Tag Archives: American girl in France

Secret Beach: Plage des Graniers

Today I discovered a secret beach! And thank goodness I did because Saint-Tropez gets unbearably hot and muggy by late morning. I was practically wilting in the heat, so we high-tailed it to the hills above town seeking the relief of a cool Mediterranean breeze.

St trop

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The summit above the port is crowned with the ruins of a magnificent 17th century citadel – and breathtaking views of the sea below. As lunchtime draws nigh, yachts are already starting to jostle for space to drop their anchors just outside of town.

Citadel

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Beyond the ancient stone walls of the citadel, a dusty path winds down through the woods to a glimmering sandy cove. It’s the secluded location for a hip beachside restaurant frequented by locals and those lucky enough to hear of it by word-of-mouth. Surrounded by an overgrowth of bamboo, this free patch of beach is a discreet alternative to the ritzy beach clubs further down on Pampelonne.

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Seated beachside under white tasselled parasols with my toes in the sand, I followed recommendations to try the grilled fish. So glad I did! Lunch was fantastic – and the view was mesmerizing. Afterwards, I took a snooze on the warm beach and observed the 30-minute rule before a post-lunch dip in the crystal blue water.

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I've got sole but I'm not a soldier.

I got sole but I’m not a soldier.

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On the road back from Graniers beach, at the base of the citadel, sits the Saint-Tropez Marine Cemetery facing out onto the Mediterranean. It is the final resting place of many a brave seaman and a few notable Tropéziens. The beauty of this site stopped me in my tracks and, for a few moments, was a place for quietude and reflection. I’m not sure what happens after our lives on earth, but I couldn’t think of a more heavenly place for a soul to rest through eternity. I threw out a few silent prayers to catch on the wind, and continued on my traveler ways.

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crosses

One final look back at the striking blues of the sea and sky against the pure white of the sun-bleached crosses. I’m so glad I happened to discover this side of Saint-Tropez.

St-Trop ’til I Drop

The port town of Saint-Tropez is a shopper’s heaven. There isn’t much to do there but shop. Oh, and gawk at the monster yachts moored in the marina. Did you know it’s in the top 5 of most expensive marinas in the world? Yep, docking here for the week costs a cool 20,000 euros.

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I can’t shop on an empty stomach so first thing’s first – breakfast. La Tarte Tropézienne is a high-end patisserie with a stalwart presence around town. They are named after their signature pastry made famous by Brigitte Bardot whilst she was in town filming “And God Created Woman”, the picture that made her an international sex symbol. The main bakery on Place des Lices is a tony restaurant, perfect for a quality petit déjeuner.

la tarte

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The original "Tarte Trapézienne" - Brigitte Bardot's favorite

The original “Tarte Trapézienne” – Brigitte Bardot’s favorite

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Omelette au fromage

Omelette au fromage

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Okay, time to hit the shops!

Espadrilles are a staple of any resort wardrobe, but they are practically compulsory on the Riviera. Perfect for slipping on and shuffling from the pool to the terrace, or home from the beach. Needless to say, they are everywhere in St-Tropez.

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Chanel had this pair of bad boys for me to lust after.

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Then I found a darling little boutique much more suited to my budget; L’Espadrille Tropézienne stocks a range of espadrilles with a modern twist and signature red rubber sole.

Esp

Love these funky hand-painted graffiti ones

Love this funky hand-painted graffiti pair

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I did a bit more strolling around but after a few hours couldn’t cope with the rising heat so, like a seal, I had to slip away to find water. Can’t wait to post about the secluded beach I explored in the afternoon!

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des Maures

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Le Club 55

Lunch at Club 55 is a Saint-Tropez institution – and it’s always the first place I make a beeline for upon my arrival in the French Riviera. This shabby chic beach club offers everything you could possibly need for a day on Pampelonne beach: a popular restaurant, a luxury gift shop and, of course, the sea!

I arrived mid-morning and padded up the decked path lugging my straw beach tote to claim a prime waterfront spot for my lounger.

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You can tell it’s nearly lunchtime when the super yachts start to converge near to the coast. Celebrities are shuttled in on inflatable dinghys to the club launch as everyone makes their way to the restaurant behind the dunes.

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crabe

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I sprang for the crab special to start, followed by the gambas, which I dunked with fervor in the tamarind aioli. Simple, light dishes – mostly grilled – and presented with minimal fanfare.

On the way back to the beach, I popped into the boutique for a souvenir – which was quite an ordeal with so many beautiful things to chose from!

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I whiled away the rest of the afternoon’s golden rays sipping citron pressé at the beach bar, swimming, and prowling up and down the launch waiting for my ship to come in…

Only I think it already has.

