At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we enjoy the charming fishing port of St-Tropez.
Sit back and be inspired.
The charming fishing port of St-Tropez, which reached the height of international fame in the ‘swinging’ sixties, continues to attract the rich and famous. Although its hedonistic image has become a little stale, it remains one of the most seductive resorts of the entire Riviera.
It is fun to rub shoulders with the glitterati in the waterfront cafes, and to wonder at the grandiose yachts moored before the distinctive backdrop of pink and yellow pastel-hued houses, reconstructed after being destroyed in 1944. But take time to explore the maze of narrow streets and squares of old St-Tropez, where there is a village-like atmosphere with markets, chic boutiques and bistros.
The town has long been a popular meeting place for artists. Liszt and de Maupassant were its first celebrities in the 1880s, followed by the painter Signac a decade later. Soon the works of Matisse, Bonnard, Utrillo and Dufy were to immortalize the town on canvas. Painters were followed by an influx of writers between the wars – Colette, Cocteau and Anaïs Nin. Then in the 1950s it was the turn of the film stars, led by the famous Tropezienne, Brigitte Bardot, whose film Et Dieu Créa La Femme (1956) marked the start of a new, permissive era.
St-Tropez star studded list of residents includes Elton John, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Michelle Jarre and, everything here continues to be extravagant and decadent. Little wonder the French endearingly call it St ‘Trop’ (‘too much’)
St-Tropez owes much of its attraction to its gorgeous sandy beaches, for it was here that girls dared to bathe topless in the 1960s. In total, there is over 4 miles of enticing golden sand situated on the Baie de Pampelonne, neatly divided into individual beaches, each with a different character. In summer, there’s a frequent minibus to the bay from Place des Lices.
Les Graniers is the most crowded beach and within easy walking distance of the village; trendy Club 55 caters for the Paris set; Tahiti Plage was once the movie stars’ favourite (the original beach bar was constructed from an old film set) but nowadays star-spotters have more luck at the frivolous Voile Rouge. For privacy and seclusion, Plage de la Briande is considered by many to be the best beach in the region, situated halfway along the 12 miles’ coastal path that rounds the St-Tropez peninsula.
It’s worth visiting La Citadelle, a 16th century hilltop fortress for the view alone, which embraces the orange curved-tile roofs of St-Tropez old town, the dark and distant Maures and Esterel hills, and the shimmering blue of the bay, flecked with sails. The maritime museum in the citadel keep is an annexe of the Musee de la Marne in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. The museum displays models of ships (including a reconstruction of a Grecian galley), engravings and seascapes of St-Tropez, illustrating the town’s long and glorious history, up to the 1944 Alied landing that unfortunately destroyed much of the town.