27th June 2019

Saint-Tropez

Long-time resident Brigitte Bardot recently referred to Pampelonne as having lost its soul.

In some ways she may be correct. However, we are confident it will get it back, albeit with a different character as Saint-Tropez moves further upmarket.

A sea view from Saint-Tropez

Pampelonne, that three-mile stretch of sand between the town of Saint-Tropez and the village of Ramatuelle, with its famous beach clubs and beach parties, has been the playground of the hedonistic and wealthy for many years. 2019 marks a number of significant changes.

No fewer than seven of the original beach clubs have gone. Tough new rules and restrictions imposed by the mayor of Ramatuelle mean that not all operators were fortunate enough to have been chosen to hold the new 11-year licences.

Tight guidelines include control of proximity to the sea, with an obligation for most to dismantle their structures at the end of the summer season and reinstate them at the beginning of the next. Permanent structures such as Tahiti, Moorea and Club 55 have been allowed to remain, whereas others, for example the newly located Cabane Bambou, had to be constructed further back from the sand with a boardwalk separating the restaurant from beach. Not everyone welcomes the changes.

Ecologically and environmentally the goal is to restore the beaches and the ocean plants and grasses, to encourage the return of nature and allow the wild landscape to breathe in winter.

Meanwhile, some of the palace hotels and brand names have moved in and secured concessions. Among them La Reserve and Byblos, with LouLou of Paris opening shortly.

We were in Saint-Tropez this past week. The town remains almost unchanged, with boules still played on Place des Lices and market days remaining on Tuesdays and Saturdays. We witnessed the spectacular religious procession of La Bravade, which takes place twice a year from the town’s church, and ogled at the yachts in the beautiful port while drinking espressos at La Guerite before the crowds of day trippers arrived. Yet a number of changes are afoot.

Bernard Arnault’s Cheval Blanc hotel brand has taken over La Residence de la Pinède and Jean-Michel Wilmotte has given it a makeover. The redesigned lobby and public areas are impressively chic, as are the completed rooms and suites that were ready for this season. The rest will be completed next year. The original restaurant remains in the same location and keeps its three Michelin stars but the layout is changed and it feels lighter and more contemporary. A new state-of-the-art spa on the lower level of the hotel is for serious pampering and well-being.

While the property is undeniably luxurious and much slicker and more considered than before, it feels a little formal and lacks the spirit of Saint-Tropez. And we have never loved its location on the approach road into town facing the busy Gulf of Saint-Tropez and Bouillabaisse Beach. However, for devotees of the expanding Cheval Blanc brand, and those seeking manicured luxury with high levels of service and excellent cuisine, it delivers exceedingly well.

La Reserve
For peace, privacy, a beautiful out of town setting with a choice of suite or villa, this is the hotel to choose. Located in Ramatuelle between Cap Camarat and Cap Taillat, some five miles from the centre of Saint-Tropez, you are away from all the action yet it is accessible enough when you want it. Beautiful rocky coastal views, lovely outdoor and indoor pools, an excellent spa and staff to transport you everywhere, La Reserve makes for a sublimely relaxing experience. Let us choose the right suite or one of the sea-facing villas and you won’t be disappointed.

Le Byblos
Saint-Tropez’ iconic hotel, occupying the finest location beneath the citadel at the heart of the village, has hardly changed in style and character since its 1967 opening. Yet every year it is upgraded and improved with subtle changes.

We have been fairly regular guests for a good part of the hotel’s life and have come to know many of the staff, who have remained in service and become like old friends. It is this which gives the property its soul and personality. You come to the Byblos because you want to be a part of the action. It all kind of starts here.

Architect Jacques Couëlle’s design created a miniature village of brightly coloured houses surrounding a gorgeous pool. Breakfast and lunch are taken poolside. There are no time restrictions – a mark of luxury. Frederic will take care of your poolside sunlounger, the wonderful bar team bring your drinks, a round-the-clock navette service will transport you to the beaches. Come dusk and everyone gathers on the terrace for an aperitivo, after which there are the excellent dining options of Le B or the large patio of Cucina where the wood-fired pizzas are superb. On Friday and Saturday evenings, and nightly in the high high season, the famous and not-so-famous dance and sip Champagne at Les Caves du Roy, an institution among nightclubs. Le Byblos really knows how to do parties.

Accommodations need to be selected carefully and we have our favourites. Get it right and you will love living the Saint-Tropez dream at this exceptionally well-run property.

While many love to declare that Saint-Tropez is over, preferring Mykonos, Ibiza, Capri, Bodrum and Costa Smeralda, we disagree. We love them all. However, while for some Saint-Tropez may go in and out of fashion, for others it has never gone away. Its real estate prices may be falling, and a number of its original beach clubs decreasing, yet the only north-facing resort town on the Mediterranean coast of France is eternal and will always hold a place among the cognoscenti. However, you really need to know Saint-Tropez, when to come, where to stay and dine and how to do it in style. We know it exceedingly well.

If you are not yet a part of the Nota Bene world, contact Elizabeth Mowbray and find out about becoming a private client.

Enjoy summer 2019.