Trip Report: St Tropez

Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 07:37 AM
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Trip Report: St Tropez

I have just posted this again because I have no idea how the title got changed in my other post, which ended up being a half sentence....the mysteries of the computer


Howdy y'all

I just had to use that salutation. We got home late Sunday night
after sitting on runway at JFK for about 3 hours in the blazing sun
listening to a Delta pilot (from Atlanta no doubt) giving updates on
our takeoff status every 5 minutes at 74 decibels over the PA. Gee, he
sure sounded happy to be there! I could have done without the
travelogue like "wow, I bet thare (spelled as pronounced) are 48
planes in front of us!" "Hah! I can't even SEE our runway from
here!", "We have to taxi 45 minutes just to git in that long ol'
line!" I was about 10 minutes away from pulling the emergency exit
and riding the inflatable slide directly to a NYC jail cell. I KNOW
the law, and in jail they can't crank the heat, strap you in a tiny
uncomfortable seat next to hundreds of strangers of varied and
infrequent bathing habits, deny you access to the bathroom, and
regularly bombard you with over loud pointless messages that make you
grind your teeth to a fine dust. But even this couldn't spoil a fantastic 3 weeks on the cote d'azure.


BACKGROUND

We bought the most expensive tickets to Nice, there just were not any
sales, believe me. I checked for months. We chose the best route from
San Francisco via NYC, minimal connection times, $1550 each.
The days of $600 tickets to Europe are certainly over for us.
We traveled from June23rd to July 13th


The exchange rate was a killer. We stayed in an apartment for three
weeks to cut costs. It was the high and super high (like high isn't
enough) seasons so it averaged out to about $200 a day, not cheap. Groceries
were about the same price as in SF but the price of a coke lite at a cafe
was outrageous, once it was 7euro!!! Fortunately, I love rosé which
is cheap.

We rented a car from AutoEurope which gave us National. I called
Autoeurope with a quote from Gumet and they matched it. We have
always rented from Autoeurope and were glad that they met the price,
$600 for 19days.

Our apartment was in Port Grimaud at the Hotel Suffren, a one
bedroom, although the bedroom was in a loft.

http://www.hotel-suffren-port-grimau...page_en_1.html

We found this location to be absolutely perfect for visiting St Tropez
and all the surrounding areas. It is a beautiful little town
consisting of canals, no cars allowed, very peaceful and quiet. The
only negative thing I have to say is there really isn't much local
color in the stores and restaurant, it seemed very touristy. We
enjoyed it and whole heartily recommend the town as well as the Hotel,
which has 19 rooms and 6 apartments. The staff couldn't have been any
nicer, considering everything that happened.

The apartment was air conditioned as are the hotel rooms. It was in
the high 90's and we certainly needed it. The hotel provides free
parking which saved a fortune! If you didn't want to drive you could
take the ferry over to St Tropez or St Maxine, although the round trip
cost was 11E. It was well worth it on market days what with the
horrible traffic and parking cost in ST.

We are a couple in our 50's meeting up with good friends in their 40's
with two children. Ellen (E) comes here for two months every summer and
stays in her family's home in Font Mourier, about 3k from Port
Girmaud. After a week and a half her other friends joined us with
their 4 children, so at times we are a caravan of 6 adults and 6
children. We have traveled to France many many times, but never in
June/July. It was crowded but manageable. I wouldn't come any later in summer. It would be so much more crowed and too HOT!

OK, enough background!

Here is a list of all the places that we didn't find the time to see
Nice, St Paul, Vence, Aix , Cassis, the Lavender fields, Gorges du loop
and Gorges Verdun, Rothschild Villa, Antibes, Tourette sur Loup, Abby de
Senanque...so...this is mostly a trip report on St. Tropez and a few
mishaps along the way.

Let me just say here that the Roman Empire at its height had nothing over St Tropez.

The first two weeks we did nothing but visit the beaches in St. Tropez. At every one, from the most expensive, Club 55, to the public beaches at Gigiro and Le Esteral
it was hot and muggy. Being from SF we just couldn't cope with the heat while touring towns so we stayed on the beaches. . We tried one day to tour but we couldn't leave the air conditioned car for more than 5 mins. So unfortunately we only saw a handful of towns, mostly within a few kilometers of Port Grimaud. Also, with all the kids (18 months to 10 years) touring is problematic. Didn't have too many gourmet moments this trip.

