St Tropez Pictures, Côte d’Azur, France

Saint Tropez peninsula, Côte d’Azur, France

St Tropez peninsula (aka Saint Tropez), Côte d’Azur.

Visiting St Tropez

The port, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

Le Vieux Port in mid September.

Originally a fishing village, St Tropez was colonised first by artists and writers, Guy de Maupassant (writer) and Paul Signac (impressionist painter) towards the end of the 19th century.

From then until the mid 20th century it remained a destination for bohemians and artists until film director Roger Vadim filmed Brigitte Bardot there in 1956, ‘And God Created Woman’. God had, in fact, created a paradise for the rich, Saint Tropez, and they came, saw and bought it.
Over the last 60 years the death of wealth in Saint Tropez has been trumpeted but greatly exaggerated. The rich are still there but tend to leave the streets to the proletariat these days while they snuggle discreetely in their lavish hillside villas, luxury hotels and ridiculous yachts, with public outings confined to dining at fine restaurants and beach clubs along Pampelonne Bay.

**St Tropez is the snobbiest part of the Côte d’Azur (more so even than Monaco! ), with big money, big crowds and big traffic jams, yet still glamorous. The in-vogue beach is Nikki, where you have to pay – or even book in advance, but there are plenty of superb cafés and restaurants as well as the outstanding Musée de l’Annonciade (20th century masters such as Rouault and Matisse). Getting there will require your own wheels or a bus as the coastal train give St Trop a wide berth.

A useful train route runs along the Côte d’Azur from Marseilles to Ventimille (Ventemiglia) – avoiding Saint Tropez completely! – and though it’s comfortable it’s not exactly reliable. In addition it sometimes stops very near the sea, such as at Villeneuve-Loubet Plage or Villefranche but sometimes it’s quite a distance away like in Nice where it’ll take a good 20 minutes walk to reach the shore, though the newish tram system is cheap, efficient and a big help to getting around.

Sad to say but we tend to drive along the coast on the excellent A8 autoroute which is generally easy to access (a notable exception is Cannes) or nip onto the spectacular or interesting during the off season. From Antibes to Menton on the A8 takes about 45 minutes.

How to get to St Tropez (without sitting in a 2hr traffic jam)

traffic, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

The St Tropez cape or peninsula has one main access road from the ‘mainland’ which will definitely be totally stuffed June-September, meaning two hours or more sitting encased in smoky metal just from the nearby town of Saint Maxime or the last exit of the A8 autoroute, let alone wherever the poor tourist has travelled from beforehand.

– go early (before 8am) and return late (after 8pm).

– go totally out of season.

– travel by motorcycle or helicopter (not a joke, this is how les riches get to de Trop).

– take a fast ferry from Nice of about 45 minutes or a slow ferry from Cannes (1. 5 hours), St Rafael or St Maxime (just across the water and before the worst of the traffic jams, so drive there via the A8 autoroute, park and take the ferry across the bay.

– the nearest airport is Toulon-Hyeres and even Ryanair flies there from Stanstead.

– go somewhere as nice but more accessible, such as any of the Caps between Nice and Monaco.

A panorama, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

An overview of St Tropez from the Citadel on the hill. On the distant right Saint Maxime is visible, a pleasant town with fair beaches and an excellent place from which to catch a ferry to reach St Trop without being trapped in a car for hours.

Eating

Food quality is high in St Tropez, but doesn’t have to be very expensive – just get away from the port (the rich folk off the boats don’t like to stagger too far) and check out the menus posted outside. If prices are not quoted then you may expect to empty your bank account after the meal in addition to selling your wife into slavery. We’re told that Le Sporting brasserie serves the best value food in the town.

Night clubs

As far as night clubs are concerned money alone may not be enough to enter the elite three – Les Caves du Roy, the VIP Room and Papagayo. Beauty, style and celebrity may be required for entry at busy times. Still, hanging around the exterior of these hotspots may be entertaining enough in itself as the supercars and glitterati roll by. The second ranking but still fashionable Bar de Port in Quai Suffren is marginally easier to get into.

Culture!

A game of Boules, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

A hint of real French life as locals play boules under the plane trees in the main square, Place des Lices. Visitors can borrow boules from Café des Arts and give the game a try, or even take on the locals.

The only modestly interesting cultural site in the town is an old chapel converted into Musée de l’Annonciade, a gallery of fine art associated with Provence.

There is a massive parking area adjacent to the New Port. The Old Port in the centre is where where various ferries come and go.

The green centre of the peninsula, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

The wonderfully undeveloped centre of the Saint Tropez peninsula, mainly because the vineyards are protected by layers of long-standing laws and much of the rest of the land is a national park.

Walks information, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

An excellent hiking/walking coastal trail (Sentier du Littoral) runs around the St Trop coastline passing endless beaches and is, as you can see, very well signposted. Just follow the yellow markings.

Ramatuelle, St Tropez pictures, Cote d'Azur, France

Ramatuelle hilltop town.

And after a hard day lying in the sun, a short drive to the Cap de Saint Tropez’s green centre brings thirsty tourists to the two 8thC hilltop villages of Ramatuelle and Gassin.

Gassin is the smaller of the two, the further, the higher and offers the best views.

Note that French law does not permit clients to drink at a restaurant table without food, so a quiet pastis aperitif at one of these tempting tables is not going to happen. Of course you can always patronise a bar, but unfortunately Ramatuelle’s main square bar has neither a view nor a welcoming ambience. We’ll try Gassin next time!