09 Jun Saint-Tropez; all-season seacoast
Living in Lorgues not only means living in between vineyards and beautiful French country side, but also means living at an hour or less away to some of the coolest places in the South of France. Cannes, Aix-en-Provence, Gorges du Verdon and of course, Saint-Tropez. A few years ago I was asked by a magazine to write a few articles about Saint-Tropez and what you need to see when you go there. I now like to share again with you all the special things that are a definite must-see when you visit.
Nestled into a deep hook of land at the base of a short, wide peninsula, Saint -Tropez looks out to the north over its impossibly blue bay- the only north-facing town on the French Mediteranean coast.
The odd orientation explains the exceptional light that attracted so many artists, and the famously splendid sunsets. It helps to protect the port from angry seas, but also exposes it to the sometimes ferocious Mistral wind that roars down the Rhône Valley and clears the sky to a sharp, cloudless blue. Before World War II, movie stars and music hall artists vacationed in Saint-Tropez, sunning on the same Pamplonne Bay beaches that later saw the American landings of 1944. Before retreating, German forces mined the port, causing serious damage. Post-war, the literary lights of Saint Germain des Près descended Sartre and De Beauvoir, poet Jacques Prévert and actor Gerard Philippe who lived in nearby Ramatuelle.
But it took director Roger Vadim and Brigitte Bardot to put Saint-Tropez on the international celebrity map, when he directed her in the sexily scandalous 1955 film ‘And God Created Woman. Bardot bought her house, La Madrague, near the route de Cannebiers, and Saint Tropez was launched. I was able to take a picture of ‘La Madrague’ on a boat trip last year. It is the house hidden between the trees behind the white wall. Bardot’s stay in Saint-Tropez was of great influence. During the filming the crew had their meals at a small beach club ‘Club 55’, now one of the most prestigious places to go. Tarte Tropézienne, also known as “La Tarte de Saint-Tropez“, is a dessert pastry consisting of a brioche filled with custard cream. It was created in 1955 by Alexandre Micka, a patisserie owner in Saint-Tropez. The pastry was named by Bardot while she was there filming. Micka’s original pâtisserie still exists and is named “La Tarte Tropézienne”. Make sure you taste this pastry when you visit. I personally love the one where they add fresh raspberries to the filling.
Every Tuesday and Saturday morning, Saint-Tropez hosts its open air market on the famous Place des Lices. This is a fantastic market which sells a huge range of foods including breads, pastries, cheeses, sausages, flowers, olives, spices, herbs, fruit and vegetables. Locals head to the market early to secure the freshest produce. There are also stalls for the souvenir hunter. None of the tacky plastic here, this is good quality home accessories, antiques, mirrors, vintage posters, paintings and arts & crafts. Or you can stock up on the necessary items such as t-shirts, bags and that typical French Riviera style fashion accessories. Prices are good here too – a rarity on the Cote d’Azur and certainly in St Tropez. We will do another post on the markets in the Provence in the future. The one in Lorgues, where I live, is one of the largest in the area, besides the one in Saint-Tropez.
Even in the summer it’s possible to escape the crowds by walking into the old town and the fishermen’s quarter known as La Ponche, havens for year-round residents. Just behind the restaurant ‘Senequier’ at the harbor, head thru the archway that was once a gate in the old ramparts, now the entrance to the mosaic-tiled, walk-through fish market. One of the things that I remarked during my first visit to Saint-Tropez, was the way the chairs where positioned in the restaurants alongside the harbor. They are all facing the walkway alongside the harbor with view on the yachts. So I guess Saint-Tropez is all about seeing and being seen.
When you are visiting, make sure you walk all the way up to the Citadel, the maritime museum. The views are fantastic and the museum itself shows you a lot of the town’s history.
Another must-see is the ‘Musée Annonciade’. In a gracefully converted 16th-century chapel, this small, but famous art museum showcases an impressive collection of modern art infused with that legendary Côte d’Azur light.
And then last but not least… wine! The elixir of choice on the French Riviera – rosé to be exact. The bucolic Saint-Tropez peninsula is smothered with grapevines, part of the Côte de Provence wine region where family run estates are producing some of the country’s best.
In the end, Saint-Tropez is not only a myth of stars and glamour, but its ancient history, its art and culture and its versatility to adapt itself to many different types of visitors makes this town unique to visit year after year.
Saint-Tropez has a face glow that is amazing.
You can put it on without makeup, and your skin just glows.
À la prochaine… Jacqueline
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