Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

by Stephanie Block

If life is made up of choices, then St. Tropez is life at its most choice. From the yacht-studded harbor to one of the most famous nightclubs on the Riviera, who knew that this quiet fishing village could put the ay yi yi in high season? The purrr in supermodel?

But if you don’t have a yacht, sailboat, private jet or chauffeured car, your purrs will soon turn to grrrowls. Because what chiefly strikes the non-accoutremented traveler is the logistical difficulties that the city presents.

Do you know the way to St. Tropez? The train only goes as far as St. Raphael, and from there you must either take a bus, a $200 Mercedes taxi ride, or a ferry. Helicopter? From Monte Carlo it costs about a whopping $700. It is almost as if, perish the thought, St. Tropez didn’t want the rag tag masses at its door! Do you get that feeling?

Okay, now let’s say you’ve miraculously found your way to St. Tropez. You have the town on one end and the beaches on the other. The town is charming with a great market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and cafés along the harbor promenade. The beaches are right on the Med and boast the likes of Brigitte Bardot and a house that was Hemingway’s. Obviously, you want to be two places at once. You want to be playa-side during the day and you want to hit the town in the evening. Good luck!

St. Tropez only has about 7 taxis, and the current rate from town to the beach is $20 one way. You heard me! I got stranded in town, I won’t say how, and in the morning, I needed to get back to my beach-side hotel. At nine in the morning, zee little taxi stand, she was empty. I had a coffee, still in my party dress, and considered my options. I took to begging/ hitchhiking, not a very Tropez thing to do. A lovely Frenchman took pity on me and drove me back to my hotel for free. But I couldn’t always rely on the kindness of strangers, could I?

So what is my recommendation? Stay in town! Stay in the lovely town. Find a hotel with a pool, for the love of convenience! Take a day when you’re feeling very motivated and adventurous, and have that single day be your beach day. For us yacht-less, chauffer-less masses, the thing about St. Tropez is that you have to make choices. Dine at Spoon or sup on the beach at sunset? Shop till you drop or work on that tan by the pool at Byblos? Champagne or rosé? Yes, St. Tropez can make life very difficult sometimes…

Logistics aside, St. Tropez is like that hot restaurant that makes you wait an hour for a table- because it can! And who wouldn’t pay $200 to find yourself amid the winding, cobbled streets of this old fishing village with orange tiled roofs and aquamarine shutters that wink at you, rigorously preserved by a dedicated mayor? Where the tall masts of sailboats stand at attention like a bobbing forest of wood and rope. Where hotels like Byblos serve up the good life on a golden platter to their each and every guest. Yes, even you, oh yacht-less one! As the general manager of Byblos put it, “If you want to reach paradise, you have to make a little effort!”

But the thing about St. Tropez is that sometimes yachts are woefully passé. When the throbbing sails of the Giraglia Rolex Cup boats are in port, their same-shirted windswept crews dashing bow and aft like polo pirates- tan, nimble, and babbling Romance languages- one tends to forget the slow grind of yacht engines in favor of the silent power of kept winds.

Another St. Tropezienne choice is whether to arrive during high or low season. Low season (mid-April to mid-October less high season) finds a certain calm before the supercilious storm. The Rolex Cup and other races lilt in and out of port, and you can hear village life rambling quietly around you.

High season (July 10 – August 20) hits like a glittering tornado. The party kicks into high gear, and suddenly the streets and clubs and bars and docks are jammed with fabulousness. This is the St. Tropez of legend pulsating with a galaxy of international stars, flush playpeople, and champagne selling by the magnum.

The Do’s of St. Tropez:

DO STAY AT HOTEL BYBLOS. That’s all you need to know.

Do see about reciprocity and a letter of introduction if you belong to a flying or yacht club or some other private or sporting club.

Do approach the lapelled guards at the gangplanks of mind-blowing yachts and ask questions. They won’t tell you who’s on board, but you can learn a lot about how the other half lives at sea.

Do dress nicely in St. Tropez. It is a lovely place for lovely people.

Do attend the market in the Place des Lices on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. Do bring cash.

Do throw calories to the wind and indulge in the most famous local pastry, La Tarte Tropezienne, invented by Brigitte Bardot.

Do pay attention to the special events that St. Tropez has to offer. Famous regattas like the Giraglia Rolex Cup and Les Voiles de St.-Tropez abound, as well as polo matches, film festivals, art exhibits, and more. See www.ot-saint-tropez.com for details. Byblos, too, has its share of concerts and charity events, so be sure to consult the hotel’s concierge.

Darling, do charm your way onto some seaworthy vessel at some point during your stay. A true Diva doesn’t need to own a boat to luxuriate on one.

Spotlight: Hotel Byblos

Oh Byblos, famous Byblos. Just another chic hotel? The name derives from a famous Lebanese city- does the magic translate? Mais oui! With its legends of partying zillionaires and a humbly handsome fourth-generation son at its helm, Hotel Byblos is one of the world’s most special hotels. St. Tropez without Byblos would be like Paris without the Ritz or L.A. without the Beverly Hills Hotel, a destination without its gilded historical compass that scores of jetsetters consult each passing season. As general manager Antoine Chevanne insists: “We found the place- you make the story.”

The 95 room property’s cozy, wandering Mediterranean luxury has a typical provincial feel thanks to Antoine’s mother, a former dermatologist turned hotelier who is not only CEO of the family’s company but is in charge of its look as well. Décor that would drive even rock star Mick Jagger to get hitched to Bianca here once upon a time. You can often find mama Mireille passing through the corridors, and Antoine says that the reason “you feel a certain warmth, a certain soul” here is because the hotel is controlled by a woman.