Tourtour: Le Village dans le Ciel

It was too overcast for the pool today so we walked up into the village. Tourtour is known as “the village in the sky” because of its stunning views from the top. We meandered through the streets climbing our way up to the the square.

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Mayor's Office, Town Hall

Mayor’s Office, Town Hall

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We passed by the Moulin a Huile, where the villagers bring their olives to be weighed and pressed into olive oil.  Tourtour has a cooperative system where the oil is distributed on a pro-rata basis depending on how many kilos of olives each villager contributes.

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Making olive oil is a two-step process of grinding and pressing. First, the olives are placed under the stones and squashed to make a paste. The olive miller then collects the paste and puts it into jute baskets.

For the pressing, two piles of about 20 jute baskets are placed, one on top of the other, under the press. The first pressing is “cold,” then the baskets are soaked in hot water before the second pressing.

Olive Press

Olive Press

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Olive oil features a lot in Provençal cooking, including many of the restaurants and cafés in the leafy town square. Tourtour also boasts a few galleries and boutiques.

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I wanted to take this dapper furball home but he was 320 euros!

I wanted to take this dapper little furball home but he was 320 euros!

Instead, I splurged on this little black number (to wear to the beach this week) from the prêt à porter boutique, Florence.

Bikini

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We stopped at a café by the fountain to revive ourselves with a cold citron pressé – freshly squeezed lemon juice, which you can water down a little bit, add a teensy pinch of sugar to sweeten it up, stir and enjoy!

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This handsome pup kept cool as a cucumber under our café table and begged me to throw him his slobbery pinecone – which he kept retrieving and laying at my sandals again and again. I think I finally wore him out!

Our final ascent was up to the village chapel perched on the hilltop where we could look down on the gorgeous Var landscape below.

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Good thing the way home is all downhill!

Château de Berne Wine Tasting

Temperatures in Provence have been sweltering this summer, and a day at a private estate sampling the region’s famed rosé sounded like just the ticket.

You can find Château de Berne down a long shady lane amongst 1,500 acres of olive trees and vineyards in the heart of the Var region. The winery produces a full range of award-winning wines, but is particularly known for its rosé.

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Chateau de Berne

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I had a quick tour of the grounds. The rose bushes at the end of the vineyards indicated that the vines were in good nick. The grapes were plump and waxy. And the tractor was running just fine.

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And now into the winery to sample the harvest!

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Tastings and shop

Tastings and shop

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The cellars

The cellars

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Grande Cuvée Rosé 2011

Grande Cuvée Rosé 2011

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My favorite - Cuvée Sauvage (Rosé) Brut

My favorite – Cuvée Sauvage (Rosé) Brut

We followed our wine tasting with a light lunch at Le Bistrot.

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Tapas

Tapas

Lemon meringue tart

Lemon meringue tart

And a final romp around the beautifully landscaped grounds!

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The rosé and heat had me feeling flushed. As we were leaving I accidentally walked into an electric fence and got zapped! I was literally shocked by what a great time I had at Chateau le Berne. Santé!

Lunch in Cotignac

Smile

Today we had lunch in the belle ville Cotingac. Built into the cliffs, Cotingac is a sleepy little Provençal village. We dined at Chez Loli on the terrace along the serene tree-lined town center. Their motto, emblazoned on the menu, is “We make people happy.” I love that simplicity – much like the classic pared-down regional cuisine typical in the south of France.

Contingac

Cotignac

Continac St

Chez Loli

Chez Loli

Chez Loli

Rose

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Rose shrimps, tomatoes, mesclun salad, peas, salmon tartare, celery remoulade

Rose shrimps, tomatoes, mesclun salad, peas, salmon tartare, celery remoulade

Clam Linguine

Clam Linguine

Dining is so elegant and relaxed here. I am eating less (you don’t have as much appetite in the heat) but the simplicity of the dishes and the quality of the ingredients is top-notch. I am discovering lots of inspiration for recipes I can cook back at home! Now if only I could get this view out of my kitchen window…
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The Simple Life

Sometimes you just need a pool day. Lathering up with sun cream and laying out in the golden heat until your brain gets fuzzy. It’s like therapy for me.

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In the afternoon, it’s back up to the house for lunch on the terrace overlooking the rolling Provençal terrain.

Steps

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artichokes

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Afterwards, I make myself swim sets of twenty laps to burn off all the cheese and paté!

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I don’t drink alcohol in the day. With the sun’s heat, I find it’s just too much. Instead, we usually wait until dusk and enjoy a drink or two before dinner watching the sun slip down behind the mountains.

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Spending time here reminds me to savor life’s simple pleasures: warm sun on tanned skin, the bliss of getting absorbed in a good book, the shock of hot skin plunging into a pristine pool, the juicy zing of a ripe melon, a gauzy linen shirt wafting in the summer breeze. This is French summer – wholehearted and pure.