"The Insider's Guide to St. Tropez",
Harpers & Queen, June 2004

St. Tropez, France

Where to go: Out on the water – in sleek yachts or sexy 1930s-style Italian Riva speedboats. Also, sample the out-of-town beach bars.

When to go: Summer. St. Tropez is at its busiest during the last weekend in July and the first weekend in August.

The scene: Posing and people-watching on big, glamorous yachts, or lying on the beach and partying through the night.

Who: Jack Nicholson, Joan Collins, Tim Jefferies, P Diddy, Jerry Hall, Beyonce, Naomi Campbell, Kylie Minogue and lots of Roman Abramovich-style new Russian money.

Heyday: The 1950s and 1960s, when film star Brigitte Bardot, St Tropez’s most famous icon, embodied the sensuality and sexiness of the place.

Dress code: Topless and tie-die. Wear a dark tan and accessorise with Roberto Cavalli, Versace and Celine.

Where to hang out: Les Caves du Roy (+33 4 94 97 16 02; www.lescavesduroy.com) is the Studio 54 of southern France, and the bar at the Byblos (+33 4 94 55 55 55), served from 1pm to 4pm, to see the hardened partygoesrs who have just risen from their beds. La Voile Rouge (+33 4 94 79 84 34) is where everyone goes to spy on whose boat is the biggest, and to throw champagne around.

Where to stay: Byblos which opened in 1967, has always attraced those who crave the glare of flashbulbs as much as that of the sun.

Where to escape the scene: Take a villa in the hilltop town of Ramatuelle, once home to Rupert Everett. For details, contact Wimco (0870 850 1144; www. wimco.com).

Buzz words: Cinquante-cinq (’55) – the year that Bardot starred in Roger Vadim’s film And God Created Woman, and put St. Tropez on the map.

The lowdown: Don’t wear stiletto heels on deck. Do avoid the scene on Nikki Beach, which is always full of teenagers.

St. Barts, French West Indies

The scene On Nikki or Gouverneur beaches, or on one of the many super-yachts.

Who Tamara Mellon, Mick Jagger, Woody Allen, P Diddy, Uma Thurman, novelist Bella Pollen and photographer Patrick Demarchelier – who has a house on the island and is responsible for introducing all the models to the place.

Heyday The early 1990s. Greta Garbo, who stayed on the island in the last years of her life, popularized it around 15 years ago, and the jet-set have been coming ever since.

Dress code This is the fashion capital of the Caribbean, so think beach glamour. Be stylish but laid-back.

Where to hang out Enjoy lunch at Nikki Beach restaurant or Le Lafayette Club restaurant, where you will pay astronomical prices to eat right on the beach. La Plage in the Tom Beach Hotel, St Jean beach, is the place for dancing on tables during the day. Dinner should be eaten at Maya’s retaurant, which perhaps influenced Uma Thurman when she was deciding upon names for her daughter.

Where to stay Follow Elle Macpherson, Liz Hurley and Molly Simsbook, and book into Hotel Saint-Barth Isle de France; doubles, from about £300. Or try Le Toiny; doubles, from about £500, which used to be so exclusive you could only pay in cash. To rent a villa on the island, contact Wimco www.wimco.com.

Buzz words Where’s P Diddy?

The lowdown Do shop – making sure you take advantage of the island’s tax-free status and abundance of designer labels. Don’t attempt to drive in high season – there’s only one road on the island and it gets choked.

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