Ever since I first decided to write glam fiction novels I knew that one day I would have to base one of my adventures in St Tropez in the South of France. It is the pearl of the Cote D’Azur and I don’t think there is anywhere else in Europe that typifies celebrity, riches, playboys and glamour like the sleepy harbour village with the narrow backstreets and a bar or six around every bend. It simply oozes success and people with more zeroes in their bank accounts than most of us can ever dream of. Plus the yachts that dock there are nine times out of ten bigger than any house I’ve ever lived in. Actually, forget that, most of them are bigger than any street I have ever lived in. It is a place of contradiction – of great excess and riches, yet housing a small-town charm. Of total ghetto bling, yet demure and quaint beauty.
I remember going to St Tropez for the first time when I was about 11 years of age. I went on a family holiday to the south coast of France and of course one of our stop-offs had to be the fabulous and famed St Tropez. I had no idea at the time about how notorious St Tropez was as a destination for any famous playboy, politician or party person of note. I didn’t know that the bars were frequented by the rich and the famous and that anybody who wanted to turn a head in celebs-ville would kill for a prime seat at the right bar along the quay front. I had no idea that it was all about being seen. For me, as a young, impressionable near-teenager all I saw were beautiful people behind big black sunglasses walking along the water’s edge and row upon row of huge yachts bobbing up and down in the St Tropez waters. It was fabulous to look at but I could have sauntered past the siren of St Tropez herself, Brigitte Bardot, and I wouldn’t have known who she was.
Fast forward a few decades and when, as a successful glamour fiction author, I had to choose the main setting for my latest novel, Revenge, there was only one choice. I wanted something near to the UK, a place of aspiration for both me and my readers, and a place that built itself on drama, beauty, intrigue and above all else, being a must-go for one of the in-crowd. St Tropez was the only choice. And once that had been decided then a research trip was in order to make sure that I can deliver an authentic taste of the chi-chi jet-set lifestyle between the pages of my novel. One plane trip and two bus rides later (anyone who thinks I travel with the grandeur of my own characters has another think coming – I did investigate the 20 minute private helicopter ride from Nice to St Tropez but sadly my budget said otherwise) myself and my bestie, Lottie, arrived in the sleepy harbour village and, having decamped at the hotel, then ventured into the so-called heart of hedonism itself.
Having read about the places to be seen beforehand, our first port of call had to be Senequier, the bright red bar that takes prime position along the harbour. If you google Senequier stars like supermodel Karen Mulder, Joan Collins, Tara Reid, Ivana Trump have all been seen there. It’s where you get ‘spotted’, even if you’re desperately pretending that you’re trying not to. It’s not cheap (nothing is in St Tropez, but I dare say your average billionaire couldn’t give a flying Euro) but there is something magical about enjoying a bottle of wine or two as you watch the sun set between the hulls of a couple of superyachts. The sun warms your face, the wine warms your throat and the blanket of fabulousness in the air warms your heart. And when you are served a meal worthy of Dexter Franklin, my gorgeous gastronomic guru from Revenge, by some of the hottest waiters you could lay eyes on, then the frisson of excitement and downright sexiness in the air is palpable. Plus if you have a sweet tooth, Senequier serves the largest crème caramel I have ever seen. It’s the size of a delivery pizza. We had to have half of it doggy-bagged as our eager eyes were way bigger than our bellies.
St Tropez is not just about the VIP crowd though and the multi-million pound celebrity houses that dot their way around the bay surrounding the town. It is also a place steeped in legend and for me, any location with a mysterious myth and legend behind it, is a place to behold and be in awe of. St Tropez achieved its name as it is believed that the decapitated body of St Torpes, a knight from the Italian city of Pisa, was washed up in St Tropez in a boat which contained the odd combo of a dog and a cockerel. A bust of him features in one of St Tropez’s main churches and every year a festival is held to celebrate the saint, even if no-one seems to actually know if the story is true or not. It really doesn’t matter.
What does matter in St Tropez, or “le vieux port” (the old port) as it is known, is its authenticity as a sleepy French town. Yes, it may have bumper-to-bumper traffic at the height of season with every car coming with a Kardashian sized price tag and housing Euro-heavy hipsters who relish being the ‘beautiful ones’, and there may also be absolutely fabulous designer boutiques on every street. But there will never be an ugly high-rise, bland hotel chain or a cheap and tacky souvenir shop selling gaudy lilos and ‘kiss me vite’ hats on show. St Tropez has a class. And that class is first class. It appeals to all ages with its fancy beach bars and hidden eateries but it will always be a place where the rich and famous go to have a good time. It may not always be peaceful, as the action in Revenge testifies, but it will always be diamond-dipped and as fashionably fabulous as possible. The party people in St Tropez will always be beautiful. Or at least so minted and misguided that they don’t care if they’re not. I hope you enjoy the book as much as Lottie and I enjoyed the gemstone of the Cote D’Azur.