Everyone has heard of St Tropez. But wherein lies its charm? The simple fact that when in St Tropez, one must enjoy oneself! In St Tropez, all inhabitants and visitors do as they please and how they please. And of course, St Tropez has an amazing, celebrity filled history..
St Tropez is a Provincial town on the French Riviera which was a military stronghold and fishing village until the beginning of this century. During the 1920’s St Tropez began to attract famous fashion icons such as Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli. In the 1950’s it became a pleasure hub for the rich and famous and has remained so ever since.
It all began with Brigitte Bardot (featured above with her then husband Roger Vadim), who made the little French seaside town her favourite beach haunt, and following her appearance in ‘And God Created Woman’, St Tropez would never be the same again. French and foreign celebrities could be seen playing ‘petanque’ (a form of ‘boules‘) on Place des Lices, the central square in St Tropez where the locals play petanque and every Tuesday and Saturday there is an open market with local produce. Greta Garbo has made a number of appearances at St Tropez accompanied by Massimo Gargia, her lover at the time. St Tropez is where the music group The Gipsy Kings embarked on their career, playing in cafés and restaurants, performing their flamenco tinged music which is now known worldwide.
And French novelist Francoise Sagan immortalised this classic little French town in her best known semi-auto biographical novel Bonjour Tristesse in 1954 about the of pleasure-driven 17-year-old Cécile, in particular her relationship with her boyfriend and her adulterous, playboy father. Her book was made into a movie with David Niven, Deborah Kerr and Jean Seberg as the precocious Cécile.
And the legend of famous ‘must visit’ places, mostly located on the beach, was born. Club 55 (’55 is the year the club was created) is a notable beach club with its packed terrace and similarly popular beach dotted with umbrellas and mattresses for those who wish to bronze or rest after an – often endless – rosé fuelled lunch. The story goes that Roger Vadim and his film crew drove past 55 when it was only a tiny beach cabin and asked if they could provide meals for 80 people while shooting a movie. The owners agreed and so Club 55’s succesful career was launched.
St Tropez’s jewel in the crown of nightlife is Les Caves du Roy, Hotel Byblos’ famous nightclub, whose mistress of ceremonies and door-woman was the lovely Jacqueline Veyssiére. Hotel Byblos was opened in 1967, attended by Brigitte Bardot and her husband Gunter Sachs, Francoise Sagan, Juliette Greco, Michelle Piccoli, Eddy Barclay and many more illuminaries. Byblos becomes ‘the place to see and be seen’ at its many party’s around the pool and in Les Caves du Roy. After Mick and Bianca Jagger held their wedding reception in Café des Arts, their wedding night was spent right here in Hotel Byblos.
Nowadays it is celebrities like top models Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell who frequent this little haven of pleasure – and peace when outside high season – on the Cote d’Azur. Tanned, and be-jewelled women sit on the decks of super yachts moored side by side in the tiny port of st tropez like sardines in a can, looking down at passers by over the rims of their designer glasses. Hip-hop stars and fashion moguls share tables at the famous Sénéquier Café, ferrari’s roll in and the papparazzi descend on this little village to get those high-prized snaps of famous faces such as: Johnny Halliday, Georgio Armani, Karl Lagerfeld, Elton John, Bono, Sting, Jack Nicholson, Leonardo di Caprio and so on..
But St Tropez does not forget its former star-visitors easily:
In 2005 the 17th-century citadel overlooking the town a soiree payed tribute to Françoise Sagan, author of “Bonjour Tristesse” and a former habitué of St.-Tropez who died the year before. Eddie Barclay, a French music producer whose singers included Jacques Brel, Dalida and Charles Aznavour, always in a white suit, was the first to throw ‘white parties’ – Quincy Jones, Barbra Streisand, Sophia Loren – at st tropez, which are continued now well after his death in 2005.
Other than the places already mentioned and highlighted above, here follow some more suggestions, including old and young(er) establishments in St Tropez, but all of them have that ‘celebrity’ factor in common. For more information on all venues mentioned in this article check out our French Riviera Guide.
Where to Stay:
L’Ermitage ‘vintage chic’ – exuding old charm St Tropez yet achingly hip created by Paris personality André, and visited by the likes of Kate Moss, Lily Allen and Lenny Kravitz
Le Yaca ‘private charm of yesteryear’ – since 1948 this understatedly elegant hotel, with a gorgeous courtyard garden and discreet staff, former home of famous writer Colette has received Orson Welles, Errol Flynn and Greta Garbo and many more classic stars
La Réserve ‘Secret refuge, exceptional spa’ – with endless ocean views and a spa which is visited by the who’s who that come to St Tropez
Château de la Messardière ‘grand Anglo-Moorish style’ – the sumptuous setting for Johnny and Adeline Hallyday’s wedding in 1992
Where to Eat:
The Banh-Hoi ‘private, exotic’ – one of Karl Lagerfeld’s preferred restaurants in St Tropez, tucked away on a tiny romantic street specialising in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine
Le Café De Paris ‘to see and be seen’ – a little overrun by tourists, but in prime position on the port since 1930
Rivea ‘high-end dining’ – One of the world’s best chefs Alain Ducasse’ restaurant (formerly Spoon) at Hotel Byblos
Le Quai ‘bar/club/restaurant par excellence’ – splendid sushi, excellent music and beautiful people combined with a brilliant harbour view
VIP Room ‘famous sophisticated nightclub’ – attracting famous performers, jet-setter guests and celebrities such as Bono, Jay-Z and Beyonce
To get in the mood for St Tropez, or to experience a little bit of St Tropez without going there, here are some famous St Tropez films:
And God Created Woman – Brigitte Bardot, Jean Louis Trintignant
Bonjour Tristesse – David Niven, Jean Seberg, Deborah Kerr
La Chamade – Michel Piccoli, Catherine Deneuve
La Piscine – Romy Schneider, Alain Delon
Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez – Louis de Funès
So when you visit St Tropez, you must remember its history as well as take pleasure in its current evervescence.. Enjoy!