BUTů..


I absolutely fell in love with St Tropez, which is a good thing
considering we went almost nowhere else. I didn't expect this. I much prefer small out of the way places, lots of locals, few tourists. Well, St Tropez isn't that, but it really is a spectacle. Great window shopping, friendly people, great market days.St Tropez has th absolute best market, if you can only go to one, this is it, on Sun and I think Wed. The port was a total surprise. Boats the size of the Queen Mary, or just about! And I'm not talking about a few boats; I'm talking about hundreds over the course of three weeks. I was fascinated with the boats, the people who came and went on them, the free live
entertainment of watching them have dinner on the back deck, with their big screen TVs on that everyone in port could watch, some very inept crews trying to park the boats and the sheer beauty of most of them. The people driving around the port in Bentley, Rolls and Ferrari's were just as amazing. I became a gawker.

This is also the place to be if you are young and beautiful. The parties on the boats as well as in the clubs was also a spectacle. the boat parties started earlier, the clubs seem to get going around midnight until about 5am. This is definitely the place to dress up and be seen.

When you tire of the port extravaganza the next best things are the private
beaches. For 20E you can have a chaise lounge and an umbrella and watch all the action at the beach and on the yachts anchored offshore. These boats anchor at the buoys off the beaches and the passengers are chauffeured into the dock in whaleboats and zodiacs to come to Club 55 and Tahiti Beach and have their 3 hour lunches or 4 hours of cocktails. The rich and wannabe famous then do a weaving cat walk back down the dock to be ferried back to their yachts, trying to not fall in the water on their way.

The boats were enormous, a MANY had private helicopters. Some hadn't heard about the gas crisis and flew their helicopters off the yachts the 300 yards to the landing pad for lunch! They all had ski boats, wave runners and zodiacs on the back of the
boats. We looked up on line how much these boats cost to charter or buy, and it's true, if you have to ask the price you can't afford it! The top of the line yachts cost about 60million euros, and charter for 100,000 euros a day, vraiment! I've never seen anything like it, hundreds of boats!

The Beach Clubs:

Loved Tahiti Beach Club, but everyone has their favorites. E loves Club 55. Up and down the Pampolone there are about 20+ all with their own spin. Tahiti was just the right mix of young and old. We fit in just fine, the beach and water were the best here, the people watching (gawking) couldn't be beat. I loved the acceptance of semi-nudity. It truly was refreshing. I wish young people in the US were more accepting of their bodies, everyone looked great, more or less. People wore everything from a one piece (me) to the smallest of a g-string, some wore it better than others. The only one I will comment on was the elderly lady (70+), topless, who held a small dog under her arm to rest a very saggy breast on...priceless! She could have used a second dog.


The food here was very expensive and not very good. After having a 7E coke, the worst salad ever in France and a 5E Popsicle, we brought our own sandwiches from the bakery, but I don't think this is what you are suppose to do. The music is great in the afternoon as is the fashion show of all the swim suits/cover-ups.


E loves Club 55 which we also went to. Again, 20E for the matlia, but this is just a backrest and a pad, not a chair. The water here was rougher and churned up with streaks of seaweed and debris, not my favorite, but this place is absolutely all about the scene and restaurant and not the water! We did eat at the restaurant, twice, our friends treat. The setting was spectacular as was the gawking, I mean people watching. The food was truly the worst I have ever had anywhere and at a price I won't even mention. It was a fun experience, something you don't do every day, but don't come for the food! I did had a good 18E artichoke, yes one artichoke, just to give you an idea of the prices. Unfortunately we saw no celebs either day.

The public beaches are a great reprise from all the bling bling. You just can't do the club scene every day. They are clean and just as beautiful and weren't very crowded. We bought beach chairs at the grocery store which cost less than our matlia's for one day!


