Toulon, the city where I am living, is the fifteenth largest city in France, and the fourth largest in the Mediterranean area after Marseille, Nice, and Montpellier. It is the capital of the Var department (kind of like our county) and houses a large military naval base on our harbor called the French Mediterranean Fleet (a lot of foreigners in this city are military families). Every year at the end of September, Toulon hosts a major event called Toulon Voiles de Légende, or “Toulon’s Legendary Sailboats.
This event was being advertised all over the city when I first arrived back in mid-September, and it finally took place last weekend from September 27-30. This event is a pretty huge deal; people came from all over to enjoy the free festivals and entertainments. Basically, on Friday, all of the sailboats arrived in the morning. These can be as small as fancy yachts or as large as historic pirate ships. Upon arrival there is a marching band, a parade, and an inauguration ceremony. Then, the boats are on display along the port all weekend long, and anyone is welcome to come aboard to look around for the next three days! There are also open street markets, concerts, sports and activities, etc. I was still in Nice on Friday, so on Saturday night before I met up with some assistants, I was able to watch an interesting artistic fish show, which was basically a long story featuring blow up animals like you would see in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It felt like I was watching The Artist because although there was no dialogue, there was music and it was very obvious that there was a story to follow. We also checked out a few concerts playing in Toulon’s various squares.
On Sunday after having lunch with the family who owns the studio in which I’m living, I walked down to the port to look at some of the boats. Unfortunately it was super crowded, which I don’t always like, so I went inside two boats and grabbed a drink. However, I did splurge and buy a ticket to take a boat around the entire harbor, get a tour of all the boats, and then watch a great fireworks show with a fellow British assistant.
One of my goals for this assistantship program is to better integrate myself in community events such as this. Overall I’m glad I went down to check out the ports and watch the fish show!