Of the 95 rooms, the Suite Riviera is the most choice, a prime piece of real estate just above the pool. It was on this suite’s balcony recently that a group of hopelessly romantic Italian men, upon spotting a beautiful woman sunbathing below, threw roses down to the applauding delight of pool goers.

Other hotel amenities include, oh, an Alain Ducasse restaurant, Spoon, with names like Philippe Starck and Patrick Jouin attached to it, and the ultimate nightclub, Les Caves du Roy.

Les Caves du Roy: The Nightclub of All Riviera Nightclubs

While it’s true that with every renovation, Hotel Byblos stays abreast of the latest luxuries, there is one fixture that never gets pulled down- the electric palm trees inside Les Caves du Roy. None of the superstars, rockstars, or models would stand for losing them. Another impregnable force here is the far from camera shy resident DJ Jack E., as well as a signature champagne by the house that Dom built.

For 12,000 Euros, you can experience Byblos by Dom Pérignon, a limited edition launched at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. This is the world’s most expensive jeroboam of champagne! Draped in white gold like a gown plunging from its neck down its glass hips, it begs to be conspicuously consumed. And so it will be! There is this leeetle ritual that accompanies it: the club’s lights go down (palm trees and all), the first notes of the James Bond theme start to play, and suddenly your champagne emerges exploding with fire and sparklers! You will then find yourself with the unenviable task of fighting off thirsty supermodels. Unless you order enough for everyone.

For a little less, you can still experience a champagne extravaganza with the Byblove, a seductive potion of champagne, peach nectar, Cointreau, strawberry syrup and other blushingly secret ingredients.

To bring that Les Caves du Roy feeling home with you, pick up a copy of the Byblos CD, released every year just before the Cannes Film Festival in May. Pretend Jack E. is setting the tempo even back in Tampa.

St. Tropez According to Byblos’ Humbly Handsome GM:

Antoine Chevanne holds a PhD in both economics and shy charisma, and is gushing with creative ideas and inventions. Did I mention he can cook, too? It was a pleasure doing business with him on my visit, forced as I was to share with him a gourmet three-course, mix and match concept dinner at Spoon.

“I’m much more open minded than four years ago when I first took over,” he says, sipping the wine paired with our latest dish. “Here at Byblos, you are not in a classical palace- you are on holiday. People want to relax; people want a smile. The staff is not stuck up, and the management must be open minded- people ask for crazy things. The policy is to allow everything unless it interferes with others’ freedoms. You can always meet interesting people here.”

“If you are the queen of England or it’s your first time, you get the same consideration from the staff. That is what Byblos is all about. We have high standards for food and security, but we are not as strict as a palace.”

“We are a dream maker- it’s a lot of work. It’s like I’m traveling all year long- they come to me. Beautiful friendly people who like to party, all friends. Byblos is a village inside a village.”

If by village he means a gathering of international fantasticos… Antoine says that July is typically an American month, and August 1- 15 is when most Italians arrive. The French, the English, and South Americans also coming a-frolicking.

Byblos By is Antoine’s latest concept, an irresistible catalog of cool merchandise including a clothing and bathing suit line by Paris designer Capucine Puerari. Available only at the hotel or on the hotel’s website.

Four Days In St. Tropez According To Antoine:

Four days is about right for St. Tropez. A Wednesday or Thursday arrival staying through the weekend is ideal because you can taste the city’s two personalities. During the week you can enjoy the village and on the weekend, you can party! You’ll get it all in: Les Caves du Roy, the market, and extra time to shop, swim, or just sleep it off.

And while you might assume that this joli GM who loves cigar and shoe magazines is a high season playboy, he definitely has a surprisingly soft spot for St. Tropez during low season.

Antoine Says Don’t Miss:

Having a coffee at Café Sénéquier during low season when you can chat with the locals.

The famous Pampelonne Beach and its Voile Rouge where toplessness was introduced.

Nikki beach- a Miami-like concept. You can party all day here and then hit Les Caves du Roy.

Club 55, Pampelonne Beach, which is an institution- crowded at high and low seasons.

Tahiti Beach which has the best food.

The shopping scattered throughout the village. Museums too. And the Citadelle.

* * * *

The bottom line is that St. Tropez’s Hotel Byblos, unbelievably jetset as it is, is also safe and friendly. Family owned and run, it engenders familiarity. Many of the clients are regulars, and they often know one another. The staff, too, is a family of its own, many of whom have been at the hotel for years. And if they don’t recognize you from last year, you will definitely be on friendly terms with the Byblos staff by the time you leave.

That is why Byblos is perfect for the solo Diva- you will always feel protected and secure at this vogue village. There is plenty of security to keep trouble at bay, but just enough attractive staff-members and fascinating friends to be made to keep things interesting.

For More Information:

Le Byblos St. Tropez

Avenue Paul Signac

Saint Tropez 83990, France

Service Réservation:

tel: + 33 (0) 49 4 56 68 00

fax: + 33 (0) 49 4 56 68 01

saint-tropez@byblos.com

There is also a Byblos Hotel in the French Alps resort town of Courchevel– when Byblos St. Tropez closes, wintertime at Courchevel begins! Most of the management and staff head to the slopes!

Hotel Byblos des Neiges

BP 98, Courchevel 73 122, France

www.byblos.com

* * * *

*Great deals are always available with low season incentives. *

!!Loo for September special!!

End the summer in style at Byblos! The La Dolce Vida package includes:

Rate: € 1195 (Euros (last time checked)) for three nights, fourth night free (VAT, service and City charges included)

Includes:

– Accommodations in a Deluxe Double Room

– Daily Buffet Breakfast

– Dinner for Two at Bayader or Spoon Byblos (one dinner, beverages not included)

– Cocktails for Two at the Byblos Bar (one cocktail per person)

– Chilled bottle of gourmet lemonade in room, upon arrival

So, allez allez au St. Tropez!

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