We did a fabulous hike along the Plage d'Escalee. Drive all the way
into the paid parking, 4E, much easier and prettier to start the hike
here. There were great tide pools for the kids to play in, beautiful
little secluded beaches, many were totally nude here. The scenery
was gorgeous, unfortunately we did it in the heat of the day, the kids
threw up and we had heatstroke and dehydration by the end of it, well,
almost. Do it in the early morning, note to self.

There is a fabulous antique market in a field on Sundays. It is on
the road between Grimaud and St Maxine (D14), turn left at the restaurant Le Jas des Robert. Tons and tons and tons of stuff, great, good and bad, pretty good prices too. If you are into garage sales/antique hunting this is
certainly the place to find it. We wandered around the field for hours and didn't see everything.


One day we went for a ride, thinking of visiting some of the small towns, trying to follow Stu's itinerary of the area, which would have been great had we had a map. It was a beautiful ride, we endedup nowhere and everywhere , it was so hot we couldn't get out of the air conditioned car for more than 5 minutes at a time....back to the beaches.

We did visit the towns of Grimaud, Ramatuelle and Gassin which are all lovely hill towns. We only saw them in the evening when the sun went down. They were charming with gorgeous views.

The clothes down here are fabulous, light cotton free flowing and cool, nothing like we have in SF, and
relatively cheap considering the exchange rate. I bought a few dresses and tops, everything is in white,so so comfortable.

Did I mention that pink is a big color here, especially for the men, looks great
with a tan. E did some white laundry for us (mixed in a few reds and now all of our whites are a lovely shade of pink, including
my DH's underwear, which isn't such a popular color for straight men in SF! I hear
there is a ball that you throw in with your laundry when this happens and it removes the pink, I'll get back to you on how that works out.

We did have one or /two small accidents. What would vacation be without accidents? We have been in motorcycle accidents, fallen off of barges in the canals, and lost many side-view mirrors, but nothing quite like these ones, which actually left us
both completely healthy this time. Because of the heat, I have been freezing our bottled waters in the apartment freezer and taking them to the beaches, they stay cold most of the day this way. Well, one fell out of the freezer when I opened it up, fell down onto the glass shelf over the veggie bin which cracked into huge shards of sharp glass that we removed carefully with only one small cut on the finger. Oh well, SH&*@T happens, tell the girl at the desk and move on. The same night we decide to eat in after a long day at the beach, I'll cook some pasta and mix it with egg and cheese and some leftover sausages from the market. I have been in the apartment almost two weeks at this point and haven't turned on the burners yet. I'm sure it is an induction stove with this painted glass cover...I turn the burner to high, but it isn't as quick as other induction burners I have used, no problem, not in any hurry, I wait and wait for the water to boil, eventually just put the pasta in the pot and it does cook to a nice al dente in about 20 mins, drain it and sauce it, take it out to the balcony for a nice romantic dinner overlooking the canals.......A HUGE EXPLOSION in the kitchen, we run inside and see tempered glass in a million and one pieces EVERYWHERE.


Oh my, it wasn't an induction stove, it was a glass cover over regular
burners!! My husband cleans up
all the glass, we now have a garbage can full of about 60lbs of broken
glass. I go back down to the
desk to inform them, again, that we broke something major. I feel
sick, I am so glad that it didn't happen when I was in the kitchen cooking otherwise I would be blind right now! The manager,
Veronique, who we have become friendly with, and I now get into a huge
laughfest, neither one can stop laughing, we can't look at each other, she says I'm not having a good day. A couple comes in and says
"Bonne nuit" and we burst into laughter again, no, it is not a bonne
nuit for me. I ask Veronique if this means that I will not be getting my 10% discount...again the laughfest!

Ok, I still have one more week here, hope it's an uneventful one! But
of course it isn't!


On the second to last day of our vacation we finally take a trip, to
Avignon and then to Pernes les Fontaine to meet up with old friends, our landlords from a trip 4 years ago. We are up early and out by 8ish and in Avignon by 11. It was a spectacular day to be there. Their theater season which lasts one month had just started and everywhere we walked there were actors promoting their plays, comedy routines, songs and dances, really a fun day and I only wish that we could have returned
to see some of the performances. In the late afternoon we drive over
to Pernes les Fontaines for cocktails and dinner. Our friends have a lovely rental unit with pool and pool house adjacent to their own home, which is how we met them. The rental is walled and gated and completely private. They also have a gite with two other apartments in St. Didier, if you are interested I can post a website for them.

