Spotlight on: Saint Tropez
BY - Tim Latimer, 22 August 2019, ARTICLES
BY - Tim Latimer, 22 August 2019, ARTICLES
Everyone has heard of Saint Tropez. Now the ‘playground for the rich’, the beginnings of this once small fishing village were rather modest.
Legend has it the village was named after a Roman officer known as Torpes who, in 68 AD, was beheaded under Emperor Nero on the grounds of practicing Christianity. The locals embraced him as their patron saint when his body washed up on shore in a boat along with a rooster and a dog.
It was during the 19th Century when Saint Tropez began to gather prestige, enticing pointillist Paul Signac who was followed by the likes of Matisse, Seurat and Picasso.
Saint Tropez was later thrown into international limelight in 1955 when Brigitte Bardot arrived on Pampelonne beach to film ‘And God Created Woman’. Since then, the world’s elite have spilled into the once modest fishing village by the yachtful, spending their days on Pampelonne beach and their nights in Les Caves du Roy nightclub.
We have compiled a list of how to spend your holiday once you have roused yourself from your sun lounger and decide to venture outside your villa and explore the village and surrounding areas.
La Ponche is the once thriving fishing quarter of Saint Tropez and the oldest part of the town. The area has held on remarkably to its small, old village charm comparative to the glamorous ambience that defines the resort today.
Once you have perused the shops along the winding ochre streets, have a look inside Eglise Notre Dam de L’Assomption, the beautiful Italian Baroque-style church built in 1784. Inside, you can admire statues and woodcarvings dating back to the 19th century, including the bust of St. Tropez himself.
At the foot of La Ponche lies the picturesque beach of La Glaye, the most photographed beach in Saint Tropez.
Sénéquier is the most celebrated of the lavish cafes that line the Quai Jean Jaurès, the main harbour front of Saint Tropez. Jacques Chirac has been spotted here, sipping a Pina Colada under the famous red awnings.
Enjoy breakfast and a coffee whilst admiring the superyachts bobbing in the harbour in the quiet of the early morning; people watch in the afternoon whilst enjoying their famous nougat and biscuits; and enjoy chef Maurice Guillouët’s menu in the evening.
Perched on the hillside high above the main village lies the Citadelle de Saint-Tropez, built in 1602 to defend the coast against Spain. The views over the village and out to sea are fantastic.
The dungeons of the citadel house the Musée de L’Histoire Maritime, a museum retracing the evolution of Tropezian and French nautical activity, including fishing, trading and the navy.
Saint Tropez was first placed on the world stage when Brigitte Bardot and the rest of the ‘And God Created Woman’ cast and crew began filming in 1955. Since then, the long stretch of beach has attracted sun-seekers from all over the world.
Pampelonne Beach is divided into a series of beaches ascribed to restaurants and clubs, most famously Club 55, which is a popular celebrity hangout. At Nikki beach, you can enjoy the delightful cuisine after a morning lazing on your sun bed, followed by an afternoon enjoying the fantastic DJs, chilled champagne in hand. Tahiti beach, situated at the northern end of the Pampelonne, distinguishable by orange parasols, sports a more relaxed vibe.
Each beach club is as exclusive as the next, you’ll need to book a table far in advance in order to secure a spot.
One of the oldest modern art galleries in France, this former chapel, built by monks in the 16thCentury, showcases works by the likes of Matisse, Seurat, Picasso and Signac. The featured pieces are instilled with the legendary Côte d’Azur light that originally drew in such esteemed artists from their dark Parisian studios.
Armenian refugees, Jacques Keklikian and his wife, Elise, opened a small workshop in 1933 crafting ‘Spartan’ like strappy sandals. His bold and stylish designs were soon adorning the feet of artists, writers and French filmmakers, including Brigitte Bardot, of course. You’ll find them at 25 Rue Allard and 16 Rue Seillon.
Located within the renowned Hotel Byblos, Les Caves de Roy is a timeless hideout for the glitterati. Entry is free if you can make it past the stringent security that pride themselves in ensuring a private environment free of paparazzi for A-list celebrities to let their hair down. Once inside, drinks start at €28 and champagne corks pop to the trance and techno remixes of celebrated resident DJ Jack-E.
Saint Tropez is renowned for its dessert, La Tarte Tropézienne, concocted by Polish baker, Alexandre Micka, in the 1950s during the filming of ‘And God Created Woman’.. Micka catered for Bardot’s film crew at Club 55, introducing the dessert to the star herself, who loved the cake and gave it its name.
As it is now a local delicacy, there are many bakeries in Saint Tropez serving the famed dessert, however, the original shop, La Tarte Tropézienne, located on the Traverse des Lices, is still the true home..
The Cap Camarat headland offers a fantastic hike, largely due to the wonderful wildlife of the area. The cape is home to the Hamann tortoise, lizards, peregrine falcons and gannets. The lighthouse, built in 1829, is the second highest in France, with the light sitting at 130m above sea level. Wander down to the beach at the foot of the lighthouse, Bonne Terrasse, for a quick dip to cool off.
Every Tuesday and Saturday morning the market stalls go up in this famous Saint Tropez square. Tables are littered with an array of local produce from breads and cheeses to flowers, herbs and spices. Souvenir hunters will find all manner of artifacts to bring Saint Tropez to their homes including antiques, arts and crafts, vintage posters, and paintings.
During the rest of the week the square remains a focal point of the village. Old men play boules under the avenues of trees whilst others survey the scene from benches and surrounding cafes.
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