In the South of France, glamour is a fact of life and jetsetting is a word that has been ingrained in the vocabulary of the international elite since as early as the 1960s. In Saint-Tropez in particular, that glamour is amplified by old world charm on the stone-filled streets in the La Ponche quarter, wooden yachts that line up in the Vieux Port, and a slew of designer outposts along narrow walkways that fit in so well that for a second you confuse Georges Clemenceau for being Saint-Germain-Des-Prés. Though it’s a very small little village, Saint-Tropez is known for being the place to holiday for the French upper class and it's quite possibly my favorite part of the Côte d'Azur. All that being said, it’s only fitting that sophisticated Saint-Tropez was the final stop on our France summer holiday adventure.
Stop by Sénéquier and sit under their red awnings for a biscuit and coffee in the quiet morning on the port. Drinks are best enjoyed at sunset and there is no better place than Hôtel Ermitage (opened in 2009 by Hotelier André Saraiva) or Hôtel Byblos (opened in 1967 and still remains the hotel of choice for the fabulous traveler and originally created "for" Brigitte Bardot by Lebanese billionaire Prosper Gay-Para), both with views overlooking the village on top of a hill with breathtaking, colorful sunsets. Rivea by Alain Ducasse and the infamous Les Caves du Roy is also located inside Hôtel Byblos and both have some of the best tables in town. Hôtel Le Yaca was somewhere that we had not been prior and has amazing cocktails around the pool with a chill, tropical atmosphere (even though it is actually the oldest hotel in Saint-Tropez!). Hôtel La Ponche and Hôtel Sezz (a Design Hotel) are great modern hotels that are super chic to stay at and Hôtel de Paris is a contemporary classic designed by Sybille de Margerie (has a roof on the pool and diagonal from my favorite croissant in town) and hosts a Clarins spa inside if you need a refresh from the sun! La Réserve hotel in Ramatuelle also has an incredible spa offering energy cleanses, balneotherapy sessions, boot camps and spa treatments using Crème de la Mer products (which are my favorite!).
For years now, Chanel has created a summer HQ outpost in the tropical garden of La Mistralée hotel by the gorgeous bronze pool area. Louis Vuitton also set up shop in a villa that represents a laid-back nautical glamour that the French town is known for. In Saint-Tropez, there's a big art scene where regulars bounce between local galleries. One in particular, Galerie Abrial, is the gallery of my friends parents Gérard and Josiane Abrial. Talk about living like artists do and loving life! They host aperitifs outside their gallery in the evenings for friends with wine and fruit and cheese and bread and take walks with their dog on the beach at night. What a dreamy life! During the summer, there are these free concerts at the end of the port with live music, bands and food.
The night that we arrived, there was a big, “Do you Saint-Tropez” festival where we danced and sang for hours on end to Brigitte, Le Quatuor Escape from Acapulco, Dax Riders and DJ Prone. We got hungry so picked up a late night pizza at L’Aroma and snuck onto the docks to eat and enjoy the tunes surrounded by all the mega yachts and charming older men that tried to lure us on to their aquatic abodes. Even at 23h00, you see women and men playing pétanque with round metal balls in the main square in the center of Saint-Tropez known as the Place des Lices (also the home for the their local farmers market which is every Tuesday and Saturday), lines around the corner for Barbarac ice cream (possibly the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my entire life… I get the amarena (black cherry) and lemon (citron) mixed together on a cone and its only 3.50€… !) and men and women dressed to the nines in their designer attire. Also at Place des Lices, you can shop for fresh lavendar, cheeses, herbs, fruits, vegetables and antiques!
