Each year five million visitors are enchanted by the beauty of St Tropez, a small village at the Cote D’Azur. Maybe because the village cultivates a unique way of life. More notably St Tropez is where light hearted spirit, simplicity and freedom prevail. Art de vivre as the French people say, whether you are keen on cultural events, water sports, shopping, (by the way it is a paradise for fashion lovers the best brands, extravagant, sensual boutiques are all) night life and partying-St Tropez offers the best.
At the end of September, when I was in St Tropez, my intention was to reveal the success of three cultic hotels: La Hotel Ponche, L’Escale and Villa Romana. At the same time I also wanted to learn more about the myth of the village.
When I was heading for the Hotel La Ponche (it was the first on my list) I came across with a photo exhibition: St Tropez and the stars by Daniel Angeli. His pictures were so striking, (mostly taken in the 60s and 70s) so I couldn’t resist to stop there and to take a look at them. Mostly snapshot portraits, revealing the soul of the 20th century, a salute to the golden years of cinema and the elite. Later on I realized that, that studying first Angeli’s photos were the best warming-up for the interview with the proprietor of the legendary Hotel the La Ponche as Agnelli’s photos came alive by listening the stories of madam Simone Duckstein.
Hotel de la Ponche in the 60s
The Hotel de La Ponche (located in downtown of St Tropez) is probably the most intimate hotel in St Tropez, and the only four stars of the Rriviera, was born of a simply fisherman’ bar. -“In the early 60s when St Tropez became the centre of the world, -paradise for young and beautiful and later famous people- thus they needed a cosy-hidden nest where they could enjoy life to the fullest”.- began Ms Duckstein the story-telling. „It’s annoying when people say that St Tropez is not the place anymore like was before, it’s not entirely true. There are the lights and the sea, there are always extraordinary people and the sweet way of life remained unchanged. Since the only thing that has disappeared perhaps is the simplicity in communication that created a bridge between people of all backgrounds. Today’s society is individualistic, the mobile phone has replaced writing while in the past, people had to talk to another to meet. -”Oh but in the sixties I met many famous people”-she sighed a big nostalgically then she continued- “such as Francoise Sagan and her group Jacques Malraux, Juliette Greco etc did. Sun, speed, parties and humour!- that was Francoise’s motto, the carefree attitude of the era, a French way of art. They regarded the hotel de La Ponche as a family boarding home. Everybody loved Francoise!”- broke Simone Duckstein into a smile remembering to her.- “She was very charming, generous, exquisitely polite and insomniac.” And I knew the Bardot family as well. Madam Bardot, Brigitte’s mother came on the Blue Train, had her breakfasts at the hotel with her two daughters Brigitte and Milanou. Later The Bardots had bought a family house on Rue de la Misericorde. Couple of years later was very fascinating to see again BB, when And God Created Woman Roger Vadim’s film many scenes were shot in the old town, and she changed her clothes in our hotel. Half nude but totally innocent, my other clients were stunned by the presence of the world’s most beautiful woman. And BB was the gist in our Tropicana club as well, once when she was with Sacha Distel, BB was singing, Sacha Distel played on his guitar and the whole Riviera could hear their band”.
L’Escale and the 70s
In the 70s Hotel L’Escale became the festive heart of St Tropez. Felix Giraud, who managed the Escale in that time (died in his early 90s), was a pioneer in terms of partying, maybe the greatest character of St Tropez. He started by working in the torpedo factory, he operated his first business in St Maxime, in addition later he had opened un unpretenious bar called the Esquinade which quickly became the place where people had to be, to be seen with the royalty, singers, heirs, and American stars. The gathering place of celebrities. Everything was decided there at 6 pm. The aperitif with rowsof people in front of the bar, elegant women in long dresses, pretty girls back from the beach, fishermen, tourists or passing byers… The Aston Martins and Ferraris were neatly parked in front of the door. Maybe because in that time there were no musicians, the mood was very „love and peace”, of an infinitive sweetness, no dress code and no social barriers. Being young, smiley and beautiful that was the only passport imposed to access the most private parties in villas or yachts. The tables were booked from one year to another. I have a funny story about Richard Burton who was a heavy drinker and therefore man of moods. So he came only once to France. His boat moored in the harbour of St Tropez. He dined at L’Escale. Then next day he set sail annoyed by the fact that he couldn’t watch his favorite English channel! At the same time Onassis booked his table for the whole summer at L’Escale. Prince Rainer, Romy Schneider, Gianni Agnelli, the good looking Italian heir of the Fiat empire was always accompanied by beautiful blondes here. And all these people mixed with one another in all simplicity, drinking Pimm’s” -said Beatrice Mangins hotel proprietor of the L’ Escale with a big pride.
La Villa Romana and the 90s, password: Live like a Tropezien!
In May 1996 when Luc Fournier bought Mina Siri’s pizzeria, -the place was once very popular in the eighties,- first he changed the furniture, then he discovered the lush of the vegetation and flowers in the garden and became inspired by the Florentine style-thus he created a place under the name of Villa Romana. With the mingle of ancient frescoes, crystal chandeliers and modern baroque furniture a visual revolution was born. Not miracle, that the famous stars discovered it soon. Heirs of the elite, actors, pretty girls gather in this place for crazy nights. Nowadays sometimes people come here for just a dinner because Villa Romana has a great restaurant. Besides of this there is no deficiency in the delights: Playmates in bikinis parading between tables, the champagne flows. Billioners are frequent visitors for instance Kevin Spacey, George Clooney, Paris Hilton, Bruce Willis. No jet setter worthy of the will miss the date in 2016 the 20st anniversary of the Villa Romana!-said with a huge smile Luc Fournier.
The exhibition of St Tropez and the stars was created in 2011 and first was shown at Paris. It has been presented in Sidney, Melbourne, Paris, Milan and will be in Moscow, New Delhi, Bombay, Brisbone, Buenos Aires, New York, Rio de Janeiro and San Francisco.
www.privatepicturesgallery.com website proposes unique and exclusive photos taken by paparazzis, photographers who have witnessed times when stars offered rare, now legendary moments commencing a tour around the world’s capitals.