I bet you never heard of the Var or Le Var region of France but if I mentioned St. Tropez you would probably know that, right? The Var region is just to the west of the Alps-Maritimes region which includes Nice, Cannes and of course, my French home town of Menton. A few days ago, Friday May 18 and Saturday May 19 I made a visit to the spectacular Var region. I have chosen just a few of the hundreds of photos I took and I might even consider making this post just about May 18 since both days encompassed so much that I might not be able to cover both days in one post. Well, let’ see how it goes! Come along for the ride?? You will be surprised and impressed, I think by the beauty and variety of the countryside, by the magnificent Michelin 3 Star Resort and Restaurant Hotel du Castellet, by the fantastic harbor of Toulon with a view of the French aircraft carrier Charles DeGaulle, the largest ship in the French Fleet, by the amazing Mont Feron Memorial and it’s association with the US led invasion in 1944. Yes, I know that you know about D Day and the invasion of Normandy but did you know that the Allies also landed in Provence and the Var in 1944? Well, the French know about that and the Memorial on the top of Mount Feron is beautifully done and on the Friday of my visit the memorial was full of French school children and their teachers, learning about what took place in and around Mount Feron and the harbor and city of Toulon in August 1944. Actually the invasion of Southern France was originally scheduled to coincide with the D Day Invasion in Normandy but it was decided that plan would take men and material away from D Day so the invasion of Southern France was delayed until August. The invasion, dubbed Operation Dragoon, was begun on August 15, 1944 by the US VI Corps and the French Army B, supported by naval and air forces. The invasion was also heavily supported by the French Resistance Forces called the Maquis in ruraly areas. Toulon, currently a city of about 170,000 population and a metro area of about 500,000 was historically the major French Naval port on the Mediterranean Sea.
We took the narrow, steep, winding road up to the top of 1916 foot high Mont Feron which provided not only access to the superbly done Memorial to the Second World War involvement in and around Toulon and the Var region but a virtually 360 degree view of the harbor and the surrounding Var mountains. One of my military heroes, Admiral Lord Nelson, worked hard to keep the French Fleet bottled up in Toulon harbor and from the top of Mont Feron one can see the relatively narrow inlet to the harbor which would allow a relatively small but well placed force to protect the harbor entrance. As it turned out, the Aircraft Carrier DeGaulle was in dry dock in the process of being refitted and with my telephoto lens, I was able to get a fairly good photo of this, the largest ship in the French Fleet. Several other French Naval ships were also in the beautiful harbor of Toulon. It was units of the French Army B which liberated Toulon, with the aid of the resistance forces, on August 26, 1944. The ride up and down the narrow, steep, winding road with many hairpin turns on Mont Feron is the scene of the Paris-Nice and Tour Mediterane’en bicycle races and we encountered many intrepid bicyclists on our way up the mountain. I salute the French for their passion for the history of their wonderful country and their dedication to preserve and understand that history and to educate their school children about it. Vive la France!!