Toulon, the dullest place on earth?
So much potential, so little vigor. Toulon left me with the feeling of talking to an old friend, who has given up. He stopped playing drums in the band he started with his best friend, who is now semi-famous and touring the world. His high school love went to Marseilles, so he settled with a decent, medium girl, who was never meant to end up with someone like him. He had pretty much everything but it just didn’t work out his way.
According to my host in what appeared to be the only hostel in this 600.000 inhabitants big town (165.000 without suburbs), the American marines called the old town in Toulon ‘Little Chicago’ in the aftermath of the Second World War. Listening to the stories about the consumption of alcohol, the hookers and the music in these narrow Parisian style allies, creates images in my head that look exactly like some Hollywood movie set in the 1940′s where the disgusted main character sits in the bar and observes his sailor dressed colleagues being so drunk they can sing but not walk straight, they gamble and whore, and they completely lost touch with the bigger questions in the war. Unlike him, of course.
Toulon anno 2014 is nothing like that. I arrived in the afternoon on a Friday and my first tought was that there must be some sort of public holiday here. Half the shops were closed and tourists weren’t present like everywhere else on the coast. After the sun went down the number of people in the streets (Friday night, remember), was reduced to this.
The only thing keeping the old town from being completely dead this Friday night were the kebab booths and the Arabic cafés. Toulon is at the same time home to many people with roots in Algeria and a town, where the far-right Front National and it’s fight against immigration stands strong. Dull and racist? Oh, Toulon.
In the end I began noticing the few people I did meet in the streets were carrying plastic bags full of stuff. So, I started walking against the flow and found a huge, sand colored building constituting a mall. And here I finally found them: the people of Toulon. Doing groceries in a ridiculously big Carre Four. At eight o’clock on a Friday night.
I was later told I had missed the part of the habor, which supposedly is packed with tourists on exactly such a Friday night. Still, the season is soon over, so I feel it appropriate to end this wonder in southern France with a riddle:
- No matter how many minutes, hours or days in Toulon, how long do you always and up staying there?