It was a wonderful privilege to be able to stay in a five-star hotel in the very centre of St Tropez. No steps, no hills, no long treks, no waiting for a shuttle ‘bus – just a moment’s stroll along a pretty street and I was exactly where I wanted to be, next to the harbour. This is what – uniquely – is offered by the Hôtel de Paris. And this is what I enjoyed each day: a leisurely stroll in the sunshine to my seat at the Café de Paris (no relation), opposite the yachts of the visiting rich. Much is said and written about the importance of location, but that of the Hôtel de Paris is beyond splendid. It is almost miraculous, and afforded me immense pleasure. I love St Tropez. And now I love the Hôtel de Paris.
St Paul de Vence is a delightful mediaeval town, high in the hills behind Nice. Its setting and its architecture attract those who love beauty, both natural and man-made. It has several lovely hotels. One of the very best is also one of the newest. Not that I found it easy to guess the age of the Mas de Pierre. Upon arrival, I was faced with buildings which I thought had been settled comfortably into their pretty surroundings for a couple of centuries. In fact, they date from 2005. Well done, that architect. And who was the Pierre of the Mas de Pierre? My enquiries revealed that he was the gentleman who had owned the land before the hotel was built. He should be proud to have given his name to such a fine establishment.
The word ‘chic’ is very St Tropez. That quality of being self-consciously stylish makes this little town the one I love above all others on the French Riviera. I did not know St Tropez when it was an undisturbed fishing village. Perhaps I would have been captivated by its innocent prettiness. I only came after it had become a magnet for film stars and the beautiful rich. Sadly, I fall into neither category. Still, it was immensely pleasurable to glide about its narrow streets in my beautiful Rolls-Royce, adding, as I hoped – and in my own modest manner – to the general gaiety and elegance of the place. Then the Royce ‘declined to proceed’ on one of my journeys to the South, and I decided that her age required her to stay in Blighty. And now, in any case, I fear the amount of traffic might upset her. But back I go – for the sunshine, for the beauty and for the wonderful hotels like La Bastide de St Tropez.
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