Friday, July 11th
In the mid-afternoon, we dropped anchor in the Gulf of St. Tropez. When I was growing up in Kentucky in the 1950's, I knew little of France, but I had certainly heard of St. Tropez. When Brigit Bardot appeared, followed by the international jet set, the sleepy town was changed forever. Movie stars arrived, and then their fans. Photo spreads in Life Magazine completed the process. St. Tropez was internationally famous, and very crowded.
The crowds still come today, including 77 of us from the Star Clipper. In the harbor, one can find fishing boats, commercial craft, excursion boats and expensive yachts. Some of the yachts were magnificent, maintained year round by handsome boat boys. Others were considerably less extravagant. Many were being prepared for Friday night cocktails or dinners. These luxurious yachts dock with their sterns facing the public sidewalk and since the dining area is often in the stern of the ship, these wealthy folk were just a few yards from the passing public. However, they seemed totally oblivious to the many people staring or taking photos. The invisible masses.
We climbed the hill to the Citadel. High on a hill above the town, the old fortress offers a fine view of the town and the bay, but is otherwise unremarkable except for the peacocks that strut about the grounds.
The oldest part of St. Tropez, rising from the harbor was much quieter than the bustling port area. The narrow streets wind their way up and down, and are covered with great amounts of wisteria and bougainvillea. It is very beautiful at this time of year. A large crowd of celebrants were entering a 19th century church for a late afternoon wedding. Restaurants were setting up tables in the streets for the evening meal.
After the port, the most active place in town is the Place des Lices. The name can be translated as Place of Lists or Place of Jousts; in other words, where men signed a list to participate in jousts. Surrounded by cafes and restaurants, this is where locals come to eat, shop, visit or walk. The Place is shaded by scores of plane trees, many with hollow areas that are irresistible climbing places for young children. In the shade of the trees, old men play pétanque (boules). We had drinks at Le Café, and were cooled by a fine spray of mist blown over the tables. The cool drinks and cool mist felt great on a very hot day. Afterwards, we hung around to watch a game of pétanque.
The Annonciade Museum occupies a 16th century chapel and houses an impressive collection of Post-Impressionist, including Pointillism, Fauvism, The Nabis, and Expressionism. Although primarily paintings, the collection includes some sculpture. All in all, the museum, situated right at the harbor, is very interesting.
We continued our meanderings, coming across the municipal police building festooned with American flags. In the plaza, a brand new police motorcycle was being delivered. Back in the harbor, more yachts had tables set for dinner and more tourist were snapping pictures of them. Finally, we sat down to dinner at La Casade, a nice restaurant with tables outside in the narrow street. Al ordered moules and I had a Cuban entrecote.
Following dinner we had a pleasant walk through the old town, enjoying the after-dark ambiance. Finally, a stop at a
wine store and the tender back to the ship.