It’s tempting to not write about St Tropez. I met up with my then-boyfriend there for a few days that were really fun, but unfortunately an irrevocable event on the last night there cast a pall on the entire trip.
The train station in Paris – Gare de Lyon – was fairly easy to navigate. It’s similar to the layout of Penn Station in NYC where the track is announced and everyone dashes to get on. Incongruently, people who aren’t travelling on the train are allowed to go on the platform and say good-byes, etc. Not only does this put people in the way of actual train-riders trying to board, but, if you come from a country where lip gloss is considered a deadly weapon, seems like a blatant security risk. But I digress. (Ok, one last thing, splurge on a first-class ticket if you can. The extra leg room and quiet car are worth it.)
Our train was late arriving in St Raphael because the train before us had electrical problems, meaning we had to make two extra stops and also meaning that we would arrive too late for me to catch the 5 pm boat to St Tropez. There was a 7 pm boat, so that wasn’t too big of a problem. On the train I sat next to a sweet old Monagesque woman who reminded me of my grandmother and who gave me a package of cookies saying they were “good with champagne”. She didn’t speak any English and my French is so-so (I couldn’t give a business presentation in it, let’s just say), but we had a nice time talking. I also enjoyed the crusty old Brit sitting behind me who noted rather pointedly that “In America they’d sue!” when the conductor notified us the train would be late, and that “this is practically America!” when said conductor added that the bar accepted credit cards. Oh, Brits!
St Tropez is beautiful but it’s really a scene. We stayed at a hotel away from the main area but reachable by shuttle which ran fairly frequently. The hotel was gorgeous and we had a nice patio to sit on at night.
View looking out from our patio. You can see the Mediterranean in the distance.
The town reminded me a lot of Capri, which is to say very small and exclusive, with lots of shops that I couldn’t afford to buy anything in and with lots of attractive people wandering around. I chalked this up to the fact that rich attractive people like to only hang out with rich attractive people, and since St Tropez has just one road into the town (which is usually clogged with traffic), only rich people think it’s worth it to go. We had some nice dinners but skipped the clubs after; they’re difficult to get into and I’m not really a club type of person.
The Cote d’Azur beaches were not really what I was expecting. On the one hand, they’re more luxurious, amenities-wise, than American beaches. For example you can get food – not just hot dogs – served to you on a real table while you lounge on your chair. There are very decent non-T-shirt vending shops as well. But, the beach is much more narrow… like the sand area between the water and the shops/restaurants is not more than 20-30 feet. You couldn’t stretch a towel out on the sand and lay there without getting hit by the ambulatory vendors. Which was the other weird thing. Every 5 minutes or so another vendor would walk by selling tote bags, or coverups, or towels. They’d ask every beachgoer if they wanted anything when they walked by. It got kind of awkward after awhile. You’re at the beach to relax, not to constantly say “no thanks” to salespeople. Additionally, there was hardly anyone in the water except for a few children. Maybe I’m country, but I guess Atlantic Ocean beaches have spoiled me.
The last night we were there my travelling companion and I got in a huge fight and wound up not going out. Long story short, he decided to come with me to Amsterdam. But first we had to figure out how to get to Nice airport. We had to hire a driver to take us since the only other options were boat (takes a few hours), helicopter (crazy-expensive), or driving ourselves (not feasible). Our driver was named Gregory but with his accent it sounded like Quigley. Gregory did not have anything nice to say about France and was looking forward to moving to the U.S., which I found interesting. He was definitely one of these disaffected French youth I’ve read so much about on BBC.com. We tried to tell him that the U.S. has its share of massive problems, but all he knew was he couldn’t wait to get out of there. The best quote from Quigley, which I feel is sort of emblematic of French culture as a whole, was: “I’m not racist, but I don’t like Arabs.” Too bad you’re French, or you could run for President of the United States on that platform, Quigley!
Anyway, from Nice we flew to Amsterdam, my favorite part of the whole trip (and that’s not just the clogs talking).