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St Tropez France French Destinations

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Anyone who dares venture to St Tropez in the summer is either immune to traffic jams and crowds, completely mad, or unspeakably rich. Yet anyone with all that money would surely have the sense to avoid crowds of tourists, or at least head to Monte Carlo, you say.

Not since Roger Vadim's 1956 film Et Dieu Créa la Femme ('And God Created Woman') in which Brigitte Bardot plays a sunkissed beauty and which sparked a craze for St Tropez that the small fishing village can hardly understand itself. What charms the place has are best discovered in the spring or autumn months once the crowds have dissipated.

It is then that the hard layer of blatant tourism is peeled back and a similar scene to what Guy de Maupassant saw when he sailed there, or what made Paul Signac build a house there, inviting the Parisian painting set to visit in the 1880s, is revealed.

St Tropez was a small, inaccessible by road fishing village in the 1880s and today it remains inaccessible by road because of the sheer volume of traffic on the route from La Foux. Once you get into town, head for the Vieux Port where the tourist office on quai Jean Jaurès (04 94 97 45 21) is situated. They may be able to help if you need to reserve a room, but it is much more sensible to book months ahead of your visit as rooms are scarce between April and September. The most intimate four star hotel in town is La Ponche on place du Révelin (04 94 97 30 04) where hosts of celebs will have stayed in your €150+ room before you. Then there is Le Baron at 23 rue d l'Alioli (04 94 97 06 57) with rooms overlooking the citadel for €70 85. Relatively good value accommodation can be found at Lou Troupelen (04 94 97 44 88) on Chemin des Vendanges, a few minutes' walk from the centre.

The verb frimer, meaning "to parade about wearing the latest fashions in overpriced, ostentatious resorts", was coined with St Tropez in mind. Around the Vieux Port people 'frime' between the cafés and their huge yachts, and one of the most worthwhile pastimes in St Trop (as connoisseurs call it, pronounced 'San Trope') is watching them. If you tire of the town, head up to the citadel and walk around the ramparts, taking in the view of the town, which is much nicer from afar than up close.

You can eat a decent meal on places des Lices and rue Georges Clemenceau, and if you want to haunt the Café des Arts or Bistrot des Lices you can easily part with €40 over dinner.