St Tropez is a charming little town, that is still home to a local fishing fleet, with fishermen selling the catch of the day from a tiny, very picturesque fish market, then crossing the street to have their morning shot (of booze, not espresso) at Le Gorille, the once favorite haunt of Picasso. Sitting there, eavesdropping on their chatter about which fish were biting, you can see why Brigitte Bardot and her gang fell under its charms while filming And God Created Women….
I headed off, yet again, to explore the Ramatuelle, where the classic French film was made and then into the hills, to the famous perfume town of Grasse. A perched village of ochre and amber buildings, wasting away under an alluring patina, I was seduced by the town before setting foot into a perfumerie. Fragonard is perhaps the best known, with shops all over Paris, but Galimard is where is all began in the 18th century. Until then, Grasse had been home to the very smelly leather tanning industry and the got to place for aristocrats requiring fine kid gloves. While soft, and gorgeous, the gloves stank. Galimard tested the idea of adding a bit of lower essence to get rid of the stench and sent them off to Catherine de Medici, starting a royal trend that gave birth to an industry.
I spent my day exploring and only returned to the port late in the day, discovering the very chic, trendy café Senequier. The Senequier is outrageously expensive, attracting the designer clad, yachting crowd. Exactly the kind of place I usually avoid, but I decided to go for it, because the tables had full sunlight, there was a great view and it was one of the few places open in the off-season. It was also 16h and I hadn’t eaten a thing all day, too excited exploring the region to stop, so this would be my one meal of the day and I felt like I could afford to splurge. Given my decadent feast at La Table du Royal, I still wasn’t hungry. I settled on a “simple” crab salad (45€) that came with fleur de sel flakes and artisanal olive oil. One of the best salads I have ever had. I don’t know if it was from having fasted all day, or the winter sun warming my face, but this salad was worth every exorbitant centime. And the crisp white wine was the perfect counterpoint of citrus flavour meeting savoury sea. Not hungry, but needing sweets, I asked for a preserved fruit from their pastry shop. The very friendly waiter explained that the fruits were not on the café menu, but he’d be happy to reserve my front row, sunset seat while I went in to get a few fruits to enjoy with my coffee. Not only does Senequier have a great location, with excellent food, but the staff is genuinely nice!
After linner, I stopped at the boulangerie des Deux Frères to stock up on their incredibly deliciously, uniquely southern pine nut cookies before heading back to my room at the very cosy Hotel Pastis. The perfectly designed rooms are remarkably spacious, the perfect place for a post-beach nap before a night on the town, the peaceful, warm decor blending perfectly with the lovely provençal garden and aqua pool. I would have had a very hard time leaving, if it hadn’t been to meet Mr French in Marseille.