Distance from Barcelona to Le Seyne Sur Mer, France: 197 Nautical Miles
As expected we did not get to Bandol – the Symphony diverted to the Le Seyne Sur Mer (overlooking Toulon and only a few miles from Bandol but in a more protected harbor). The diversion, we learned later, was due to La Mistral, a nasty wind that comes out of Germany and can reach tropical storm force (and also drop the temperature as it will do today).
Pre-dawn in the Lido Café – the Café does not open until 7 or 7:30 AM depending on the ports – that just happens to coincide with sun rise at this time of year.
Sunrise in the Mediterranean
We are both on the same tour (different buses) today - “Scenic Aix-En-Provence”. The tour will take us to the inland town of Aix, where we will be taking a walking tour and enjoying free time. This city is the birthplace of impressionist artist, Paul Cezanne, who also died in this city.
The meeting point for the tours today (and for all of the tours) is the Starlite Lounge – Crystal is very organized for its tours – all the escorts carry a backpack containing all they will need on the tour – first aid kit, paddles, paperwork). My bus is not that full so I can stretch out in a set near the back. The bus is comfortable and the guide, Dominique, speaks English very well with a terrific French accent.
The trip took us through vineyards, farms, and mountains. One mountain had an interesting history. Legend has it that Mary Magdalene came here after than dustup in Jerusalem. She allegedly climbed the mountain and stayed there for 30 years. It has taken on the name of the “Holy Cave”.
Mountain of the Holy Cave
After a bus ride of just over an hour, the bus dropped our tour off at the Tourism Office. This is where we will meet later in the afternoon before we head back to the pier.
The large fountain in the center of the turnabout is the General Charles de Gaulle Fountain. This is a good landmark for getting back to the pick up point.
General Charles De Gaulle Fountain
Our walking tour took us down one of the main streets, Cours Mirabeau, that will take us to the restaurant for our refreshment break (and facilities).
Cours Mirabeau (Looking toward the Fountain)
The house below had a very interesting entry way – two statues holding up the balcony. I was told that these statues were put together to ward off the plague.
Our refreshment stop was at one of the restaurant along the boulevard, Bastide du Cours. Even though there were several busloads of tourists in the Café, the coffees and teas kept coming and the orders seemed to be accurate. I had a very nice latte all the much better because Ellen joined me.
Enjoying a Latte in Aix-En-Provence
Aix is Paul Cezzane’s city so the sidewalks are marked with a “C” and the name “Cezzane” indicate that you are “Walking in the Footsteps of Cezzane”. The markers will take you to places that the artists frequented during the time he lived here.
One of those places was the home of Paul Cezzane's father (below)
The group turned toward the main part of the city and our walk took us through a residential area – the apartments looked a bit run down but there were people living in them. It turns out they weren’t in disrepair just quaint. One such building had a non-functioning, but interesting, fountain in its courtyard.
As we headed up the bill toward the Cathedral, we passed by the Place Richelme Market – an entire square turned into a bustling Farmer’s Market selling just about anything.
Place Richelme Market (our group and Dominique at bottom)
We walked toward the Clock Tower in the Place Hotel de Ville – the towers dates back to 1510.
Place Hotel de Ville and Clock Tower
Dominique pointed out a plaque on a wall in an arch – the plaque recognized the role Aix played in D Day in World War II.
My Favorite Tour Guide
We passed many more scenic square until finally arriving at
Saint Sauveur Cathedral. The structure embodies architectural styles from the 5th to the 17th Century.
The Aix Cathedral and Ellen
The tours were not on their own time and instructed to meet back at the Tourist Center.
After checking out many restaurants, we settled on a cute little place called “Paul”. We shared a cheese sandwich, which was pretty good (they used gloves in this restaurant). After lunch, we made our way back toward the main street.
Aix is known for its fountains. The one below is “Fountaine du Chaud” from 1734 (it emits warm water and is also called “Mossie”).
Fountain du Roi Rene (1819)
After some exciting moments, we collected everyone and the bus started its journey back to the port.
Since there were no facilities at the Tourism Office, I asked if we could make a stop on the way to the port. Dominique said we would stop on the highway. I was wary because we did stop at a Rest Stop – but this stop was different than the ones I am used to in the US. The place was sparkling clean and stocked with soap, water, and paper towels. It was ultra modern with water sensors and auto soap dispensers. But the cleanliness was the key feature. I am sure that all stops and public facilities are not all this clean but this was one was exceptional.
Dominique wanted us to see Bandol so we took some smaller roads that got us to the town. It looked like a very nice to visit – maybe another time and cruise.
Surfers in the Bay
La Seyne Sur La Mer Beach (and surfers)
Back at the Port
After dinner, we watched the scenic sail away from Toulon.
Toulon Sail Away
The Headliner Tonight was British Comedian Steve Stevens. He put on a very funny show. It was good to have comedy on board.