The first port of call in St Tropez
A key focal point of St Tropez, frequented by the rich, the famous, the sleek and, as a result, also by gawpers of all nations. (Locals call them “ice-cream lickers”.)
On the harbour-side are the celebrated yachts – as big as the Ark Royal and all yelling: “Look at me!” in unison. As a St-Tropez tourism official told me recently: “People wouldn’t come if the yachts weren’t there, and the yachts wouldn’t come if the people weren’t there. They want to be seen.”
Across the Quai Jean-Jaurès, restaurants and café terraces line up to welcome the wealthy, so there’s a nice symmetry to the prom. The most famous café is the 120-year-old Sénéquier, equipped with red film-directors’ chairs and triangular little tables. Bruce Willis has been photographed there. So has everyone else you’ve ever heard of.
The statue just across the way is, incidentally, of the Bailli de Suffren, a St Tropez-born French naval commander who regularly crossed canons with the British in the 18th-century. The old boy is eternalised in metal melted down from artillery captured from our Royal Navy.
At the other end of the harbour, the shorter Quai Mistral ends at the Portalet Tower, once an important element in the village’s 16th-century defences.
But I doubt you’ll have history on your mind as you wander this stretch. It is the richest, most celebrated little port in Europe, the one where Brigitte Bardot was endlessly snapped in her beach buggy. The dazzle blinds you to the distant past (and also to the fact that it is, in truth, a pretty ordinary little port …)