We were thinking it would be fun to go dancing one evening, so we stumbled into GAÏO (formerly Papagayo), a nightclub restaurant in Saint-Tropez, which really got going around 3:00 am, and was still going when most people in Paris left for work the next morning. They were hosting a "Summer of Love" 60s and 70s party fully equipped with flower crowns, peace signs, and go-go dancers and our personality and outfits couldn't have been more perfect. Me in a Missoni Jumpsuit and Emily in her hippie turquoise flowery dress, we danced, and oh we danced, until we couldn't dance anymore. Adrif in a sea of people that we didn't know, we made friends with everyone- twirling around, grooving to The Hustle, with our Aperol Spritz in our hands. No one spoke English and we preferred it that way. It transported us back in time to a bygone era that represented everything that we love about life with a soundtrack of Purple Rain by Prince, Give Me Love by Cerrone, and I Was Made for Lovin' You by Kiss. I was lost in happiness. Lost because these moments that were so magical and dear to me were, without exception, part of a bigger picture as to how I like to live my life. Holding hands and leaving the 70s behind us, we headed for the Place des Lices for some late night frites and laughs.
The next few days, we spent most of our time at Plage de Pampelonne (the main beach that famous beach clubs reside on like Club 55, Nikki Beach, Bagatelle, etc). There was no shortage of striking figures already on hand at Club 55, which is surrounded by 10-foot bamboo stalks that form a canopy over your head. Club 55 was named for the year the Bardot film, And God Created Woman was filmed, but today is known for being simply "Cinquante Cinq". The entire place is just oozing with panache with its terra-cotta terrace outdoor dining room surrounded by tamarisk trees and covered in white canvas. You must go and have the vegetable plate, artichoke starter and the seafood risotto for lunch. Prepare to spend the entire day there eating and drinking and you must order the Rose, which is local to the region and grown my Patrice de Colmon (owner of Club 55) and his family at their local vineyard. Lunch there is an institution and it’s not easy to order, get your food, or pay, but that’s the point. Lunch can end as late as 6pm, so assume that dinner starts very late as well. The entire experience to eat lunch will take many hours, but you want it too, since it's the place where everyone goes to see and be seen (and if you're from a major city like New York or London, you'll likely run into friends). Another day, you should head back to Cinquante Cinq and rent a sky-blue sun lounger day bed on the beach with umbrellas, but make sure and go in the morning to make a booking and pre-pay since nothing will be available after noon. If you're looking for a more relaxed beach with no frills, but great snorkeling, check out Plage L'Escalet down the road in Ramatuelle.
Whenever I am in Saint-Tropez, I always buy a new pair of handmade sandals from K Jacques. If you’ve ever been to Saint-Tropez, you would have heard of the French label because every fashionable local has a pair on their perfectly polished feet. I love their natural colors (white, brown, tan, chambray blue) and how relaxed, yet chic they look with swimwear or a summer dress. If you know Emily, you'll know that she only wears summertime thongs to the beach by K Jacques and she is a total snob about it in all the best ways. Also, a huge plus is that they have a lifetime warranty for wear and tear, so if they get too worn, you can always take them in for a little refresh (helps justify the price of 250 euros for a pair of leather flip flops).
My style in Saint-Tropez was a combination of Missoni, Roberto Cavalli, Versace, Ralph Lauren, and Gucci with vintage linen and cotton pieces woven in here and there. I wore only Eres swimsuits with big hats and lots of jewelry. I wouldn’t say I ever wore super high heels, since you walk alot around the village and it’s hard if you’re in towering platforms, but it’s nice to wear a small 6cm heel for a little bit of height. Stuart Weitzman and Jimmy Choo both make presentable options. During the day, I would run around in an all white outfit with a linen skirt and my favorite ribbed Everlane t-shirt and large sun hat. Another day, I'd be sporting a black cotton poplin suit, head scarf with very large sunglasses. I was tailored and chic, a mixture that allowed for a regal poise that was hardly deniable.
Saint-Tropez, according to the writer Colette in 1932's Prisons et Paradis...
So I say to you, there are two sides to Saint-Tropez- the side that is exclusive, glamorous, and originally made for "only the people we like" and the side that remains charming, historical, and composed of a slew of deep-rooted culture. This is the reason why Saint-Tropez year-after-year remains the chicest spot on the Rivera and will forever reinvent itself. Emily and I were French originals in this rather tight-knit community and we aren't even French.
Until our next adventure, I wish you well.