FRANCE – From Marseille to Cannes, leg 6 of the South France roadtrip

It was already halfway of my road trip in South France with the family when we drove from Marseille to Cannes. This day we did three stops: at the Tour Royal Fort of Toulon, the Chartreuse de la Verne and the Abbey of Thoronet. Three places you must visit when driving from Marseille to Cannes as they are beautiful and of great historical significance. If you take the scenic road out of Marseille to Cannes along the coast through the hills you will have some beautiful views too. During our drive unfortunately it was quite foggy which also made a nice scenic drive but without a view. Let me show you these places and I’m sure you will add them to your South France road trip itinerary too.


Tour Royale: Fort of Toulon

The fort of Toulon, or Tour Royale, was for unknown reasons closed when we visited. We could only walk partially around it and have an outside view. It’s built around the same time as Chateau d’If which we visited a day earlier in Marseille. The main reason was to protect the harbor of Toulon but a funny fact is that just after it was completed it already was taken by the enemy. Not by conquering it but by paying the general of the fort a sum of money for his surrender. During the centuries it served as prison for politicians, military and other figures. It resisted several attacks until it got seriously damaged in the Second World War. Certain parts are restored but some are as they were and never restored. We finished our visit in just 30 minutes, but keep in mind if you visit the inside this probably is an hour more. It will then still be possible to complete this day when driving from Marseille to Cannes.

Abbaye de Thoronet

Our second stop while driving from Marseille to Cannes was at the Abbey of Thoronet. It’s located between hills and surrounded by large forests. The road there is very scenic I can tell you. It is one of the three Cistercian abbeys in the Provence also called “the three sisters of the Provence”. We visited one other, the Abbey of Silvacane, on a previous day of our South France road trip. The Abbey of Thoronet is a fine architectural example of how the fundamental believes of the Cistercians are incorporated in their buildings. Its construction was done in one time unlike other abbeys which got extended over time. At the end of the 12th century the church was build and in the early 13th century the remaining of the buildings. The abbey church is at the highest point of the complex and has stairs leading to the monks buildings like the dormitory, library, workshops and other rooms.

The cloister is the area where most of the daily life took place. It’s located next to the monks’ buildings and stretches towards the river. It’s a beautiful place because of its strange shape compared to other cloisters. From here you can walk towards the newer building of the lay brothers. They are a kind of monk from a lower class mainly hired as workforce. The building has living quarters downstairs and sleeping quarters on the second floor. There is also a cellar which was changed into a wine cellar long after the monastery got into decline in the 14th century. We walked the various buildings and the ground around it in about 90 minutes. Unfortunately it was very cloudy so we could not admire the light falling through the various windows and openings which is said to be a nice view.

Chartreuse de la Verne

We bought lunch at a local shop earlier in Toulon which we ate along the scenic route we were driving from Marseille to Cannes. After lunch we continued over small roads through the dense forest of the Maures massive towards the Chartreuse de la Verne. Even with the foggy weather it was well worth the drive up there as the views are wonderful with forest surrounding the monastery as far as the eye can see. The Chartreuse was built at the end of the 12th century at the site of an abandoned priory. In the decades after it was plagued by various fires which destroyed most buildings except the Romanesque church. The church is believed to be built on the site of a pagan temple dedicated to the goddess Laverna, who is the patroness of thieves. The dense forests around this area are the perfect place for thieves to hide.

The complex was attacked over time numerous times and got abandoned during the French Revolution. The next one and a half century it became in disrepair and overgrown partly by vegetation. It almost disappeared from the map until in 1921 it became a national monument. Half a century later repairs finally began and money was collected for it by the monastic order of Bethlehem which inhabits the complex now. Repairs still continue and new monks now live at the Chartreuse de la Verne in the buildings at the far end of the complex which you can see in the photo below.


After we admired all the different buildings and learned about the way of life of the monks we bought a few local products to support the current monks. It was already late afternoon and we still had a long drive towards Cannes which would be the end point of our 6th leg of our South France road trip. The three places we visited where each well worth it and especially the Chartreuse de la Verne with its beautiful location.

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Did you visit Marseille or Cannes too or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!

Gallery Marseille to Cannes

Click an image for a full screen gallery of more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.




  1. wow… love your photos Chris. I haven’t been to France for about five years… this makes we want to go right now!!!! LOL…. I have come from twitter… just so you know..cheers

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