Secret Life of a Nerd Girl: Carte Postale de St. Tropez
As most of you know, I’m living in (ok, near) Paris and trying my best to make like I’m a French girl. In the summer, particularly August, the Parisian thing to do is to leave Paris and head for the coast. The south of France is ideal of course, on the Mediterranean, but there is also the Atlantic Coast (Brittany) and the English Channel (the Normandy beaches are great for windsurfing). I suppose you could leave France too, but that’s not really done much. I am lucky enough to have wound up in St. Tropez, on the southern coast between Marseille and Nice, and since my brain is too sun-drenched to write anything meaningful this week, I thought I’d share some pics.
The history of St. Tropez goes back to the Roman Empire, but in recent centuries it was primarily a fishing village and military port, until artists and writers started to visit in the 1890s. A second wave of people came in the 1920s, then it blew up into what it is now in the 1950s. Brigitte Bardot is said to be responsible for the last wave of popularity, as all eyes were on her, and she has a house in St. Tropez. She’s still here, I got to see the gate to her villa. Impressed?
Now, St. Tropez is a well known tourist destination, though I’m pretty sure I first heard the name because of the tanning lotion. The streets are just wide enough for a bicycle to pass a Smart Car, and they’re packed with fancy restaurants, designer boutiques, and people dressed in as little as possible. St. Trop is especially accessible if you happen to be very rich. The taxis are Audis, Jaguars, and Mercedes, and the hotels (that look like motels) on the outskirts of the town center are 300€-400€ a night (current exchange rate of 1€ = $1.43). Everyone is looking at everyone else hoping they’re famous, but as of yet I’ve seen only one paparazzi (at the beach) and recognized no celebs.
White is really in here, and so are panama hats. Not to date myself, but I hear Robin Leach barking “playground of the rich and famous,” skipping like a broken record in my head whenever I walk along the port and see all the yachts and giant sailboats. I guess what I’m saying is, there is a classic feel here, St. Tropez hasn’t changed much over the years. I imagine this is the kind of place urban sprawl developpers are trying to emulate when they want to create a “luxury shopping experience” in, say, Santa Clarita, with a Mediteranean feel.
But even after 6 years in Los Angeles I can’t fathom the wealth here, and I don’t think I’m alone. The other day a crowd of 40 people stood dumbstruck in the street watching an enormous silver yacht dock at the port. I wasn’t watching, of course. I just happened to be there, eating my ice cream. I don’t care about that kind of stuff. Okay, I was slightly intrigued by the uniformed crew running about tying ropes and swinging inflated bumpers over the sides of the boat, and the mysterious Italian men (they had a flag) in outfits that cost more than a month’s pay, looking down on the crowd gazing up at them. I saw a young boy on one of those yachts and wondered what his life must be like, but all I could imagine were scenes from The Talented Mr. Ripley.
Don’t get me wrong, life is good for the little people of St. Tropez too. We go to the beach every day and the water is 80 degrees. We drink rosé with every meal (it’s a thing here), and in this heat, eating ice cream is even more rewarding. Unlike in Paris, there is air conditioning everywhere, which makes “window licking” (leche-vitre, French for window shopping) actually entertaining, but really the best thing to do here is to lie around doing nothing.
It’s good to be (almost) French.