St. Tropez (Saint-Tropez)
St. Tropez comes with a big reputation – for hedonism and excess. Which is really quite ironic, for the resort town is named for a saint who defied the Roman Emperor Nero, a figure whose name is practically synonymous with excess. According to the story, Torpes, Nero’s highest steward, was converted to Christianity by Saint Paul himself, which infuriated Nero who had Torpes beheaded and set afloat on the Arno. But the Ligurian currents carried Torpes ashore at St. Tropez, where the locals made him their patron saint.
St. Tropez, possibly founded by the Phocean Greeks of Marseille, shared this region’s typically strife-riven history, with one group after another vying for its strategic bay. During the 19th century, it became an important naval and shipbuilding port.
However, if not for Roger Vadim and his young wife, Brigitte Bardot, St. Tropez might have remained just another sleepy seaside town. But after Vadim’s film And God Created Woman, made on location here, and Bardot’s decision to make the town her refuge for many years, movie stars, artists and jet-setters flooded in, followed by hordes of tourists.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, it really was possible to rub shoulders with the likes of Françoise Sagan, Alain Delon, Jean Seberg, French poet Jacques Prévert, or Picasso, while sipping pastis in a café or watching the boules players in the Place des Lices. But the movie star parade moved on long ago. Even Bardot famously flounced out of St. Tropez in the mid-1990s, complaining of drugs and villains.
St. Tropez may still be popular with flash celebrities – supermodels, TV stars, DJs, rap stars and assorted Eurotrash – but today they stay well hidden on private estates, on the fabulous yachts in the marina, or locked away in the VIP rooms of the more expensive nightclubs.
During the summer months, St. Tropez is hectic and crowded. Traffic jams are notorious and you could spend the better part of a weekend just trying to drive into the town. Come in the spring or fall (or even mid-winter, when the town adorns itself for Christmas) and you’ll have a better chance of seeing the charm that drew the beautiful people in the first place.
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