I’m in Toulon for a couple of weeks. The south of France is quite different from Vendee. It’s sunnier and warmer, for two things. I’m happy to be here in June, before it really gets hot.

Toulon is a big naval center and is used to rebuild older warships. It’s not pretty but I guess someone has to do it. It looks like this guy just arrived. As you can imagine it was heavily bombed in WWII. The Germans used the port, so they left things pretty much alone. The Allies bombed the port and oopsie, quite a few civilian buildings, right at the end of the war. These rather nice Hausmannien knockoffs were generally replaced by concrete, straight-up low-bid concrete.

There are some nicer areas, mainly outside the center of town. The top photo was taken from the terrace of the hillside house where I am staying. The beach is on the peninsula that sits opposite the main town. There are no bathers because there is no sand; this beach is all rocks. Apparently George Sand used to winter in a house on the opposite side of the peninsula — pre-bombardment, of course, so the city would have been more attractive. In any case back then the peninsula was an island. She probably never went into town.

This is one of the more pleasant corners of the city center. It’s old-school, with plazas and some actual character. This is perhaps the most welcoming part of the city. It has a daily market, little cafes, even, as you can see, a guy who will fix your guitar or violin for you, if you need that. Though I don’t have a photo here — I should take one to show you — once in a while you can see how gritty the town must have been, back when the navy was larger and the sailors were less health-minded than the ones I see here now. It’s enough to give you just a whiff of Pepe Le Moko.

Garden Report

Apart from the weeds, it’s a nice time of year. Everything is actually growing, maybe because we have had so much rain. Julien is making a mighty effort to keep the weeds out of the ground cover but to be fair, he clears a patch and a week later, the weeds are back. Little by little, though, I think we are beating them back.

We have roses. I actually did a winter prune this year and guess what? The rose bushes love being pruned. Who knew? And I threw some bone meal at them and a bit of fungicide, when things got a bit rusty. The grass loves all this good stuff, too, but just maybe we are turning the corner on the weeds in the roses. I know, it’s hard to tell in this photo, but yesterday things were a whole lot worse. Now it’s kind of jumbled in the rose patch, but the bees are happy with all that borage, the grass is diminishing, lavender and verveine are moving in. The roses should be okay.

I’m happy with the espaliers, three apples and two pears, I think. Surely there will be no fruit this year, but the trees are healthy. Julien is looking forward to pruning them next year. We’ll see how that goes. For now it’s nice to not have bare walls.

I have grapes! The vines have looked dubious in the past, but this year they are doing great. The planters are set to become shallow pools for the birds, something we’ll do when the bulbs die back. we’ll clear out the dirt and fill the troughs with rocks so the birds have a place to perch.

Right now the birds have staked out the yew tree. I am bribing them shamelessly with fat balls and bird seed. The next garden report will have more about this. And for now, that’s about it.