Three Weeks in the South of France. Sounds like Heaven.

I booked my stay through Airbnb two months in advance, contacting my host to see if he’d give me a discount for staying so long. He did. I had a dissertation to write and a desire to spend a few weeks in the sunshine (after a year in dreary Scotland). I’d managed it so I wouldn’t be paying rent in Edinburgh during my time away. My stuff was stored at friends’ houses, and I had a place to stay upon my return. What could possibly go wrong?

The Stats

  • 22 nights
  • £12/night
  • £38.00 Airbnb Service Charge (including VAT)
  • Total spent on room: £302
  • Flight: One-way London –> Marseille £30 (ish). Used EasyJet credit.
View from my Balcony in Toulon

This was the view from my balcony.

It was more beautiful in real life

The first few days were incredible: shorts weather, no rain, barely a cloud. The view from my balcony. My own private balcony. I breathed in the view like oxygen. Here, I’ll be productive, I thought. Work in the morning then beach in the afternoon. Perfection. I fell asleep quickly, finally at ease after a month of travel, excited to put my plan into action in the morning.

The Plan

  • 6:30 – Yoga (I’d managed to pack a yoga mat in my one suitcase. And it was a carry-on).
  • 7:30 – Shower, Breakfast, Dress
  • 9:00 – Start Writing (Ideally reaching 1-2k words/day)
  • 12:00 – Lunch
  • 2:00 – Beach
View of Mont Faron

View from my kitchen window

Day One Started Late

My first day “on the program” I allowed myself an extra hour. Ease in, I thought. It was a good move.

Yoga: check. Shower: check. Breakfast: check. Dress: check. Time to start writing.

And then I noticed there wasn’t a desk in my room. No matter. I set up my computer in the living/dining area. The house owner had already gone to work, and when the other flatmate left, I should have the flat to myself for a few hours, I thought. Except that he didn’t leave. He walked from the kitchen to his room, from his room to the kitchen, passing in front of my table. Finally, he stopped. “Don’t you want to go out?” he said in French. It was less a question and more a suggestion. Like he didn’t want me to be there. “Travail,” I said, pointing to my computer.

He raised his eyebrows, retreated to his room.

Beach Time…maybe

2:00 rolled around. I asked my flatmate how to get to the beach. “Is it far to walk?”

“40 minutes,” he said. “Take the bus.”

In the past, I have not had good luck with the French bus system. The buses seemed to just come whenever they want, disregarding the schedule. It was the same in Toulon. I installed myself on a bench at the stop to wait. Two older women were already sitting there. One of them blew air from her puffed cheeks and glanced at her watch. Their bus arrived ten minutes later — not the one I needed. The first woman looked at the second, brandishing her walking stick. “I was taking a nap!” she said.

Another fifteen minutes passed before my bus arrived. It was empty. But after a few stops, so many people had boarded that they had to cram into the aisle. Tanned, dark-haired, and dark-eyed, the people here were so different from those I’d been used to seeing in Scotland. There were tired mothers shepherding their broods, youth carrying bags stuffed with beach games, teenage couples eying each other. The people of Toulon are not shy. In fact, after a few more days spent wandering, I found many of them to be quite crass. If I had to make a comparison, I’d say they’re not too dissimilar from the inhabitants of the New Jersey Shore.

Mourillon Beach

Finally, we arrived. But where?

Mourillon, the man-made beaches of Toulon. More like a fun-park than a beach, the small sandy crescents were littered with teenagers on holiday and topless middle-aged women. A park extended the length of the series of beaches, alongside restaurants and bars. It was not what I expected.

Where are the famed beaches of Southern France? Where are the long stretches of white sand, the views of endless ocean I know so well from home?

I shrugged off the disappointment and decided to find the real beaches of Toulon later this week.