“We’re going to St. Tropez in October,” my family told me. I’m not one to pass on a trip to the South of France, but October? I have a tendency to deeply mourn the end of summer and so I was a bit skeptical of this fall trip to St. Tropez. Wouldn’t it be chilly, deserted? Was this the B-time to go? To my delight, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The beach is filled with boats this weekend. Here’s the view from our villa YNF VLP
The first weekend of October is also known as the closing weekend in St. Tropez, akin to Labor Day in the States. It’s also home to Les Voiles de St. Tropez, an annual sailing race featuring both modern and classic sail boats. Coming from the sailing mecca of Newport, Rhode Island, this was one of the reasons we calendared it then.
We arrived at Villa La Plage (YNF VLP) at the same time as Maya and Randy from St. Barths, with whom we shared this delightful villa. We drove in through the long gravel driveway where sturdy palms and delicate purple flowers dotted the entrance. It was like entering a fabulous Malibu estate, and the weather just perfect.
The villa itself had everything—modern décor, a spacious pool, views of Pampelonne beach, and my favorite—a Ping Pong table. Our first stop was Nialargo, a Thai-French fusion restaurant that has been one of our favorite spots since our first trip. We ordered nems (Vietnamese spring rolls which are lightly fried, served with a sweet dipping sauce and a side of mint—that’s the trick, wrap the nems in mint!) and Rosé. What else!
We spent the afternoon exploring town, and grabbing les essentials for the villa, savoring the idea of grocery shopping with our knowledgeable chef and friend Maya, admiring the way she chose which melons and cheeses. That evening we ventured out to dinner to a Norwegian friend’s home, high up in the hills above a vineyard, where we capped off the meal with a fluffy Tarte Tropezienne (brioche filled with creamy custard and raspberries).
Balmy beach weather in October at Pampelonne beach.
The next day we had planned lunch at the iconic Club 55, the always busy and sometimes over-hyped restaurant on Pampelonne beach. The October crowd was distinctly different than in July—indeed this was all of proper Paris dressed in their pressed linens, leather flats, and Jackie O shades. Service was attentive, and cheerful. Another Newport friend joined us for lunch, and we sat amongst the palms and umbrellas with our feet in the sand, taking in the scene, snacking on the iconic crudité platter and fresh moules. I was starting to like October in St. Tropez more and more.
The do-it-yourself crudite platter at Club 55
That evening we strolled along the quai, admiring the classic boats, and enjoying our requisite scoop of gelato. One of the reasons I have such great memories of this seaside town was because on my first trip to Europe at eight, my sister and I couldn’t believe how many ice cream shops there were: Häagen-Dazs, gelato stands…they were on every corner, and we loved ordering in French. Est-ce que je peux avoir deux boules de fraise? Nearly 20 years later, I still enjoy these simple pleasures with my family, and find it’s a great destination for both families with young children, or groups of friends.
While we had great meals everywhere we went, the most fun was Sunday brunch made by Maya at the villa: beautiful sliced prosciutto, the softest, creamiest most satisfying French cheese you could imagine, slow-cooked scrambled eggs, fresh chicken from a nearby rotisserie, and a simple tomato and basil salad. We all love going out to eat, but I’m always reminded that some of the best memories are made in these relaxed moments that resemble life at home, just in a fabulous new setting. Villa life lends itself well to that.
Ah, October in St. Tropez—for sailing fans, this is simply a weekend you cannot miss. And for those that missed a summer vacation or prefer a less hurried time, might I suggest a fall sojourn? And if you need a tour guide, might I suggest myself?
À bientôt, Saint-Tropes!