As I passed my five-month mark here in the South of France, I realize that I have made a little slice of home for myself here in Toulon. I remember feeling completely lost and confused during my first weeks here but now feeling as though I know the ins and outs of the city better than ever, especially now that I have lived in two different areas. In fact, I am now to the point where I see the same people every day and some people even recognize me here on the street. I am slowly but surely building a community with the people living here.
Below are some of my favorite place and spots in Toulon– whether it be because of a personal connection or just because it has touched my heart in some way.
1. Pharmacycles- My first week here, I bought a bicycle from a used bike shop here in town (I was referred to this place by Chica’g Hostel.) This bike shop finds old and broken down bikes and used parts, fixes them, and sells them. The bike I have purchased here in Toulon has paid for itself countless times over, as I now hardly ever take the bus and have managed to not gain weight during my time here. When I bought my bicycle, I also paid 10€ for a year-long membership, meaning that if I ever had a problem with my bike, I had the right to come to Pharmacycles and use their tools (good thing too, because I’ve had to replace three tires! At least now I know how to change a tire on my bike and have learned some new bike and tool vocabulary.) Pharmacycles has been a great resource for me in Toulon. Even better, a funny story: My friend also bought a bicycle from them, and she called the other day because she has to go in for a repair. On the phone they asked her, “Is this Dana?” I was dying from laughter when my friend told me.)
2. Chica’g Hostel My first night in Toulon, I stayed in Chica’g Hostel before moving to the Ozenda’s. This hostel was brand new last year to Toulon, but since then it has really become a nice addition to this city. Every week, they host Blues Nights, and there are always some of us who go. It’s a great way to meet fellow French people as well as expats, in addition to people who are traveling and just passing through.
3. Chez Gringo This Mexican establishment is run by an Irish-American from San Diego. I discovered this place a few weeks after moving to Toulon by coincidence, not having any idea it was run by American expats. Since then I have made friends with the server, Kari, who is also from Wisconsin and is here because she married her French husband. Now, my Spanish friend Thaïïs also works there, and since she lives with my other Spanish friend Itsaso, we are all there a lot. Chez Gringo hosts American parties such as Halloween and Thanksgiving every year, and also features a piano man every month. This past January, I went to Speed Dating (sorry readers, no takers.)
4. Cafe Polyglot This establishment is hidden in the streets of centre ville. I found out about this event through Couchsurfing, which actually has a pretty active group here in the Var. Coincidentally, Cafe Polyglot also works with Chica’g to advertise and organize events in the city, every Monday, people gather at Café Polyglot for drinks and conversation. Most recently it has become overrun by assistants but luckily we have been able to meet some nice French people there too.
5. Fitness Mayol I joined a gym my first month here in Toulon (and slowly other assistants have followed suit and have asked me for information.) I’ll be quite frank, this gym is not very good. The reason I joined is because of central location and the fact that they offer Les Mills exercise classes, including Body Pump which is exactly what I take back at home. I don’t go to the gym as often as I should, but I am a regular at the Thursday Body Flow and the Friday Body Pump, and I am usually running on Saturdays when I am not traveling, so I’ve been able to interact with some of the same people and instructors.
6. Côté Jardin This is my favorite bar in the Mourillon. It is right on the beach and there are always people there. Whether you want to sit inside and listen to music or play pool, or relax on the terrace and look out at the Mediterranean Sea, this bar is one of the best in Toulon, especially for young people. The owner is an Irish guy, so he is fun to talk to.
7. Arbres à Bulles This hole-in-the-wall establishment is hidden deep inside centre ville, and is also run by the same guys who run Pharmacycles. this is my other favorite bar in town. It is totally secret unless you know where to find it because there is no sign on the outside and is sort of hidden in a darker street. But the inside is full of antique furniture, candles, and crumbling walls, which gives it a super hipster feel.
Spann and Billig this establishment sells the best crêpes in Toulon. For all you can eat at just 5€50, my friends and I come here once a week to once every two weeks on average!
8.l’Orangerie This bar is hidden just behind La Place de La Liberté, the main square in Toulon. It is by no means impressive but it is always open, which is saying something because literally everything here closes super early. I’ve come here a lot to meet my friends, and we can sit outside and listen to the fountain, admire the Christmas market, and people watch. This bar also hosts karaoke, in which we partook for my friend Itsaso’s 26th’s birthday back in December, which was super fun. The bar tenders there now know us well.
9. My Bank My bank is nothing special because it’s closed more than it’s open, but there are only two bankers total, so they know their customers well. Olivier, who set me up with my account at the beginning of October, always takes the time to ask me how I’m doing and adjusting here in Toulon.
10. Play School Toulon I teach two days a week at a maternelle here in town. Teaching here as put me in touch with other expats as well as French families here in Toulon, for whom I offer English lessons. Overall it’s been a great me to interact with local families and dive deeper into the culture.
11. The bike trail Toulon has a wonderful and accessible bike trail, which I take almost everyday to work when I can. One day, perhaps when it’s warmer, I would like to take this trail further, as it goes all the way to neighboring towns. What is awesome about this trail is that it has helped me discover new places in the city, such as the woods. I also see the same people on the trail during the week. There are a group of retired men who play Bocce Ball, as well a man to whom I wave and smile every day as he passes on the trail in his wheelchair.
12. Mount Faron one of the biggest attractions in Toulon is the mountain. It’s a great thing to do on a nice day. Basically you can ride the gondola to the top and hike as much as you want. It’s just a great way to escape the city.
13. La Plage (The beach) The beaches in Toulon are beautiful and have a great atmosphere. You can run along the shore as well as lay out in the grass or on the sand and enjoy a nice book. I can’t wait for warmer weather and the chance to enjoy the beaches again.
14. The Cultural Center I substitute taught an adult ESL class for an American woman I met at Chez Gringo a couple of weeks back. I wish I had known more about the cultural center at the beginning of my stay because I feel I would have been able to better justify investing my money. Overall I just think it’s a great addition to the city.
15. The port Toulon is a military base and therefore has very picturesque ports. I love strolling along the marble surface and looking at the boats. Pairs nice to sit at an establishment along the port and enjoy a drink.
16. Boulangeries and Markets I now have my preferred boulangeries and market vendors, from whom I buy bread, fruits, and vegetables. it’s fun saying Bonjour to the same people everyday.
Overall, I realize I have come to really like Toulon, and will miss it a lot when I leave. Writing this post has also made me a little nostalgic for my hometown in the states. What are your favorite establishments in your city?