conquest of Algeria. During the brief Second French Republic, Baron Haussmann was named Prefect of the Var. During his year as prefect, he began a major reconstruction of the city, similar to what he would later do in Paris. He tore down large parts of the old fortifications and built new boulevards and squares. The new Toulon Opera House, the second-largest in France, opened in 1862. In 1867, on the orders of Napoleon III General François Achille Bazaine arrived in Toulon without an official welcome after abandoning the Mexican military campaign and Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
Toulon has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by abundant and strong sunshine, dry summers, and rain which is rare but sometimes torrential; and by hot summers and mild winters. Because of its proximity to the sea, the temperature is relatively moderate. The average temperature in January, the coldest month, is 9.3°C or 49°F. - The warmest of any other city in metropolitan France. In January the maximum average temperature is 12.7°C or 55°F. and the average minimum temperature is 5.8°C or 42°F. The average temperature in July, the warmest month, is 23.9°C or 75°F. with an average maximum of 29.1°C or 84°F. and an average minimal temperature of 18.8°C or 66°F. Toulon is one of the cities with the most annual sunshine in France; an average of 2,839 hours per year (period: 1991-2010). Average rainfall is 665 millimetres per year. The driest month is July with 6.6 millimeters., and the wettest is October, with 93.9 millimeters. It rains on less than 60 days per year (an average of 59.7 days) and the amount of precipitation is very unequal in the different seasons. In February, the month with the most rain, it rains 7.1 days, but with only 88.3 millimeters of rain, while in October there are 5.9 days of rain. July, with 1.3 days of rain, is usually the driest month, but the driest month can fall anywhere between May and September. Autumn is characterized by torrential but brief rains; in winter there is more precipitation, spread out over longer periods. Because of the proximity to the sea, freezing temperatures are rare; an average of 2.9 days a year, and lasting frosts, when the maximum temperature remains less or equal to zero, are non-existent. Snow is also very rare with barely 1.5 days per year on average and it is even more rare for the snow to last during the day with only 0.3 days a year on average. One distinctive feature of the Toulon climate is the wind, with 115 days a year of strong winds; usually either the cold and dry Mistral or the Tramontane from the north, the wet Marin; or the Sirocco sometimes bearing reddish sand from Africa; or the wet and stormy Levant from the east. The windiest month is January, with an average of 12.5 days of strong winds. The least windy month is September, with 7 days of strong winds. In winter, the Mistral can make the air feel extremely cold, even though the temperature is mild. The climate is dry and the humidity in Toulon is usually low. The average humidity is 56 percent, with little variation throughout the year; the driest months are July and August with 50 percent, and the most humid months are November and December with 60 percent.
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