Saint-Tropez, Part II
Saint-Tropez is a town with tons of crazy stories. I’m still a little bit pissed on mum for not accepting the store that an oil sheikh wanted to buy for her as a gift in the 80s just because he could. It would have been nice to have a small family business on the French Riviera!
Nor did it sound so bad when my parents told me about the nights they spent partying with friends in the same sheikh’s luxury suite at the Saint-Tropez hip and luxury hotel, Byblos.
Or when they met the "Disc Jockey" Mike Davis, who according to the story was the cousin of jazz king Miles Davis, who invited them into all the nightclubs in the city while millionaires and celebrities were queuing outside.
However, some things change over time. Hotel Byblos, for example, is not the same place today as it was during the 80s when princes, billionaires and celebrities were the only ones who could afford to stay there. Today a single room becomes yours for "only" $1,000 per night, and the stars, princes and billionaires prefer to roll in their own superyacht.
If you plan to stay in a luxury hotel in the town during summer, you can expect to pay a lot, even for the basic hotels in the city you can expect at least €200 a night.
However, if you want to live like a king, you can rent a boat, like this one, for only €130 000 a week + expenses. YOLO!
Times were better when I was young, with my family staying in a small villa belonging to the hotel Les Chimeres costing only around €30 per night. We always stayed there when in Saint-Tropez during both my and my sister's childhood. The owners; Jean and Madeleine were good friends to my parents for many years, and the house was reserved for us every summer, probably even at a special price.
Les Chimeres, unfortunately, stood empty for several years after the owners passed away, but the hotel has now been renovated and goes under the name Pastis Hotel. A room here will now be yours for about €400 per night.
A good option if you want to spend a little more is Hôtel de Paris, the famous hotel which was closed for over ten years, finally reopening a few years ago and is probably the only hotel in the city with a rooftop pool. If you are traveling on a tight budget, you can instead choose Lou Cagnard or Villa les 4 Saisons, both perfect for families and still centrally located.
Nowadays we usually stay at Hotel des Lices, which is very central, has a pool and has that familiar feeling we are looking for when visiting the town. Since a pool was not our top priority for this trip we decided to investigate the Airbnb offering instead.
We chose a small apartment, centrally located and with free parking. The owner Julia met us on arrival, showed us the apartment and guided us to the parking spot. The apartment was on the bottom floor, a stone's throw from Place des Lices. It was light on for luxury but well located and close to everything. All you could need for a weekend in Saint-Tropez!
This trip was the first time I got to experience Saint-Tropez in a different light. Many restaurants had closed for the season, the superyachts were fewer, the artists who draw by the harbour were gone, and there wasn’t as many tourists. A rather dull feeling, to be honest, like people had found other destinations and that the town would never again be the same. An "it was better before" feeling swept over me that night, maybe I sound dramatic but you might recognise that feeling….
I woke up the next day, with the same thoughts in my head, and with the same feeling. Fortunately, a feeling that would soon disappear!
I set the alarm for 8 am, wanting to try to kill the dark thoughts by taking a sweep with the drone over the town at sunrise. I got a good feeling as soon as I left the apartment. The sun had just begun to rise, and a bit further away I could hear the familiar noise of people preparing for the Saturday market at Place des Lices.
For the first time, I felt like an ordinary village resident, an ordinary autumn day where I walked in the morning sun along the narrow alleys of the town centre. All negative thoughts were quickly forgotten.
I placed myself twenty meters from the apartment and sent up the drone in the air. WOW! The sun was up when I swept across the harbour that had just started to wake up to life. It’s hard not to fall even more in love when you see the city from above.
The clock turned nine, and the drone was replaced with the girlfriend. A walk of around 45 seconds and we were at the market. A place that had been opened twice weekly throughout my life and which is, therefore, a natural place to visit when in St-Tropez. A market where luxury and simplicity live in harmony and where people gather to find bargains. You cross between beach bags, olives, cashmere suits and linen pants. Whether you are looking for vintage models from Louis Vuitton, sunglasses for 5 euro apiece or a bag of olives soaked in garlic, you will find it here. An exceptional place!
The Winger eats Is there anything worse on a trip than being disappointed with the food? Not for me! Maybe even worse when you come back home and a friend says “but why didn't you eat there or there”, they have the best food! YOU could have told me before I went!
There are a lot of restaurants, bars and cafes in town; unfortunately, many are tourist traps, and it’s hard to navigate, searching for the best meal for the right buck! Stockholm and Sweden generally have a very high standard when it comes to food, so if you compare to the Swedish restaurant scene you may be disappointed. I will still try to guide you to my favourite places in the town though.
We start from the beginning with breakfast. I have not found anything that shines here, but a hotel breakfast at the centrally located Byblos or Hôtel de Paris is well suited as the first meal of the day.
And for lunch: If you prefer a finer lunch with white cloths, I think you should visit Dior des lices. Gourmet food and beautiful arrangements in the luxury designer's restaurant, however, do count on an expensive bill (check) at this place. Definitely worth it though. If your mode is fast food, I can recommend the burger at the Basilic Burger or a pizza at Pizzeria Brunos or L’Hysteria.
A bit further away and closer to the beaches in the Pampelonne area you will find my lunch favourite: Le Club 55. Although the restaurant is in Ramatuelle and not in St-Tropez, it is still worth mentioning. At Le Club 55 you will find nice vibes and great food, combined with the beautiful beach under your feet.
Don’t forget to book well in advance as the restaurant fills quickly due to celebrity spotting. If you do go, don’t forget to try the signature dish for a starter, the artichoke with aioli. The house Rosé "Le Club 55" is of a good standard and is also affordable, but if you prefer luxury brands, you will definitely find it here.
For dinner there are many great options, seafood is preferably eaten at Le Girelier or La Ponche, but if you would rather have a pasta then I recommend Canastel. If you see dinner as the start of the party you should instead head to L’Opera, La Quai or La Gioia.
If there is still room in the stomach after dinner and a dessert is on the wish list, I have three favourites. The classic option is to pass Barbarac, pick up some ice cream and take a walk along the harbour.
Alternatively number two is Crêperie Grand Mariner, which is the city's best crêperie. I have no other advice other than a big spoon of Nutella!
If you are looking to sit down and take it easy during the dessert, you should visit Sénéquier by the harbour. You sit in red "director chairs" and look out at the people walking past. A cafe/bar that has been a feature of this town as long as I can remember. Try the only affordable thing on the menu, the chocolate mousse. Don't be fooled by the text, "for two or more", this dessert is definitely not for two persons. A single portion can easily be for six or more, but hey, if you pay 30 euros for a bowl of chocolate mousse, it is best that it is a big bowl of mousse 😉.
If sweets are not for you and you prefer to round off the evening with a cocktail, I have two favourite spots for you. Either take a Moët mojito at White 1921 or a classic Old Fashioned in the piano bar at Hôtel Le Yaca. Both bars serve high-class cocktails.