Destination: France: St.-Tropez
The Appeal of St.-Tropez
Habitués of the Cote d’Azur love to downplay the jet-set lifestyle of St.-Tropez. “It’s just a little fishing village,” they shrug, “and we love the sea.” Technically, St.-Tropez is exactly that – a small village in the south of France. But there’s not much fishing going on these days. When I visited on a sunny weekend in April, the port was already lined with multi-million-dollar yachts, and the beautiful people had descended in full force to celebrate the kickoff of another season. St.-Tropez initially found fame when it served as the backdrop for Brigitte Bardot in And God Created Woman. Since then, it has become the see-and-be-seen spot for celebrities, royalty and well-heeled travelers from around the world. But for first-time visitors, the repeat guests’ nonchalance can be difficult to decipher.
The appeal of St.-Tropez is twofold – the scene and the setting. St.-Tropez truly is a gorgeous town. Many cities in the south of France were destroyed by bombs in WWII, including St.-Tropez. But unlike others that rebuilt willy-nilly in the current day’s architecture, St.-Tropez was already designated a historic site, so the new buildings matched that of the old. Compare neighboring St. Maxime to St.-Tropez and you’ll see why one has become a hot spot and the other not. The aesthetics are simply better.
And then there’s the scene. Because of the town’s small size, regular humans can – and will – rub shoulders with the faces we normally see on the covers of magazines. It’s highly likely that you’ll find yourself sipping rosé next to the Beckhams in Club 55 or browsing sandals with Kate Moss at Rondini. I passed Robert DiNiro as I popped into Kiwi to pick up a swimsuit. The cafes that line the Old Port, such as the famed Le Senequier and more sleek Le Quai, draw celeb-spotters but also the celebs themselves. And even jaded New Yorkers are thrilled when Beyonce sits down next to them at a cafe. Here’s Indagare’s guide on how to do St.-Tropez right.
WHERE TO STAY
The main decision when planning your St.-Tropez trip is whether you want to be based in town or in Ramatuelle. In St.-Tropez proper, you have the boutiques, restaurants, cafés and port scene right outside your hotel door, which may be a plus or a minus, depending on your sensibility. The more serene Ramatuelle is where all the beach clubs are located, so especially if you’re traveling with children, chances are that you will be spending time there. Read which hotel is right for you.
WHERE TO EAT
Take the notion that you can eat well anywhere in France and toss it out the window of your Ferrari. Most of the food in St.-Tropez is mediocre at best. The scene is paramount, and if you end up with passable food on your plate while sipping rose and looking fabulous, it’s a miracle. Here are our favorites:
- Big Night Out: La Reserve
- Family Friendly: La Pesquière
- Hip Scene: L’Escale
- Local Cuisine: L’Auberge de la Mole
- Cocktails: Le Senequier
- Global Cuisine: Salama
WHERE TO SHOP
I’m not normally a big shopper, but St.-Tropez can bring out the spender in anyone. Here’s a greatest-hits tour: Start in Atelier Rondini, an unassuming family-owned establishment that’s outfitted the feet of Jackie O, Carla Bruni and Kate Moss in custom sandals, then continue on with stops in Maison des Lices for traditional linens and Kiwi for a chic bikini suitable for the beach clubs.
Ertheé in the Grand Passage (a shop-lined “alley” off Général Allard) has a great mix of international high-end brands, and bargain shoppers shouldn’t miss the little known Le Marché du Marin, a second-hand store piled high with vintage pieces and, when I was there, a beautiful blue Birkin displayed prominently in the window.
The twice-weekly market in the Place de Lices, open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, is also a great place to scour for everything from souvenirs to serious antiques.
WHERE TO LOUNGEOf St.-Tropez’s many beach clubs, the three best ones are:
- Club 55 (the classic club that launched them all)
- Plage des Jumeaux, a great beach to bring kids thanks to a playground right on the sand
- Le Voile, a funky club known for its rowdier party scene.
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