Love in the winter
Too many people, too many cars and far too hot: In the middle of summer Saint-Tropez can be a complete nightmare. In the winter, though, the famous ex-fishing village presents a more tranquil face to the world. Lots of sunshine, the first tender shoots of green and courteous people. It’s enough to warm your heart!
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My love affair with Saint-Tropez has lasted for almost twenty years. In the beginning, like everyone else, I came here only in the summer. Then I received an invitation to an intimate little birthday party in mid-February and the sender had added an enticing little postscript: "The mimosa are in bloom, so don’t forget your sun cream." I couldn’t believe it, but that’s exactly how it was.
Since that trip I have packed my suitcase every year in February, when weather-related depression peaks in our more northern climes.
The moment I step into my favorite bar at the Place des Lices and am greeted with a friendly "Bonjour Madame, a cup of coffee?," I enter a state of complete contentment and bliss.
The square bubbles with atmosphere, it is relaxed and beautiful in its own unspectacular way. Just a little square, of the type you find in any small town in the South of France. But in Saint-Tropez many things are just that little bit different, and that’s why I love the Place des Lices...
Evocative squares and secluded bays
Twice a week on market day an unassuming but delightful marché provençal full of local flavor is held on Place de Lices. On other days you’ll hear the easy-going clack of the pétanque balls
Pampelonne bay, this section of which is near the legendary Club 55 beach restaurant, is a popular spot to sunbathe in the summer. The kilometer-long beach is almost entirely empty in the winter months
A couple of boats bob by the docks in Vieux Port, the old port, and somewhere a fisherman is mending his nets. A picturesque ending to a perfect day
Pleasant hotels and a relaxed afternoon in the café
Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth once stayed in this romantic hideaway on a side street in the old town. The hotel consists of four buildings grouped around a garden with a pool.
1 Boulevard d’Aumale, Tel. +33-494/55 81 00, www.hotel-le-yaca.fr
This hotel opened in 2006. It’s owned by expat Britons, as you can tell by the comfortable, English country-style atmosphere and design.
61 Avenue du Général Leclerc, Tel. +33-498/12 56 50, www.pastis-st-tropez.com
Café de Paris:
Sit back on the terrace of this café in the harbor and you’ll be perfectly positioned to catch some mild winter sun while a waiter serves you tasty Oriental delicacies. This is your chance because the Café de Paris is usually hopelessly overrun in the summertime.
Quai Suffren, Tel. +33-494/97 00 56, www.cafedeparis.fr
La Maison Blanche:
This chic little boutique hotel is right on Place des Lices. At first glance it may look like an elegant private villa, but don’t be bashful, walk right in.
Place des Lices, Tel. +33-494/97 52 66, www.hotellamaisonblanche.com
A cozy bistro right above the café. It serves Provençal specialties like stuffed sardines as well as steak.
7 Rue des Commerçants, Tel. +33-494/97 01 25, www.christophe-leroy.com
This traditional café is one of the oldest in Saint-Tropez. The food is authentic and the atmosphere is, too.
Place des Lices, Tel. +33-494/974469, www.lecafe.fr
A lively beach restaurant that serves simple food like salads and grilled fish. For desert, try a delicious berry tart.
Boulevard Patch, Plage de Pampelonne, Tel. +33-494/55 55 55
Musée de l’Annonciade:
Go to the second floor of this pretty museum on the waterfront for an exhibition of art from 1890 to 1950. Many of the paintings are by artists who lived and worked in Saint-Tropez at the beginning of the 20th century, among them Paul Signac, Henri Matisse and Albert Marquet.
Quai de l’Epi, Tel. +33-494/17 84 10
Don’t miss the large market held on Place des Lices every Tuesday and Sunday morning. It has stalls selling fruit and vegetables, honey and jams as well as kitchen equipment, clothing and all kinds of souvenirs.
Pictures: Mauritius Images (2), Giraudou/Bilderberg, Forestier/Corbis, Look-foto, PR (2)