Brigitte Bardot arrived in Saint-Tropez with her then husband, the director Roger Vadim, to film ‘And God Created Woman’ in 1956, and transformed the peaceful fishing village overnight into a sizzling jet-set hotspot. Many celebrities had visited St Tropez: Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Errol Flynn and Greta Garbo all sipped cocktails at the starry club Aioli. But none had transformational impact of Brigitte.
She had fallen in love with what she called “it’s genuine charms… the mulberry trees, the sheep grazing in the scrubland; the mighty farmhouses smothered with bougainvillea which belonged to the wine producers, their vaulted cellars filled with barrels of maturing Provençal wine. Here, local people raised their poultry and kneaded their loaves, while fisherfolk in their tartans – small flat-bottomed skiffs with wide square russet-hued sails – returned with their nets full of the sea’s bounty”.
Tropeziens have thrived on their sexy image ever since: at the Vieux Port, yachts like spaceships jostle for millionaire moorings, and for every yacht, hundreds of tourists stroll by to admire them. 100,000 visitors a day in summer. All of this we expected based on our image of Saint-Tropez.
What we didn’t expect is the serene side to this village. Saint-Tropez has a mesmerizing quaint beauty. Cobbled lanes meander in the old fishing quarter; locals and visitors alike sip pastis at small cafes; and even we got caught up in watching the retirees play pétanque beneath plane trees on the square. Our new French friend, Laurent, gave us a scenic tour of the “rest of the peninsula,” away from the crowds at the harbor, and showed us his favorite secluded shores and nature preserves. Brigitte, we agree.
A view of Saint-Tropez with the morning sun. Like a sleepy village at this time of day. In fact, Saint-Tropez is known as both a quiet little town and a modern jet-set holiday target.
As with many ports on the French Rivieria, there were a number of of beautiful yachts in the marina.
Much of Saint-Tropez is a maze of beautiful little streets and alleys.
Little courtyards provide a break in the street patterns.
Climbing greenery added touches of charm.
At night, this street opens up with the outdoor tables of a dozen restaurants.
We thought the church tower would provide a reference point, but we lost sight of it as soon as we entered the maze of streets.
The rugged southeastern shore of the peninsula
About to travel to the Pyrenees to start our GR10 adventure. With her pack and hiking gear, Shauna provides a striking contrast to the boats in the harbor. But she bridges the gap with her sun bonnet-as-hiking hat.
Saint-Tropez from the ferry as we were leaving.