After a great family meal in an outdoor restaurant in town we leave early, about 10:30, to get back home. We get on the A8 and before long it is at a complete stop. It is Bastille Day weekend so we figure it is holiday traffic...well we don't move for an hour. We then move 20 feet and stop for another hour. We listen to the
traffic station and learn that there was a huge chemical spill,

accident, fire, some or all of these, can't quite understand it all
but, we crawl along for another couple of hours until they herd
everyone off the freeway and we now have to make it about 65kilometers
on the back roads, at 3 in the morning, with ALL the other cars that
haven't run out of gas, physically or emotionally! We arrive back
about 6:45 in the morning and have to check out by 10! We skip the
beach the last day, boohoo!

So, although we hardly saw or did anything, we can't wait to return,
hopefully next year! It was a wonderful vacation.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------









susanna is offline  
Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 08:13 AM
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Great report! Port Grimaud is seldom mentioned, interesting to get your take on it.
The exploding glass incident sounds very scary and I wouldn't have been laughing--as you noted, someone could have been blinded. Or worse. Perhaps you should write a note to the hotel suggesting they instruct guests about removing the glass. Someone else may make the same mistake and not have the luck to be in another room.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 09:00 AM
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Thanks Susanna for a fun trip report! We'll be in St.Tropez a bit while we vacation in the Var. We have a 2 week gite rental, just outside of Correns, the first 2 weeks of September. You're tips will help alot!

I'm glad you had such a great time, without getting injured!

Are you sure about market day in St. Tropez? I need to check on the day of the week, since I thought it was on Tuesday and Saturday.

Thanks so much.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 09:29 AM
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Nice report susanna. I happen to love that area, though more of Grimaud and surroundings rather than the port.

Images2: Do you mind telling me if you found your gite near Correns through gite de france? We were in Cotignac, Salernes & surrounding areas a couple of weeks ago and it made me want to go back for a longer stay. BTW, it was because of your report about Christmas in Austria that we are spending the holidays this year in Germany/Austria. Thanks for that!!

Joy
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 09:37 AM
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My my my, it's been many a moon since I set foot in St.Tropez - your trip report was both hilarious and scary at the same time!

Thank you for enlightning us on the not so funny part of a holiday stay that ended well.
Port Grimaud is where we first had the most incredible "Moules Marinier" ever!

PS: Remind me never to fly Delta.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 09:40 AM
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Actually, the incident that closed the roads was a nuclear leak. Oh well!

Meanwhile the "people magazines" have been saying recently that all of the celebrities have deserted St Tropez this year, but nobody is quite sure yet where they have gone instead.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 09:43 AM
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Hi Joy,

I'm so glad I could be of help in your Christmas trip. It was so special for us last year. I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time! Wish we could return every year, but our families would frown on that!

Yes, I found the gite on Gites de France, but had to contact the owners directly. They don't book through the site, as other gites we've rented have. We haven't been to that exact area of France before so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the area. Brad and Angelina Pitt have bought their mansion there, I was shocked to find out recently. I guess there will be lots of media in the area. I was hoping for a quite stay!
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 01:00 PM
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B: the hotel did ask me if someone showed me how to use the stove, but, I was so jet lagged I missed that one key point.
K: nuclear leak, those would be words I don't know in french, I think that I'm happy for that.
I: yes, the market is Tuesday and Sunday, get there early and stay long, it's big and wonderful. Also the shops in town are very nice and not crowded during the market.
J: I too loved the area and will stay at a chambre d'hote next time, very close to Grimaud, but for a first time visitor to that area Port Grimaud was very easy stay in and get around. What are your favorite things in this area...for next year.
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 01:49 PM
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Oh susanna, that is a wonderful report of one of my favorites areas in the world. I have never been in June or July which I guess is just as well.

