SEARCHING FOR BRIGITTE IN SAINT-TROPEZ

It was the mid 1950’s in a charming but little known fishing village on the French Riviera coast. The fishermen, as usual, unloaded their daily catch at the harbor where they kept their colorful fishing boats and where they stretched out their nets at the end of the day for maintenance and repair. The local villagers daily made their daily sojourn down to the harbor to select their daily meal. A few salty cafes and bars lining the harbor completed the scene. Then, a French movie writer/director, Roger Vadim, came to town. He was casting his new wife in the starring role as an intrepid young woman who shakes up and forever alters the small sleepy fishing village on the sea. The movie was called “And God Created Woman” and the soon-to-be movie queen was Brigitte Bardot. And as the character Julliet in the movie, Brigitte literally did shake up and forever change Saint-Tropez and the entire Cote d’Azur as well, as both became world-famous for their new-found hedonistic lifestyle as was depicted in the iconoclastic movie.
I made my personal “search for Brigitte” escapade on a day trip from nearby Saint-Raphael. It began as a pleasant early morning one hour boat ride along the coast. The vibrant blue sky reflected in the clear cool Mediterranean made me feel calm and content as I patiently anticipated my arrival and taking in some great views to the town from the sea as we approached. Soon, I was at the harbor and was greeted at first by the sight of rows and rows of sailboats. And then some large pleasure craft. A nice collection of artists lined along one part of the harbor, selling wonderful watercolor paintings (I bought two small ones), oil paintings, and on-the-spot caricatures. There are lots of shops (mostly expensive clothing boutiques) and numerous cafes and restaurants lining the harbor. Most are a bit out of my price range. Overall, the harbor is a pleasant place to be and be seen and it still has a good bit of the characteristic flavor of a former fishing village although I did not see any boats of local fisherman, nor did I see any fish nets anywhere, just the larger boats of the deep sea fishing variety, and a good number of the huge sea yachts of the rich and famous, and, of course, lots of beautiful sail boats. Tourism has long taken over as the main business enterprise here.

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Up a hill, a few streets away from the harbor is a large tree-gridded open space which twice a week sports the town’s open market in which you can find all sorts of vegetables, prepared foods, flowers, clothing, shoes, apparel, pottery, and even a small carousel for the kids, all at affordable prices. This is where the local residents come, and, on the day of my visit, the place was packed. I picked up a great and inexpensive sandwich lunch which I devoured on a nearby park bench. The old town is not very large, easily explored in a couple of hours. There are only a couple of museums. The main element of interest is the harbor. Further up the hill is an old fortress, the Citadelle, from which are fantastic vistas over the town, the town cemetery, and the surrounding coastline. While exploring the views from this lofty perch, I swear I saw her. I saw Brigitte, with a backpack and a smart phone. And with that, my day was complete.

 

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