I instantly felt fabulous walking the beach of Pampelonne, around the bend from St. Tropez. I could envision gazillionaires sipping Belver Bears Belvedere in a beach club. Those same gazillionaires would come in via yacht from St. Tropez and be escorted by shuttle boats from their floating mansions to the beach club.
Instead, we walked up barefoot carrying a change of clothes in a plastic bag from the Radisson Blu and went from club to club asking – in French, proudly – how much it costs to rent a beach chair. Mind you it was 3pm on a Monday in May -22 Euros per chair in the second row and 26 Euros in the first row – towels not included. We lived large and took the first row – even though no one else was there.
It quickly occurred to me that however serene and secluded, this wasn’t the type of beach you come to unprepared. I wished the onesie from Target I was wearing could suddenly turn into Chanel. But as the beach bar tender reminded us – we weren’t from there. If we were, we wouldn’t be asking the price in the first place.
When we headed back to St. Tropez, the glitz on one side almost blinded me while the beauty on the other took my breath away. The main street is lined with yachts whose owners have paid good money to reserve space in one of the world’s most sought-after parking spots. Owners and five of their closest, best-looking, friends, stand on the back porch as their yacht pulls in. Tourists wait, point, whisper and take pictures as if watching zoo animals. We were feet away yet no one interacted with them. They were just there to look pretty.
At the end of the main street though is where the land ends, meeting the golf of St. Tropez. There, surrounded by only water and the Citadel, I felt hints of the unassuming fishing village it was once and the charming people that occupied it.
A town where servers, dressed as fishermen, let you pick the table, even if it is the only one not already made up for dinner. Once you’re seated , you eat moules frites and sip on rose while watching the sun fade, casting a magnificent light over the old town and its harbor.
But once that meal is over, you’re reminded that this is now the place that draws billionaires, the place where one fellow calls his hundred million dollar yacht, “One More Toy.”