Saint-Tropez and Brigitte

Exteriors of some of the “houses” that comprise the Hotel Byblos in Saint-Tropez.

Exteriors of some of the “houses” that comprise the Hotel Byblos in Saint-Tropez.

The following article appeared in June 2013 at TravelWeekly.com, the electronic edition of Travel Weekly, a national travel trade journal. It was written by Nadine Godwin, who is the author of  Travia: The Ultimate Book of Travel Trivia, published by The Intrepid Traveler. 

SAINT-TROPEZ, France — I came here wondering what’s so special about this village (population: 5,000) that it attracts the uber rich and uber famous. The answer is, not much.

Don’t get me wrong: It is an enchanting place; my point is that a lot of the French Riviera is enchanting.

Saint-Tropez stands out, however, because Brigitte Bardot came to town and stayed, bringing many of the world’s jetsetters in her wake.

It had already attracted artists and others, but the big-time parade started in the 1950s. It carries on today but with different faces diverting the paparazzi.

(Brigitte is still here. Her house is visible, just barely but without binoculars, from the village.)

Saint-Tropez draws 5 million visitors annually, a thousand for each resident.

The way I figure it, after my way-too-short visit last June, Saint-Tropez maintains its disproportionate claim on

View of the colorfully painted houses that line the Saint-Tropez harbor where yachts moor by the hundreds.

View of the colorfully painted houses that line the Saint-Tropez harbor where yachts moor by the hundreds.

visitors by following two rules:

• Change nothing on the exterior — well, not so Saint-Tropez ever looks like anything but an unmolested fishing village from some imagined idyllic past. The town fathers even dictate the paint colors, based on a Genoa-inspired palate, for each building.

• Change anything or everything inside if necessary to keep “top-level” clientele coming back for more.

Take the interiors of big-brand, upscale stores as an example. Claude Maniscalco, general manager, Saint-Tropez Tourisme, explained that such retailers have to move every two years because landlords won’t offer longer leases. If they did, the law would keep them from raising rents, rents they are loath to give up when the real estate market is hot.

At the same time, Maniscalco said, the retailers must constantly introduce new merchandising “concepts” to hold the customer’s attention.

And so, shoppers can get a meal at Dior, walk through gardens at Louis Vuitton and at least look at the swimming pool in the house Chanel now occupies.

Chanel’s location in Saint-Tropez.

Chanel’s location in Saint-Tropez.

The Chanel site would have been someone’s fine home, but the other shop exteriors belie their interiors.

My group (travel journalists and travel agents) had dinner at Hotel Byblos, a Leading Hotels property that opens only for the season, roughly mid-April through October.

This hotel hosts Les Caves du Roy, one of the village’s hottest clubs. Its patrons have to pay enough for drinks to buy the furniture.

Christophe Chauvin, general manager, explained that customers do so much damage, such as by standing on furnishings in high heels, that the club is renovated once a month in season.

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