At Oscar time, it seems appropriate to pay a visit to Saint-Tropez, the playground of film stars and jet-setters. It’s located between Marseilles and Cannes on the Côte d’Azur. In the 15th Century, Saint-Tropez was a military bastion, but by the beginning of the 20th, it was only a sleepy fishing town. After the war, Saint-Tropez was discovered by the Nouvelle Vague crowd. Brigitte Bardot was “discovered” in Saint-Trop’ for the movie And God Created Woman. Less sexy, but just as iconic, were the Louis de Funès Gendarme comedies filmed here in the 60s and 70s.
Saint-Tropez is the town where people come to be seen. The biggest yachts pull right up to the quay-side restaurants with the crew standing to attention in crisp uniforms. The Bentleys, Ferraris, and Rolls Royces are as numerous as Priuses in my town. I went there with a friend who used to be a chief-steward on one of those yachts. One day, she had to drive her boss’s Bentley through Saint-Tropez, with the side-view mirrors just clearing the buildings on both sides of the narrow street. She also took me to a small restaurant on a side-street where the food was just as good as the waterfront eateries at half the price. Speaking of food, the local specialty is called a Tarte Tropezienne. It’s actually not a tarte (pie) at all, but rather a cream-filled brioche.
Today’s expression, c’est beau à voir (seh bow ah vwar) means “it’s beautiful to see.” That applies to Saint-Tropez, even if you don’t run into any of the beautiful people while you’re there.