Toulon is France’s main naval base that occasionally easily doubles as a cruise port. Toulon not only has a charm unspoiled by tourists, it is surrounded by idyllic villages and charming seafronts. I first went there in high company, sitting under the trees having lunch with Sir Anthony Hopkins…. let me explain. Once on a movie, the director John Glenn got off the camera and walked up to my husband (who thought he must have done something wrong such was Glenn’s charge). John said to him, “you look incredibly like the young Hopkins!” Some years later, our daughter, Laura Aikman was cast to play Anthony Hopkin’s daughter in the movie Surviving Picasso so there must be a family likeness. She and I went off to the South of France and from that moment on, school would be an interruption; she was going to be an actress! More of that later.

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TOULON GUIDE: In Toulon, if you walk around the town, as well as the maritime and art museums, there is the magnificent Romanesque cathedral and Le Marche, where fresh flowers, fruit, and vegetables are brought to market every day. Ship watchers, and our video blog reporter David would be in his element, watching the comings and goings of the French warships around the harbour. The best view of the old town and the harbour is from Mont Faron which overlooks both – take the funicular, but not the old one built in 1959. The ropeway leading to Mont Faron has been completely modernised offering beautiful views of the Mediterranean and Var from a height of 600 meters in just 10 minutes. Telepherique du Mont Faron. 

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BEYOND: However we tempt you to head for the beautiful and often dramatic Provencal countryside or to the French Riviera resorts. Venture to see a village or one of the excellent beaches just a short drive or bus ride along the coast because you are in the Côte d’Azur, one of the first modern resort areas with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century. Hyères which we visited is just 25 minutes away. This coastline was the playground and vacation spot of British, Russian, and other aristocrats, such as Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, when he was Prince of Wales. Also to members of the Rothschild family and artists and writers, including Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, and Aldous Huxley. There is much to discover here.
Hyères is the oldest resort on the French Riviera and the old town and lies 4 km (2.5 mi) from the sea clustered around the Castle of Saint Bernard, which is set on a hill. Between the old town and the sea lies the pine-covered hill of Costebelle, which overlooks the peninsula of Giens. The images are an artist’s dream.

Surviving Picasso can be watched on Amazon, click the picture above of the DVD on Amazon picture adjacent, for a feast of scenes shot on this coastline. His museums are all along this coastline, from Antibes to  Malaga and at the Museo de Arte Silo in Alicante (port guide films on both). The movie shows many charming places you may visit as well as seeing the young Laura.

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