This past weekend we happened to have two sets of friends spending time near or in St. Tropez, so we jumped in the car and headed west to Provence for a few days. We followed the A8 west, exiting at Frejus so we could follow the coastal road into St. Tropez. It is lined with small-town beachside resorts and communities with beach clubs, beaches, marinas and seaside restaurants that cater primarily to the seasonal crowd. Fortunately we were a little early in the season so traffic was not that bad, but it must be hell during the summers.
Our friends Virginie and Jean-Claude were staying at her mother’s home in L’Escalet, which is near the old medieval town of Ramatuelle, along the coast a few miles south of St. Tropez. L’Escalet is a beautiful residential area with modest to luxurious homes (depending on if there’s a view and how much of it) that is broken up by vineyards (primarily rosé) and plenty of expansive tree foliage that hides most of the homes, making it seem you are more of in a forest than a residential area. Little to no shopping, that takes place outside, closer to St. Tropez. There are small roads (chemins) that provide access to the coastline which is rocky and steep, interspersed with a few beaches. Along this coast runs the “sentier”, a path that follows the coast (as it does in most of France).
Most of the homes are seasonal with few people staying during the winter months. Having a home here allows one to escape from the craziness of St. Tropez. Their home sits on one of the tallest hills in L’Escalet, close to the ocean and looks back towards St. Tropez. Rather than spending way too much money in St. Tropez at restaurants, we brought our own food, bought more at the Friday market in Ramatuelle, and just enjoyed great food, wine and conversation in a very lovely setting.
Close to the home is a path that leads down to the shore, first passing over the head of the hill, providing panoramic views. We enjoyed this walk a few times, although the last time we were inundated with people (start of a long weekend). The path isn’t wide so when it gets crowded it is difficult to make headway. We had found a place on the beach with no one around, but were there only a few minutes before a group of about a hundred people came along, and decided to rest right next to us. Kind of took away from the experience, so we moved on. Who enjoys walks in the wild with a 100 other people?
Ramatuelle is worth visiting, perhaps best on Friday market days (get there early for parking), or any of the other days if prefer to refrain from large crowds. It isn’t one of the finest hillside villages in Provence, there certainly are better, but it gives one something to do if staying nearby. Great place to enjoy a terraced lunch with friends, overlooking the valley and Med.
We purchased some rosé and tried some reds – Minuty (not bad) and Le Rouillere (so-so). The reds are young and fruity and are a nice change over the ever-present and available rosé. We purchased a few of the reds to see how they’ll age, ready for the cave back in Nice.
After four lovely days with Virginie and JC, we moved on to St. Tropez to spend dinner and the night with Argie and Pat, American friends who we’ve known for some years through Punta Mita, Mexico. They’ve been traveling a lot in Europe lately, hiking, biking and especially boating, entering Pat’s yacht the Manitou in the Classic Boat regattas that take place throughout the Mediterranean each summer season.
We arrived and enjoyed an aperitif from the terrace of the home they were renting in the old part of St. Tropez, and then walked down to the St. Tropez promenade, to “take-in-the-show” and to visit the Manitou and climb on board for a photo-op. The Manitou was once John F. Kennedy’s sailing yacht, while he was president. There’s a lot of glitz and show in St. Tropez, a little too much for us as it also means obscenely expensive drinks and dinners. But it certainly is interesting for people watching.
Back home, Argie prepared a lovely dinner while we continued to talk of past adventures, new one’s in the planning, and exchanged tips and information regarding traveling in the area. We were early to bed after our rather long-weekend, and as we had to be in Nice early the next day to return our car.
Great five days in Provence!