Exploring the Var

Trip Start Aug 16, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

So today (Wednesday 25/8/10) was probably one of my favorite days so far. We decided to use our day off to do some exploring.  Last night we sat down with our travel books, bus schedules and maps to try and figure out where we wanted to go.  We were leaning heavily toward Grasse, or perhaps Orange.  Unfortunately the bus schedules we had were only for travel within Aix and the Bus schedules are not posted online and it was too late to go to the Office of Tourism.  So we decided to wake up early and go to the bus station and take the first bus we could afford that would take us somewhere cool.  So with no specific plans we started our adventure this morning with a quick stop at the bank and the only boulangerie with to go coffee and went to the bus station.  After a lot of questions and building up quite a line behind us, Angelica and I were able to get six round-trip tickets (we think) to Toulon.  After reading about Toulon, (which is apparently kind of seedy), we decided to get off at Bandol.  Wandered around Toulon for a while, saw our first topless beach and then went and had lunch.  I ordered a very good pizza and Tiffany ordered Escargots.  We all tried it for the first time.  It definitely was not as bad as I was expecting.  In fact it wasn't really that bad at all, but I don’t think it will become a staple in my diet any time soon.  I know it’s all in my head, but the idea of eating snails is still too weird for me.

After a lot of debate we decided to take a taxi to the nearby medieval fortified city of Le Castellet.  I think we made the right choice, and by the end of the trip all of the doubters had admitted to me that they loved the city and thanked me for suggesting it.  There were so many beautiful shops with fantastic handcrafts and artwork.  My particular favorites were the art galleries (some of which doubled as the studio for the artist) and the candle shop.  At one shop I got to sample some fantastic Scotch Whiskey.  There was one art studio in particular with some very beautiful artwork.  There was one water-color painting titled the pecheur (fisherman).  It was absolutely beautiful, and it reminded me of my dad.  It was out of my budget, so I left it there but I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I had to go back.  I figure original art is a much better investment than many of the other tacky trinkets they sell everywhere here.  I met the artist’s wife and mother in law, who were running the shop that day.  I told them how much I love the painting, so they took me back to his studio.  It was pretty cool.  I’m still really excited about the painting.  It’s the first original piece of art that I’ve ever bought for myself.

So we all met back at the taxi pick up area about 10 to 6:00. The cab driver was supposed to pick us up at 6:00 for the 20 minute ride back to Bandol in time for the bus back to Aix at 6:40.  He did not get there until about 6:20.  We were convinced that we were going to miss the bus and be stranded in Bandol.  We explained to our driver that we must be back on time for the bus and he said he could get us there in 10 minutes.  To give him credit he was driving fast and did seem to be trying to get us there as fast as he could, but we were still cutting it very short.  And of course Murphy’s Law had to kick in cause everything that could go wrong did.  We had to keep stopping randomly for stupid things like tourists standing in the street to take a photo as we were nearing the bus station with seconds to spare the car two cars in front of us decided to stop and make a u-turn randomly over a raised sidewalk island between the opposing streets and block both directions.  All the while we are all freaking out that the bus would be leaving any second.  The girls were all yelling at Rob to jump out of the cab and run to the bus and hold it up.  We finally got there and the bus was literally about to pull away as we pulled up to the station.  We all ran out and frantically gesticulated to the driver who was kind enough to wait for us.  We had made it, just barely.  So with a somewhat dramatic end to a still great day, I put my headphones on and listened to Les Miserables on the bus ride back to Aix.  What a great day.

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