Forget the cliches of billionaires yachts and Champagne showers.
St Tropez is one of the most charming villages in France with a stunning beach strip.
The port and the village
Having practically grown up in Pampelonne, I have a particular relationship with this region and I want to re-established the truth about St Tropez.
It is a quintessential Provencal village with its port being the main attraction. You can start by walking along the port, buy the newspaper, have a coffee at Le Gorille or Senequier, even enjoy an icecream or visit the Hermes shop housed in a beautiful 'hotel particulier' near the Annonciade Museum.
Then get lost in the small cobbled streets behind the port: rue Allard and rue Gambetta for shopping, place de la Garonne, rue Aire du Chemin, rue du Portail Neuf for typical architecture, rue de la Citadelle where you can have a drink at Cafe Barock, the charming Place de l'Ormeau and the iconic pink and yellow church Notre Dame de l'Assomption, rue des Remparts towards La Ponche (the back stage of the village), and walk up to La Citadelle for magnificent views over the village and the sea.
The best beaches
The famous beaches of Saint Tropez are actually called Pampelonne Beach, a 4 km strip of blond sand lined with private beach clubs, public beaches and protective dunes. I am fortunate to have a flat in a small house right on that beach (near Club 55) : if you wish to get info about renting it, contact me.
Amongst my favourite ones are the elegant Key West, the mythical Club 55, made famous in 1955 by Brigitte Bardot who was shooting 'And God Created Woman' in the area..
Key West’s restaurant is one of the best in the region. Go for lunch or dinner. The tables are practically on the sand and the ‘loup de mer’ (the very coveted sea bass) is always fresh, simply cooked and excellent.
For lunch, La Cabane Bambou (also the name of the beach) is a lovely restaurant with soft retro decor of white wood and pale blue and a place for people watching.
For the best sunset spot, indulge in the puffy seats at Indie Beach towards the far East of Pampelonne bay.
On the rocks
If you feel more adventurous and want to avoid the crowds, here is a little secret. Drive towards Plage de l'Escalet. Keep driving on Avenue Cartaya down to the parking lot. Then walk your way down to the beach and use the hiking path, walking through the maquis to find your perfect spot on the rocks with turquoise sea for yourself. You will have a lovely view over Cap Taillat. It can get really hot so bring cold water and a hat.
If you don't want to the hiking and want to go straight to a little preserved beach, drive to Plage De Briande.
Must do's and insider's tips
Go for breakfast or apéritif at the iconic café Senequier, founded in 1953. Prices have become rather silly but coffee Next door, the ‘maison’ sweet shop features their signature nougat, which is divine and makes a great gift.
Get a pair or two of artisan iconic leather sandals from Rondini rue Georges Clémeanceau.
in Pampelonne, go for a pre-lunch drink or aperitif at Le Club 55. You can seat on the beige linen sofas at the entrance of the restaurant. I find it more fun and relaxed but also far cheaper !
Get the freshest fruits and vegetables at La Roseraie de Pampelonne on route des plages, right across Chateau des Marres.
Ramatuelle and Gassin are pure Provencal small villages and well worth a visit.
In Ramatuelle, go for a glass of rosé for apéritif at Café de l’Ormeau, a genuine local cafe - which we used to call 'bar-tabac' as these where the cafes where you could stop for a drink at the counter and buy your cigarettes, where things haven't changed much since its opening. Dine next door at Le Cigalon and go to the local bakery 'La Tarte Tropezienne' for the iconic tart - a sugar coated brioche filled with sweet whipped cream.
For those with a sweet tooth, la Maison des confitures in Gassin is a dream. All the flavours you can imagine and more…
For elegant ceramics, Trudon candles and other cool design objects, go to MV La maison du village rue du Centre.
The port and the village
Le Gorille / Senequier / Hermes / Place de l'Ormeau / La Citadelle / Place de la Garonne / Place des Lices
Pampelonne / Key West / Le Club 55 / Indie Beach / La Cabane Bambou
Must do's and tips
Breakfast at Senequier / Sandals at Rondini / Ice cream at Barbarak / Lunch or dinner at L'Esquinade / Fruits and Vege at La Roseraie de Pampelonne
Ramatuelle : Cafe de l'Ormeau, Le Cigalon, La Tarte Tropezienne / Gassin : La Maison des Confitures, MV La Maison du Village
Accommodation : I sometimes rent my flat on the beach, contact me to find out more.
June, early July and September are the best times to visit.
Go to the port early in the morning. You can enjoy a coffee or go to the market on Saturdays.
Traffic can be very heavy on 'la route des plages' between 6pm and 8pm in the summer months.