And just like that – we’re traveling and (maybe) writing again. Our first year in New York – 2019 – was all about getting the condo project started and settling in. Then that COVID thing hit and we didn’t do a lot of traveling. We did some, though – three trips to Mexico, one to Greece – and we feel as though the memories are mostly lost. And since to this day we love looking at the blog to remind ourselves of places we’ve been and things we’ve done (and food we’ve eaten) we thought “Maybe we should revive the blog for our new travels.” So we’ll see.
OK then, here we are in France, sitting on a very comfortable train from St. Raphael to Paris. We spent five days in Saint-Tropez, on the French Riviera. Once upon a time of course Saint-Tropez was perhaps the number one jet-set destination in the world. Though I was here on a day trip from Toulon in 1975 when I was in the Navy, Mark had never been here. And after a 47-year hiatus I figured it was time for me to try it again.
It’s worth noting that Saint-Tropez is not easy to get to. The closest airport is Nice, a three-hour drive away and the closest train station was in St. Raphael, nearly and hour-and-a-half away. Now, some people make the commute from Nice easier by hiring a helicopter but that just seemed a little too much for us.
Once you’re in Saint-Tropez what is there? Most important is that the famous beaches aren’t in the town; they’re a few miles outside town, so not something you just hop off to too easily when you don’t have your own car. And in fact we only went there once and the experience was pretty dismal. The beach itself was nothing special – we’ve experienced vastly better Mediterranean beaches in Greece, Croatia, Italy … lots of places. And the water was just full of what seemed like tons of seaweed washing up on shore. Not something you wanted to wade through to get to open swimming. So the beach was disappointing.
Of course, you’re reminded that these aren’t American beaches. At one point I walked up the beach to see if there was anything nicer, less seaweed-infested than the section we were on. The answer was yes, sort of, but even then there was more than you’d want. To get there, though, I walked through one section where I was probably the youngest person on the beach and definitely the only one wearing a stitch of clothing. Oh my. Don’t worry though: no photos!. Oh, and one more reminder that you’re not in Kansas? We had lunch at a really nice beach restaurant/club recommended by a friend – definitely the best experience at the beach. And as we waited for our Uber to bring us back to the hotel another couple was getting dropped off. In a Rolls Royce. Yikes!
So the beach was disappointing. The village itself, though, was charming. Beautiful old narrow, cobblestoned streets. Great little restaurants spilling out onto those beautiful streets. Pretty much every high-end fashion store imaginable and many more not-so-high-end. The town was surprisingly quiet; our guess was that late May is still pre-season. For us it was perfect: not too crowded, not too hot.
Absent a fabulous beach, then, our hotel had a small private “beach” on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez where we could read and nap. And where I could get expert medical care. You see, on Day 3 I went for a morning run and managed to trip on the pavement and scrape the hell out of my knee. Nothing serious, just bloody. When the beach attendant saw hit he sprang to action cleaning it and bandaging it and all that. Very nice really.
Other than that our Saint-Tropez experience was largely about the food, and that was a big success. The day would start with an almost insane breakfast at the hotel: more breads and croissants and pain au chocolates than you’ve ever imagined, and that’s before you get to any eggs and sausage and all that. Really fabulous. And fattening.
And then – with just about perfect weather and the smell of jasmine everywhere – we would walk into town for lunch, stop at some amazing street-side restaurant, go back to the hotel, nap and read, walk back into town for another perfect little French restaurant. It was all really quite civilized. And, totally worth noting, Saint-Tropez at least (I won’t speak for the rest of France yet) is totally over COVID. Not until our last dinner did we see a single person wearing a mask, and that was just a single person. Now admittedly, except for inside our room I’m sure that 95 percent of the time we were outdoors, since all the restaurants serve outdoors. But now, here on the train, same thing: not a mask to be seen. I’ll admit, I’m OK with that.
We did have one day that constituted real tourism. After breakfast we walked into town and went to the local art museum to see an exhibit of Paul Signac’s work, a post-impressionist who spent many summers in Saint-Tropez. Then we took an Uber up to an old hill town outside Saint-Tropez, and finally walked down to a Michelin-recommended (though not Michelin-starred) restaurant where we sat at the edge of a vineyard having a perfect lunch. So great to be back in Europe!
Except for Greece last summer – which is really it’s own thing, particularly on the islands – this was our first experience in Europe since 2018 and it felt sooo good to be back. The narrow streets, the old buildings, the local churches. Watching the waitress shoo away German tourists who wanted to just sit and have a drink at a restaurant (restaurants are for food; bars are for drinking). Seeing lots of people sitting at their lunch and dinner tables smoking. There’s lots to love in Europe.
Now, a few more hours on the train and then into Paris. Yay!