Brigitte Bardot put it on the map; Yves Montand came here every year and played boule with the locals; gentry from all over the world docked at the port, descending from their yachts into the numerous restaurants and bars on offer. The clientele on the sun beaches was like a Who is Who of show business. Movies were made here and Louis de Funès became a household name in many European countries as the town’s gendarme battling both local nudists and visiting aliens.
Welcome to St. Tropez, a former fishing village turned playground for the rich and famous and the many wannabes. At first sight, it is not as luxurious as, for example, Monte Carlo, and does not have the required 10-star hotels. What it does have is a lot of charm, small cobblestone streets snaking through hills and cool restaurants. The port is packed with yachts of all shapes and sizes and the tourists overwhelm the streets during the peak summer months.
If you are into celebrity watching, then start your day by having a coffee at Café de Paris in the port, you may run into somebody famous (or they might run into you). Numerous sandy beaches are nearby (Nikki Beach is the famous) and you can choose between the free public ones or pay for entry and get a sun-bed with a sun-umbrella (generous, isn’t it?). Lunch is best taken at one of the beach restaurants so as not to break up the tanning routine.
The evening is made for jiving in town, have dinner at one of the restaurants piled up next to each other. We opted for Rendez-Vous and had some excellent sushi. Then off to a disco, night club or bar, depends on your preference (and age). As our readers might suspect, Hanna opted for the bar. Alex tagged along.
St. Tropez is a fun place to spend a vacation; the only drawback is that the nearest airport in Nice is almost a two-hour drive. Unless, of course, you have a yacht, then just find a place to dock and join the party!
If you ever decide to visit Monte Carlo in Monaco, come well prepared. And we are not talking about passport, toothbrush and other obvious items. You have to be prepared money-wise. And we mean seriously well-heeled. Here is one example: breakfast at a cafe, including coffee, juice (sure, it was fresh) and croissant (not so fresh) for two persons can easily leave you 70 dollars shorter. If this doesn’t scare the h*ll out of you, go ahead and read how you can have an absolutely fabulous time in Monte Carlo.
1. Have a leisurely breakfast (until you see the bill) at Cafe de Paris. This is a trademark place for people-watching outside the casino. It is supposedly a venue where the rich and famous discuss the latest fashion trends and decide when and where to go for dinner but we call it tourist a trap.
2. Have a swim and enjoy the sunny weather at the Monte Carlo Beach. However, nothing is for free (at least not in Monte Carlo) and as the title suggests, we remind you to keep plenty of cash handy if you want refreshments, watermelon, wine and other goodies served to you. The entrance fee to the beach is 120 Euros. After a few laps in the sea, we suggest you venture off to the nearby restaurant La Vigie for a nice and relaxing buffet lunch while enjoying the view of the sea and the surrounding mountains from the terrace.
3. In the afternoon, visit the Monaco Oceanographic Museum, which, by the way, for 30 years was directed by explorer Jacques Cousteau. Enjoy the aquarium with some incredible species and take photos of the sharks (remember flash is not allowed). Sounds like only for kids? Then you should have seen us running around with big smiles on our faces (as if we just finished second grade).
4. Continue enjoying “Joix de vivre” (if you still have money left on your account) and have dinner at Louis XV – Alain Ducasse restaurant inside Hotel de Paris. A 3 star Michelin establishment that will make the most high maintenance celebrity speechless. A true delight (of course)!
5. Cap off the night by visiting the classic Monte Carlo Casino for some one-armed bandit antics, black jack or roulette. It is one of the best known casinos in the world, however, be warned. Don’t go here to try winning back all the money you spent on the beach, cafes and restaurants during the day. Decide your limit beforehand or just walk around and suck in the atmosphere. It may not look as romantic as you might have imagined (at least we didn’t see any James Bond or George Clooney look-a-likes dressed in tuxedos). The place is instead packed with tourists and the lights are on full blast. Not exactly cozy, but on the other hand, since when do high-rollers ask for cozy?
Bottom line, if you feel like partying with the rich and famous, in exchange for some serious money, don’t miss Monte Carlo – the place to see and be seen!
Where to lodge in Monte Carlo? Read our review: Hotel de Paris.