?History and culture collide with world-class shopping and dining in St Tropez - helping this coastal resort tick all the boxes for a chic summer escape. Once an unassuming fishing village, St Tropez transformed after WWII due to the influx of artists of the French New Wave in cinema. The breathtaking beaches coupled with the loose promise of a celebrity sighting continue to make it a must-visit for the European jet set and tourists searching for a little Provenc?al authenticity.? - ROSALEEN MCMEEL, editor
THE LUXURY BASE
If you prefer to escape from the business of the harbour at high season, dotted with row upon row of ?look at me? yachts, to discover a quieter, more discreet side to life on the Riviera, head straight to Villa Marie (villamarie.fr). Overlooking the beautiful turquoise bay of Pampelonne, hiding in the St Tropez hills, this charming Sibuet family-labelled villa is surrounded by three hectares of pinewood. There is nothing shouty about this property. In fact, if it wasn't for the impeccably trained and attentive staff, you could easily mistake it for someone's chic summer home. The beauty of this particular accommodation is all in the details. Stylish rooms boast private terraces with superb views and are uniquely decorated with touches of Mediterranean refinement. Madame Jocelyne Sibuet, a leading French interior designer, is the creative mind behind the decorative touches, having adorned the villa with a mixture of artfully placed objets and attractive painted furniture.
The overall effect is more private house than hotel, offering a peaceful haven away from a busy world. Book a massage at the Pure Altitude micro spa (en.pure-altitude.com), then savour a tomato, burrata and pesto salad with a glass of rose? at one of the shaded tables by the pool, which boasts panoramic vistas of the bay. Rooms start from €290 on
a B&B basis and the hotel reopens on May 4.
You'll find big-ticket brand-name boutiques dotted around the village, which are usually only seen in the more upmarket districts of Paris, London or Rome. If top-end shopping is where your heart lies, be sure to stop off for refreshments at Dior des Lices, a sunny restaurant with tables scattered in the garden of an early 20th century villa, which houses the Dior brand. On the menu: fresh starters made from Provenc?al tomatoes, cucumbers and local melons. Or opt for the afternoon tea, which features the D?choux, a Dior-labelled choux bun. At the other end of the spectrum, the main shopping event in St Tropez is the morning market on the Place des Lices every Tuesday and Saturday. Most of Provenc?al agriculture is laid out across the stalls, and vintage stalls offer designer jewels and accessories at more realistic prices. Handcrafted soap and embroidered bags of lavender make beautifully fragrant souvenirs.
You'll be spoilt for choice with picture-perfect beaches around St Tropez, but it's Pampelonne beach that has fuelled the area's fame since the 1950s. In high summer, it can welcome up to 30,000 people a day. The beach's infamous clubs will ensure a luxury seaside experience to remember. Le Club 55 (club55.fr) is one of the most notorious, yet discreet options, with the choicest clientele of politicians, rock stars, businessmen, and models. Endearingly, the management of Le Club 55 reserves a section of the restaurant for true locals and no amount of money can ?buy? these tables. Don't expect cashmere throws and gold plated sunbeds, the appeal lies not just in the club's discreet staff, but in its eccentricities and simple, wooden cabanas that have barely changed since the crew of the film And God Created Woman used one of the cabins as a kitchen in 1955, giving the club its name. Next door, Riva Plage, Pampelonne's newest club, is vying to compete with longer established family businesses, and succeeding. Again, you'll need a healthy credit rating to while away the day, as daily charges for the hiring of loungers, mattresses and parasols start at €30.
THE SUNDOWN TIPPLE
When the sun starts to set, connoisseurs flock to the heart of the coastal village to enjoy a glass of rose? on the balcony of the Sube, a yacht club-style hotel bar. This outpost has very few seats, so being fashionably late won't work in your favour. But the extra effort will be worth it, as you'll find yourself positioned in an ideal viewing spot, where you can watch life go by, from the comings and goings of the yachts to the glamorous visitors and locals strolling by below. Alternatively, head to the equally popular Se?ne?quier (senequier.com) for its famous terrace lining the harbour.
Trope?ziens have traded on their sexy image ever since its most infamous resident, Brigitte Bardot, made it a jet-set favourite. Yet there is a serene side to this village too. Stroll through the cobbled lanes up towards the citadel that sits high above the village of St Tropez. Built in the early 1600s, the gateway is an impressive relief by Paul Landowski, featuring a ship's cannon that is ready for action. This foreboding fortress now houses the Muse?e d?Histoire Maritime (Museum of Maritime History) in the space that was formerly the citadel's dungeons. Later, meander in the old fishing quarter of La Ponche, sip pastis at a Place des Lices cafe?, watch old men play pe?tanque, or walk in solitary splendour from beach to beach along the coastal path. In late September, the super yachts depart for the Caribbean, leaving the old port filled with the truly elegant sailing yachts ahead of the Les Voiles de St Tropez - a regatta which sees a varied fleet of over 300 classic and modern yachts compete. The ensuing battle in the bay is a visual spectacle you'll never forget.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of IMAGE, on shelves now.