On what was to be our fourth trip to the most famous of all Provençal villages, I was determined to get our weekend visit to St. Tropez “right”.
Past trips had been memorable for all the wrong reasons… including one ill-timed winter outing where we were whipped-about by Mistral winds & doused by rain. A couple of overpriced cocktails, and a few fleeting glances at Gucci bags later, and we were back on the road.
And then there were our two summer visits, where we finally had a chance to bask in that glorious South of France sunshine…. along with what seemed like every other tourist on “the cote”. As any good resident will tell you, summertime is when St. Tropez comes alive – massive yachts, extravagant parties, and very, very high heels. Besides the spectacular people-watching (I can still see those pink platforms & barely there halter-tops), St. Tropez left me feeling a bit overwhelmed and underfed – with a small(ish) budget & sizable appetites, we had a difficult time finding our foodie niche.
This time, after a bit of research and a more realistic approach (there’s no Gucci’s in this girl’s future), we set out to experience more of the “charm” of this pretty town & less of its supersized glamour. Here are a few ideas for spending a savvy, budget-friendly day in St. Tropez:
1. Pack a picnic.
There are many great, quality restaurants in St. Tropez (including a lovely seafood one, Les Girelier), but if you’re looking to save some euros, not much beats a picnic along the sea. The drive up the coast is magnificent, so we made a quick detour at the (almost) deserted beach at Cavalaire for our picnic feast.
2. Do a DIY gelato crawl.
You’ll find plenty of gelaterias or glaciers in St. Tropez. Luckily, two of the best happen to be virtually side-by-side. While we’d tried well-known Barbarac on past trips, this visit we were quite taken my nearby Giovanni Gelateria. Call it a bit of Italian longing, but I think a heaping scoop of panna cotta caramel & Bacio gelato cures all that ails. Qu’est que c’est bon…
3. Take a walk on the port-side.
If you’re not just a teeny-bit awed by the massive boats making their home in the port of St. Tropez than I’d recommend making a beeline for the boutiques (or going back for more Bacio) and avoiding the port altogether. Port-side is basically yacht-side, as floating luxury-homes masquerading as “boats” greet you at every turn. Sure, it’s more than a little bling-bling …as the French would say… but it’s also part of the whole St. Trop’ experience. Plus, there’s some really fab artwork to enjoy in between star-sightings.
4. (Window) shop the boutiques.
Gucci, Dior, Fendi, the list of luxury brands is endless, but whether you can afford it or not, a quick browse around town is fun. You might even catch a sale on the famous tropezienne sandals – which we priced at over a 100 euros on Saturday. If you do, you know where to find me.
5. See and be seen at the cafés.
Bask in the sun, and enjoy a front row seat to some fantastic people watching, at St. Tropez’s cafés & brasseries. Senequier cafe is arguably the most famous, and most written about, but we had an equally enjoyable glass of wine at Café de Paris (skipping the €17 cocktails this time around).
6. Take-in a game of Petanque at the Place des Lices.
Besides having a really rockin’ Saturday market, the Place des Lices is famous for its petanque games & tournaments. Perhaps no where else in St. Tropez does it feel quite so “Provençal” as you turn back the clock and imagine what this “fishing village” must have been like before its ascent (descent?) to glamour.
7. Admire the views from the lighthouse.
Want a picture-perfect view of the port & village? Then head straight to the lighthouse with your camera at the ready. St. Tropez weather can be quite “changeable” as they say, prepare for dramatic color & light displays as captured on this spring day.
8. Pick up a perfect tarte tropezienne.
Impossible to go to St. Tropez without diving into a bit of creamy heaven known as the tarte tropezienne. Thankfully, they don’t make it difficult to find this local namesake, at it has its very own pâtisserie: La Tarte Tropezienne. Tartes range from petite to grande… and although I don’t think I could fit that big puff in my handbag, since you’ve saved so much on your low-cal St. Tropez day, feel free to splurge as needed.
To Learn More:
St. Tropez official tourism site.
St. Tropez guide on Lonely Planet.
Frommer’s guide to St. Tropez.
St. Tropez restaurants on Telegraph travel.