My gal pal, Denise (a food writer from Boston) had a swanky assignment in Saint Tropez and asked me to go along. Since I hadn’t stepped foot on French soil yet, this would provide the perfect excuse to do so. I booked a flight on Air France, direct from Houston to Paris, and then into Nice. The hotel we were staying at, Chateau de la Messardiere, arranged for a driver to pick me up at the airport. The driver didn’t speak much English and I spoke just a little French, so the ride was humorous, to say the least.
I didn’t know too much about the Chateau, except that it is a Leading Hotel of the World, (which is code for too expensive for me to afford). I knew it was a luxurious place when the driver took me through the city center, up a hill, and through a gate. The meticulously manicured drive curved around statues and hidden groves while leading up to the main attraction, the Chateau itself.
The Chateau was built in the 19th century and is even believed to be haunted. The Chateau sits on 25 acres overlooking the Bay of Saint-Tropez, the vineyards of Ramatuelle, and the Mediterranean. It was restored in 1989 and now offers numerous rooms and suites, restaurants, and most recently a spa.
I had a chance to sit down with Gerald Hardy, guardian of this lovely hilltop haven. We enjoyed a few glasses of pink Champagne each evening, while Gerald educated me on the history of the Chateau, the future of the Chateau, and the protection of privacy given to each guest. He would not reveal the name of any person still living that frequents the hotel. What a classy gentleman!
The Three Tropeziennes
Of course, Denise and I had to explore the city of Saint-Tropez. We first stopped for a light lunch at Tropezina Beach, which has charging privileges at the hotel. We sat outside on wooden benches under red and white striped canopies overlooking the water. It was so Bridget Bardot. I loved it.
Lunch was followed by a stroll through the old city. We discovered a bakery that served Tarte Tropeziennes, which are little yellow cakes split and filled with a light creamy icing and then topped with powdered sugar. The only prior experience I had with these delights was from the local chain bakery La Madeleine.
Post dessert shopping was a discovery of a fashion icon – Tropezienne Sandals, which have been hand-made for generations. If I would have done my homework beforehand, I could have sent these shoe artists an outline of my feet, where they would have custom made these sandals just for me. Maybe next time I’ll have the chance to buy a pair.
Denise and I finished the afternoon with a stroll through an outdoor market, enjoying the smells of street food like Paella and watching old men play bocce ball. What I discovered during this trip is that Saint-Tropez is much more than celebrity pictures in magazines, it is a charming old city filled with history and culture waiting for the unsuspecting to find.