When planning your next vacation, consider a trip to the French
Riviera. Although it’s famous for being a playground for the jet set,
its miles of white sandy beaches, and gourmet food that is as much of a
treat for the eyes as it is for the palette, the French Riviera has
much more to offer.
Take St. Tropez for example. Known as one of
the “jewels of the French Riviera”, St. Tropez is a beautiful and busy
seaside village that grew up in the 50s and 60s after being discovered
by Hollywood. (Roger Vadim’s “And God Created Woman” was responsible
for launching both Brigit Bardot’s acting career and St. Tropez into a
mecca for the rich and famous).
But long before St. Tropez was
discovered by Hollywood, it was also a favorite place to live and work
for some of the world’s best known artists and sculptors. There is just
something about the light here that makes it different from everywhere
else along the Mediterranean Sea – it shimmers like a pearl that’s been
dipped in gold.
You’ll feel like you’ve walked into a picture
postcard when you take a walk along the the pier and watch the sun
sinking into the azure blue waters of the Med. It paints the sky with
the colors of ripe apricots, old gold and ruby red. A playful breeze
pulls at the jewel-colored awnings above the sidewalk cafes, and the
evening air is fragrant with jasmine and mimosa. And when you see the
pastel colored houses with the red-tiled roofs, colorful flowers
spilling out of window boxes and balconies, and the trim wooden sailing
boats with their tall masts bobbing gently next to sleek, black and
white yachts, don’t be surprised if your “inner artist” wants to come
out and do a little painting too.
St. Tropez is still one of the
favorite vacation spots of the “tres chic.” Walk through the open-air
market in the Place des Lices (it’s open on Tuesday and Saturday
mornings), and you’ll hear accents from all over the world.
International stars of stage and screen come to see and be seen, and
you never know who you’ll catch sight of while enjoying a cup of coffee
or glass of wine at one of the many outdoor cafes. In fact, people
watching is one of the favorite pastimes here, especially during the
spring and summer months, when the sidewalks and narrow winding roads
are crowded with tourists and sun worshippers.
The beaches of St.
Tropez are almost as famous as the village itself. Arguably the most
famous is the “Plage de Pampelonne” which offers almost 5 km of glaring
white sand, exotic boutiques, tiny sidewalk cafes and elegant
restaurants. If you want to rub elbows with the “beautiful people,”
stop in at Club 55 after dark for a drink and a little dancing.
the north end of St. Tropez, you’ll find the “Plage de Tahiti” which is
another well-known haunt of famous – and infamous – celebrities. It’s
always crowded, so go early if you want to find a place to stake a
claim and lay your towel for the day.
Other beaches that offer
breathtaking views, and great places to cool off in the Med are the
Bouillabaisse, Baneliers and Salins beaches. Or head south past the
Plage de Pampelonne to Cap Camart, and just beyond it – a little less
accessible but much less crowded because of it – are the “Plage de
l’Escalet” and the “Plage de la Briande.” And if you’re feeling
adventurous and really want to get away from the crowds, go a little
further south until you reach “Gigaro” – a truly beautiful beach and
the village of La Croix Valmer.
All together, there are over 40
beaches in this area of the French Riviera alone, so if you want to lay
in the sun, soaking up the rays during your vacation, you won’t have to
visit the same beach twice. But if your taste runs to the more
adventurous or active, then you’ve still come to the right place for
your French Riviera vacation! You’ll can find all of these activities
(and more) here: Amusement parks, biking, boating, golf, hiking,
tennis, raquetball, several fitness centers, fishing, horseback riding,
miniature golf, surfing, swimming, snorkleing/scuba diving,
windsurfing, para-sailing, jet-skiing, sailing, etc. And hang onto your
credit cards, because the shopping here is out-of-this-world! You can
find a little bit of everything from the very inexpensive to the very,
very expensive and luxurious.
And if you enjoy a good meal, then
dining on the French Riviera is an experience to be savored. From the
tiny sidewalk cafes, where the owner is just as likely to be your chef,
to the fabulous three and four – star restaurants, eating has been
raised to an art form. You’ll find the food is always fresh, using the
finest ingredients of the season, and presented so that it looks as
beautiful as it tastes. (And don’t even think about rushing through a
meal. Here food is savored and enjoyed, and your waiter will never try
to rush you.)
When you’re tired of soaking up the sun, move
inside and soak up a little culture instead. St. Tropez is home to some
unique museums, avant guard art galleries and there are special
concerts, exhibits and special events scheduled year round.
A few places that should not be missed include:
The “Musee de l’Annoncaide”
(Place Georges Grammont, near the harbor). The museum is housed in the
former chapel of the Annonciade. It opened in 1995 and now contains one
of the best modern art collections in the entire Riviera. Many of the
paintings on permanent exhibt are of St. Tropez itself, but there are
also paintings by artists such as Seurat and Matisse that make it well
worth the visit. Other artists who are spotlighted include Bonnard,
Braque, Dufy, Utrillo, Derain and Maillol.
The Open Air Market
(Place de Lices) Open on Tuesday and Saturday mornings, the open-air
market is a fun and interesting way to spend a few hours. You’ll want
to sample some of the amazing fresh fruits and vegetables, haggle with
the street venders and maybe pick up a souvenir or two. Bring your
camera, and don’t forget to keep an eye out for celebrities!
Le Quartier de la Ponche
is the old part of the city. It’s easy to get lost wandering around the
narrow twisted streets and back alleys, although if you do, just stop
and ask for directions – even people who don’t speak a word of English
understand the word “harbor” and will be happy to explain how you get
back.) And you’ll enjoy exploring the shops and houses that are solid
reminders of the days before St. Tropez became “hip.”
(Rue de la Citadelle) is a memorial to the days when St. Tropez meant
more to sea captains and admirals than to the sun worshippers of today.
There are scale models of cannons and ships, old photos of the town,
and a wide variety of interesting little oddities. The museum is a part
of the Citadel, a structure dating back to the 1500s. (And if you get
hungry during your visit, the Citadelle is a great place to take a
break and have a light picnic lunch as well!)
La Maison de Papillons
(Rue Etienne Berry) Papillon is the French word for butterfly. The
“House of Butterflies” is one of the most incredible places to visit in
St. Tropez. It houses over 4,500 different species of butterflies,
including some that are almost extinct.
When you’re wandering
around St. Tropez, don’t forget the nearby hills and mountains. Two of
the small medieval villages that are worth exploring are Eze and St.
Paul de Vence, now populated by artisans and crafts people. Or if you
prefer, plan a trip to nearby Roquebune, with its castle that goes back
to the days of Charlemagne. La Turbee offersvistors a look at Roman
ruins and monuments – and is a vibrant testimony to the strength and
power of the Roman Empire of the past.
No matter how long you
choose to stay, you’ll find it difficult to tear yourself away from the
beauty and excitement of St. Tropez. Even before you leave, don’t be
surprised if you’re already planning to come back.
Antier, an American writer living in the French Riviera invites you to
learn all about the best places to go and things to do if you’re
planning a vacation here! Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you
can make it an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide