Var (83990) Population: 5,754 Altitude: 15 m
The seaside resort town Saint Tropez is still very popular with the tourists, although the jetset and the in-crowd have long since left it behind. Set on the lovely blue water of the Bay of Saint-Tropez, this modern version of a medieval town is most popular for the line of yachts along the quai, and the facing line of terrace cafés, divided by a parade of strolling tourists and slow cruising expensive cars. Market day Tue, Sat.
Behind the cafés, the small streets and old buildings are picturesque, but they're more popular for the multitude of shops and restaurants than historical significance. There are endless possibilities for buying gifts or items of proof that "you've been here".
Movie stars and other famous pretty people do pass through, 'though not so frequently as yesteryear. The most famous, of course, are insconced in the fabulous private estates set along the coast, protected from the curious eyes of all but those with the means to rent helicopters and light aircraft. Our late Princess Diana, for example, did spend the night in a local discotheque this August (1997), but it was closed to all but her private party.
The town's Office de Tourisme, located along the center of the main drag, is very active. The multilingual staff is friendly and helpful, and they have their own Internet web site. Excellent maps and informational brochures are available 7 days a week.
Place aux Herbes
This lively square has been a center of activity in St Tropez for centuries. Located one street behind the Quai Jean Jaures, past the Office de Tourisme, the Place aux Herbes is a busy little enclave of vegetable, fruit and flower stalls, and a favorite stop on our occassional Beyond visits.
Some of our photos here date from 1997, and our original text here we wrote about the same time (Beyond has been online since October 1995). We've found our text of St Tropez, and a few of the other Beyond towns. plagiarized on several other websites. While "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" (C.C. Colton [1878-1832]), we do find this outright theft objectionable.
Fête de la Bravade
A bravade (or "act of defiance"), originally a procession in honor of a town's patron saint, is now a colorful Provençal festival. The St Tropez bravade, every May, is one of the most famous, dating back to the 15th century. A bust of the patron saint is carried in a procession through the town with a guard of honor, with gun salvos, Provençal singing and dancing.
The beaches of St Tropez are mostly away from the center, and require transportation.
Nearby Beaches. A few beaches are located nearby to the west of the town, within reasonable walking distance. East of the town, the Plage des Graniers is in a little cove past the cemetery, a long walk or a short drive away. Further east, out the route des Salins, is the Plage des Cannebiers.
Cape Beaches. Out on the cape east of St Tropez are the beaches Plage de la Moutte and Plage des Salins.
Pampelonne-Ramatuelle Beaches. The most serious collection of beaches are along the Baie de Pampelonne, south of St Tropez and east of Ramatuelle. You'll need to drive out the D93 road from 3 to 6 km, then turn off to the left on one of the beach access roads.
The hills a bit away from St Tropez are fine, but the area immediately surrounding the town is pretty grim, and not pretty, especially in the summertime. The roads are lined with billboards, garish commerce and neon signs. During July and August, the route national N98 between St Tropez, Ste Maxime and almost to St Raphaël is a long narrow parking lot. As you sit in traffic, overheated, you have a view of other cars and trucks, pedestrians, people vainly trying to cross the road between campsites, cyclists, signs and hordes of other tourists.
In Saint Tropez? Yes, in Sept 2002 there were a couple of cases of people being bitten by foxes, in a housing estate area of the town and at the Malheribes quarter of Gassin. In both cases, it seems, the previous occupants of rental housing had been feeding local foxes. When the foxes came around for their usual hand-outs, coming right into the kitchens, the new occupants tried to chase them away, and met a bit of agression rather than the expected fear.
Saint Tropez is located in the heart of the Esterel and the Massif des Maures, still nicely wild in spite of the seaside resort towns. There are actually far fewer foxes now that a few years ago, and it is still legal to hunt them here.
The English writer and actor Dirk Bogarde lived in Saint Tropez at some time in his life.
Market day: Tue, Sat.
Daily Fish Market, Place aux Herbes
May - La Bravade de Saint Tropez - Traditional Provençal festival of St Tropez for over 440 years.
June - Bravades Espagnols - traditional festival parade with costumes, celebrating a 1637 victory over 21 attacking galleries.
June - Fete de la Saint-Pierre (patron of the fishermen). procession with flambeaux.
Sep (Beg) - Fetes des Vendanges - grape harvest festival
• GPS: 43.270183, 6.610985
IGN (1/25,000) #3545 OT "St. Tropez, Ste. Maxime, Massif des Maures"
For a seaside tourist town, there's surprisingly good hiking not too far away.
• The GR51 (Balcony of the Cote d'Azur) passes by between Cogolin and Port Grimaud; it crosses the busy N98 road east of Cogolin, about 7 km west of St Tropez. The roads and traffic are pretty grim around here, so you'll want some transportation out to the trail.
• North of Cogolin, the GR51 goes up into the beautiful forested hills of the Maures, with many branching trails and hiking possibilities. The connecting GR9, for example, goes through La Garde-Freinet.
• South of Cogolin, the GR51 crosses the peninsula west of Gassin and follows the hills along the coast past La Lavandou and Bormes-les-Mimosas before turning north again.
Coastal Hiking Le Sentier du littoral is a seaside trail that goes from the town of St Tropez, around the entire peninsula, passing all the beaches and capes, to the village of Cavalaire-sur-Mer. Variations allow shorter loops.
• St Tropez to Plage de Tahiti - 12.5 km, 3h30. This takes you around the coast past the Cap de St-Tropez to the northern end of the Plage de Pampelonne. Here you could walk straight back to town (3 km), or continue on.
• Plage de Tahiti to Bonne Terrasse - 5 km, 1h30. This takes you along the Plage de Pampelonne almost to Cap Camarat.
• Cap Camarat to Cavalaire - 19 km, 5h45. The trail around the southern part of the peninsula ends at Cavalaire-sur-Mer. It's 18 km by road from St Tropez; check with the Office de Tourisme for bus information.
St Tropez is in the area of the Côte de Provence wines. There are several vineyards around St Tropez and nearby Gassin that offer wine tasting along with their wares. (see Provence Wines)
Cyclilng. There's a cycling path along a good part of the coast along here, along side the busy road; St Tropez, Port Grimaud, towards Ste Maxime.