St. Tropez, France
Nestled along the French Riveria and a short drive from Nice or Cannes, St. Tropez is one of the liveliest towns along the coast during the summer. Vacationers delight in the sandy beaches, culture, gourmet food and hot nightlife of St. Tropez. The wealthy Plage Port Grimaud is the best beach to see and to be seen lounging in a Burberry bikini. Plage de Tahiti is notorious for its "unspoken" clothing-optional policy and risque atmosphere.
The best beaches for families can be found at Plage de la Bouillabaisse, Plage des Graniers and Plage des Jumeaux, which also offer beachside playgrounds. Plage de Pampellone is 3 miles of beautiful beaches, bars and places to stop for snacks.
Not a beach person? Lunch like the French in a cozy cafe overlooking the harbor and take in the people and the ritzy yachts in the harbor. Prowl around the open-air markets for hidden antique treasures, break out the credit cards for shopping at the upscale boutiques, or curb your spending and settle on a quality bottle of olive oil or wine from Provence.
Visitors traveling on private or business airplanes can land just miles from St. Tropez at Saint-Tropez Air Developpement. Other guests may choose to fly into the airports at Nice or Toulon-Hyeres. Those hoping to take a train to St. Tropez from another destination may find a train into Gare des Arcs or Gare de Saint-Raphael.
Traffic-packed streets during weekends in the summer make parking and driving a nuisance. A better option might be to bring along your trendiest tennis shoes and explore the city on foot, by bike or on a scooter.
This region is packed with tourists in the summer making for crowded restaurants and highways. The best months to visit are June and September, when visitors can enjoy the beaches and nice summer weather away from the hordes; the last 2 weeks in July and the entire month of August are hot holiday time for French families and other Europeans on vacation.
As in most popular beach towns, the hottest hotels are also the most expensive. The Hotel Byblos and Residence de la Pinede both offer accommodations fit for a king -- and the palace-like dcor and high-end prices make this clear. The breezy Hotel La Ponche pays tribute to old-time St. Tropez and sits in the old fishing village overlooking the water. Though still on the expensive side, travelers on a stricter budget may look to the Hotel Ermitage or the modest Hotel Sube. It is important to call ahead for any accommodations as the town shuts down for the winter months; many of the hotels draw their shutters and close shop from October to April each year.
Provenciale cuisine has gained recognition outside of this region as Mediterranean food is celebrated from chic restaurants in New York to hidden gems in the middle of America. For a true Provenciale treat, try the dish that have made this cuisine famous: boullaibaise accompanied by a fine glass of burgundy or bourdeaux from a local vineyard. Foodies shouldn't leave town before indulging in dinner at gourmand Alain Ducasse's noted restaurant Spoon Byblos at the Hotel Byblos. Les Mouscardins is another well-known local restaurant serving up classic Proveciale cuisine in a glamorous setting, while Chez Maggi is a favorite with the locals.
While St. Tropez may seem to be all about glitz and glamour, it shouldn't be discounted as a great family vacation destination. The beaches are beautiful, the lifestyle laid-back, and the proximity on the famous Cote d'Azur of the French Riviera make it a great cultural venue. Keep in mind that as this little town handles its current surge in popularity, this also brings about crowded restaurants, crowded beaches and very crowded streets.
While you are there
Not for wallflowers, Les Caves du Roy at the Hotel Byblos is everything a trendy club should be with beautiful people, thumping music and a packed dance floor. Give in to Mixmaster DJ Jack-E's tunes on the floor, or pop the cork on the Cristal and take it all in -- you'll want to commit every last detail to memory, which might dull the pain when the credit card bill arrives.
An afternoon spent at the Musee de I'Annonciade, also known as Muse St-Tropez, can ease the pain of a rainy day. This museum houses a collection of modern art and includes pieces by such well-known artists as Matisse, Bonnard and Seurat.
To fake that you've been there
Fill a mini photo album with pictures from your vacation -- of the biggest yachts, the fastest cars and the hottest clubbers at the VIP Room. This is enough to make your friends drool.
Linking for a better vacation
For more information, visit St. Tropez's Tourism Board.