Loved your mishaps too, since you weren't hurt or blinded!
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Old Jul 22nd, 2008, 02:29 PM
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Hi Susanna,

great report. the cote d'azur is one of the [many] places on my "to do soon" list, so your information is very helpful.

so pleased you weren't injured. [i'm sure you were too]

BTW - did you have travel insurance?

regards, ann
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Old Jul 24th, 2008, 03:17 AM
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Hi susanna!

J: I too loved the area and will stay at a chambre d'hote next time, very close to Grimaud, but for a first time visitor to that area Port Grimaud was very easy stay in and get around. What are your favorite things in this area...for next year.

Oh many things. In Grimaud, you can visit the ruins of the chateau, the Romanesque chapelle of Saint Roch as well as the Museé des Arts et des Traditions Populaires. The village of La Garde Freinet has many art galleries + delicious chestnut ice-cream. Les Mayons, known for chestnut trees, sells gastronomic confitures and miels. You can also hike up the Chateau Maures where you can take some breathtaking views.Cogolin and Collobrieres also have many footpaths and are quite nice.Lots of ruins in these areas.

For beaches, we go to Gassin,La Croix Valmer or Cavalaire sur Mer. I also happen to like Ste Maxime very much, more than St Tropez, though St Tropez, off season, is quite lively too.

Hope these give you some ideas.
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 10:50 AM
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ttt =D>
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 11:01 AM
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"The exchange rate was a killer. We stayed in an apartment for three
weeks to cut costs. It was the high and super high (like high isn't
enough) seasons so it averaged out to about $200 a day, not cheap."

Susanna, since you're from SF, maybe you can help me. You felt that $200 was a lot to pay for a full apartment that opens out to the harbor in San Tropez. Can you find a similar apartment for me for that price in SF? (Don't forget with the 14% tax, that really means $175 a day). I'm really having a hard time finding anything that nice in SF for that price! The place in San Tropez sounds like a real bargain to me!
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 11:18 AM
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Neo: I believe the apartment is in Port Grimaud, facing the harbour, not in St Tropez proper....although the two are not that far from each other, hence susanna spent a lot of time in St Tropez.
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 11:44 AM
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Neo: What I meant was the exchange rate was a killer. I tend to do the run on sentence thingy.

Actually the apartment was pretty reasonable in Euros, it was 115 a night for the first part and 165 a night for the second part, which is way better than hotel prices, but, this was the first time that I experienced sticker shock when I saw the conversion. Considering that I had found a reasonably priced apartment in euros I was surprised to see it convert to $3870. And yes, it was in Port Grimaud not St Tropez.

If you are willing to stay in Sonoma I stay in a cute little one bedroom bungalow with pool for $1900 a month! http://www.vrbo.com/92323

I can also ask around for a rental in the city. I did have a client who had a cute little apartment above the Castro for about $100 a night, but she had to move recently for health issues. She had it registered with a b&b site, have you looking into that, many of them are actually apartments in homes.

Joy, thanks for the tips for next year. We did go to La Croix Vamere, it was lovely as was Grimaud, loved L'eclair (grocery store) in Coglin.

Ciao Coco!
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 11:55 AM
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How about this Neo:

http://www.anniescottage.com/index.html
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Old Jul 31st, 2008, 12:39 PM
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What? You are comparing a single room without a kitchen that doesn't allow cooking that is tucked behind a house with no view to a full apartment with kitchen and separate bedroom that opens to balcony on a bay of bobbing boats? Or am I misunderstanding what you had in San Tropez?

(By the way, Annie's cottage only has something like two days open in all of September and is just a single room in someone's house -- NOTHING like what I'd want. But thanks.)

Meanwhile I don't care how many of "our dollars" it takes to make one of "theirs". The only thing I care about exchange rate is the bottom line price -- in MY currency. I still say $200 a night for a full apartment with balcony right on the water in Port Grimaud including in the high season sounds like a bargain to me! I'd love to find something like that for that price right on the bay or even with a great view in San Francisco.
Trying to compare something in Somoma is like suggesting something not on the bay which would also be infinitely cheaper. Apples to apples.
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Old Aug 4th, 2008, 02:11 PM
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"She could have used a second dog"

LOL, susanna! If you are not an author, you need to rethink things. Very enjoyable, albeit it runway annoying and stove scary, report.
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