ST. TROPEZ, FRANCE – The lazy old dog resting outside the shop selling lavender products refused to move when the tourist tried to gain entrance.
“Mon Dieu,” said the saleslady from within. “Zee dog has no manners.
“Allez, allez,” she shouted and finally the dog moved away from the door.
“Everyone is lazy here, even zee dogs. It is too hot to be active,” said the woman while wrapping our purchase of lavender oil (used to help make people overcome jet lag – just drop it on your pillow before bed).
The sun has always shone on St. Tropez. And that puts it in a good light with the well-heeled tourists and artists who have been coming here for centuries. The town basks in a glory of its own – under mostly cloudless skies that offer painters the perfect light to create their masterpieces.
Signac and Matisse liked it. So did Maupassant. And so will you!
You’ll like the narrow streets leading off the main harbor area, the place where bikini clad women dance on the back of million dollar yachts flying foreign flags, and the quaint side street cafes where you can while away a few hours sipping wine and enjoying a fresh salad stuffed with local produce.
You’ll especially like the market area known as Place aux Herbes, where Provencal herbs spice the air with an aromatic punch. Here you’ll be able to buy fish so fresh their tales are still flapping.
Left: Even the dogs in St. Tropez are art enthusiasts. Right: The side streets of St. Tropez date back to France's earliest days.
Continue along the small street that led you to the market and soon you’ll be window shopping in some of the most exclusive stores in all of France. Places that are jam-packed with the latest designs from Paris and so expensive that if you have to ask the price, well, maybe you don’t belong. These shops sell sunglasses for $200 – knockoffs are sold in tacky harbor shops off the Quai Jean Jaures, where the yachts are anchored, for a tenth of that.
The town of St. Tropez dates back to the 11th century and started out as a tiny fishing village before growing into the terra cotta beauty it is today. Its relationship with the sea continues – many a cruise ship drops anchor just off shore and ferry a multitude of souvenir hunters to shore.
The first thing the visitors want to know is “where do the movie stars hang out.”
St. Tropez has lured its share of entertainers over the decades, but they are a rare breed here these days. The ones that still do show up, though, can be spotted sipping a drink at places like Le Gorille and Senequier.
The beaches here are not very nice – pebble stones line the shores closest to town so the best beaches are a car drive away from the port area.
Climb the small hill just outside town and get a breathtaking view of the port, surrounding hills and some naked women lying on a grassy knoll beside the beach. Hey, this is France, after all.
The town is filled with souvenir and bake shops but the best places to spend your money are the craft shops offering handmade products that are sure to become family heirlooms.
As you make your way back to the cruise ship that brought you to St. Tropez, be prepared to hold off an army of modern-day copy cat painters trying to sell you reproductions of Matisse’s best works.
That’s the price you pay when you visit St. Tropez.
- For more on St. Tropez and France, go to fraceguide.com
- Silversea and other major cruise lines include St. Tropez in their Mediterranean sailing. Go to silversea.com
for more information.