The French Riviera is such a playground for the English-speaking rich-erati that it even bothers to have an English-speaking radio station. The adverts on it trumpet the glories of opera evenings off St Tropez, wealth-management companies and which 180ft luxury yachts are on the market this week.
But because it’s there, we decided that we just had to visit one of the iconic villages: St Tropez. One of the ideal ways is to take a pleasure cruise from the harbour which gives you an English-language commentary as you sail past the beachside homes owned by the filthy rich and famous. So we sat with others and took our photos of the harbour, and the beautifully mismatched buildings.
We heard about the Opel car family, and the Heineken beer family, and Boris Yeltsin’s daughter who all have houses near the beach. We heard about Brigit Bardot – legendary screen siren – who owns two homes in St Tropez (although later Internet research suggests she sold at least one of them because of tourism hassle).
The boat crew told us that, in his words, “the Queen of England Elton John stayed in that house for 10 days last summer with his husband” and we sailed past the beachside villa (pictured above) where Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were photographed by paparazzi just four days before the fatal Paris accident.
As we came back into the harbour we joined a stack of yachts taking part in the Rolex world yachting championships. It’s the first time we’d ever been in a traffic jam at sea as large and smaller yachts finished their races and made their way in for the night.
As we left St Tropez there was a real sense of disappointment. Before the boat trip we’d spent time on one of the beaches and had to walk through a yard of tough seaweed to get to the sea and there was nothing that added any sense of “wow” to being there.
When you add the Riviera premium, which means even a basic cup of coffee costs more simply because you’re in St Tropez, it made us all the more determined not to go back.