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Day A11 - Into and through Toulon
March 8, 2013                  Carqueiranne to La Seyne-sur-Mer                     15 miles
Toulon from wikipedia commons david Monniaux
place de la liberte, bd Strasbourg
place de la liberte 2
The city and port of Toulon facing south (Wikipedia commons photo by David Monniaux).
Pretty well in the center of Toulon is Place de la Liberté on boul Strasbourg

It was another 15 miles today - from Carqueiranne to the Première Classe hotel in Toulon, or actually in La Seyne-sur-Mer. Unusually for this hike, my feet ached. When I arrived, I found a bloody small toe on my right foot - enough to tell me that my blister-free spell is over.

It was pelting rain at breakfast. In fact, there was so much murk, rainfall and runoff that "storm all day" seemed what was upon us.

Feeling locked in by my future hotel reservations, I prepared to hike anyway but set out late (9.15) after giving time for the weather to improve. And that's just what happened - but not until10 am. By then, I was wet, but got slowly drier as even the late morning's low-hanging cloud and misty rain gave way to scattered overcast with sunny patches by afternoon. Incidentally, walking in the rain is easier after my cataract surgery because I have no eyeglasses to have to dry. But I'm no fan of cold raindrops wicking down my back, sides, front and legs - and some places inbetween.

The route took me right across Toulon, which is a major port and traditionally France's main naval base. In fact, so much of the French navy was based here after the Vichy government came to power in WW2, that the British had to destroy what the French did not scuttle in order to keep it from enemy hands. I had studied the route hard, because the street names here change every few hundred yards, even on a straight stretch of road. They're largely named for national leaders - if military, by rank, then first and last names - and still have street designations like avenue, boulevard, chemin and the like.

We're not talking about Elm St here.  Avenue Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny will happily run mere yards and then continue as rue Pilote Pierre Reboul. Stripping them to their essentials, the cheatsheet for even my limited route possibilities today had the following names:

Bizet, de Gaulle, Brosset, Houot, de la Résistance, Fabre, Rameau, Janjard, Tassigny, Magnan, de 15E Corps, Briande, Clemenceau and Juin.

Fortunately, a single 5-mile bike track (Piste Cyclable du Littoral) offered me a pleasant stretch with only that one name involved all the way to downtown from a point one mile west of the town of Le Pradet where the D559 turns right as it intersects the D42. (Hint: with this info, you might spot the track on a map if you care to.)

The bike track ran past people's backyards, through linear parks, and past schools, so was unusually peaceful. There were just enough locals exercising on it that I felt in safe company.

This evening, realizing that I needed some restaurant coddling, I stopped at the Grill Courtpaille before reaching the hotel - since I'm often too tired to venture out after claiming my room. I had an entree and a plat. (Here an entrée is a starter, and the plat is the entree.) They greet you with a side-salad in addition. The Courtpaille has a modern but traditional feel to it, with some interior brick, wood beams and antique'y accents. It was a good beginning. I chose as entree the deux oeufs pochés (two poached eggs) in sauce au vin, oignons et lardons (sauce of wine, onions and beans). The sauce, almost a soup, turned out to be the best part of the meal. As plat, I ordered a pavé de rumsteck saignant (rump steak, rare) with patates frites enslienne (French Fries ensley-style). The fries were excellent, but it's the steak that was noteworthy. Touted as tendre et savereuse (tender and tasty), it was neither. Almost tasteless, it was a dark color though cooked rare, and without any marbling it was tough.

"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" I asked Hobson.

Hobson looked at me gravely as if any pretense of Anglo-French entente cordiale was now over for a decade at least. "I am indeed, Daryl, I am thinking exactly what you're thinking. And the menu seems to prove it!"

"And what is that, pray tell," I asked.

"Your steak is not beef, Daryl, oh no. Your steak . . . is Harry the Horse all the way through. And that's if it's not . . . [he finished theatrically] . . . Dennis the Donkey!"

My stomach contents did an immediate double somersault but, for good or ill, remained in place. "And the menu . . .?" I asked.

"The menu," said Hobson, "never even claimed it's beef. Did it say rumsteck de boeuf? No!"

The Première Classe hotel is one of a breed of budget French hotels that is small but has basically everything - basically - including a bathroom. I've once or twice found them prone to smoking smells, but not this one, or at least not yet. My quarters are perfect for a hiker, because I've found a way to mount my hiking stick horizontally near the heater, threaded with my laundry that's about to dry in record time.

Clothes drying
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