From the cable car that runs up to Mount Faron, the bay of Toulon reveals itself in bite-size below: its buildings, little beige boxes around the bay, its cranes on the port like toothpicks, its ships that weave into the mouth of a navy blue Grande Rade, knitting streaks of white in their wake. Beyond Toulon, the peninsula of Saint-Mandrier-sur-Mer curves into the sea.
Called Faron from the word 'Pharos', which is greek for lighthouse, the crowning mountain lives up to its name.
Off the cable car and onto solid ground on Mont Faron, paths of pebbles pull visitors into a world of crackling white limestone rocks, of forests of Aleppo pines, bushes of gray-leaved Cistus that bloom in purple at springtime. The paths pass by ancient forts and batteries once part of the city's intricate military defense. Beaumont Tower, one of the fortifications on the Faron hill, homes the Memorial Museum of the Allied Landings in August 1944.
At the summit of Mont Faron, views open from all sides - to the north, Le Baou des Quatre Aures, Mount Coudon, Mount Caume and to the south, the Giens Peninsula, the rounded hill of Colle Noire, the Golden Islands of Hyeres.
Mont Faron even homes a zoo that specializes in breeding large cats such as Bengal tigers.
The wild escape to Mont Faron is popular with local families. During hot weather, it is best to experience it early in the morning, or late afternoon.
For a growing view, take the 5-minute cable car ride up from Toulon to Mont Faron. Téléphérique du Mont-Faron, boulevard Amiral Vence (or bus 40, stop at téléphérique), +33 4 94 92 68 25. While the cable-car runs up and down non-stop from 9:45AM to 7:45PM in July and August, it closes on Mondays and offers fewer rides during the rest of the year. The cable car does not operate on very windy days. See http://www.telepherique-faron.com for details.
Not keen on cable-cars? You can also reach Mont Faron through a winding road that runs one-way going up on the western side of the hill and down on the eastern flank. Reach it by heading towards Toulon-Nord, behind Toulon's railway station, by the Ste Anne Hospital and follow the signs.
- Memorial Museum of the Allied Landings of August 1944 in the Beaumont Towers, top of Mont-Faron, +33 4 94 88 08 09.
- Mont-Faron zoo, a center specialized in breeding large felines +33 4 94 88 07 89.