THE PEO­PLE-WATCH­ING MECCA

SAINT TROPEZ IS A CELEB MAG­NET BUT CAN BE DONE ON A BUD­GET

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - TRAVEL - Louise Roberts The writer trav­elled to Saint Tropez at her own ex­pense

IT DIDN’T take long for word to spread through­out the glam­orous clien­tele who sat sip­ping their chilled French 75 cham­pagne cock­tails in the blaz­ing Côte d’Azur sun­shine.

Singing su­per­star Mariah Carey and her new beau Aus­tralian busi­ness­man James Packer were en route by su­pery­acht from Italy’s Portofino, we were re­li­ably in­formed, to sparkly celebrity play­ground of Saint Tropez.

Their bud­ding ro­mance had been re­vealed via a se­ries of can­did snaps as they lux­u­ri­ously cruised their way around the Mediter­ranean.

But I didn’t ex­pect any of the lo­cals to whip out their smart­phones for a selfie with th­ese stars. Non, non, non. That would not be the done thing in this mecca for beau­ti­ful peo­ple watch­ing.

Saint Tropez is an at­mos­phere heady with multi-mil­lion­aires and bling but a ca­sual yet prac­tised in­sou­ciance to the A-lis­ters who sweep into this ir­re­sistible port on an al­most daily ba­sis.

Af­ter all, it was here that the orig­i­nal sex kit­ten Brigitte Bar­dot burst to global fame and put this once ob­scure fish­ing port brim­ming with old money well and truly on the world map.

Al­ways pop­u­lar with artists, many of whom paint and sketch along the Vieux Port, this town be­came a mag­net for the 1960s in­ter­na­tional jet set.

Wan­der along the cob­ble­stones of the La Ponche quar­ter and you can­not move for Maybachs and Mercedes, dogs in Prada hand­bags and peo­ple of a cer­tain vin­tage still slather­ing on co­conut oil af­ter a 40-year ca­reer in sun­wor­ship­ping.

But that is the key to Saint Tropez — lose your­self in the twi­light world of how the other half live but don’t bank­rupt your­self in the process.

The beach is free, so is walk­ing the gor­geous laneways and eaves­drop­ping on the mar­vel­lously ec­cen­tric lo­cals while prac­tis­ing your most ba­sic of French.

We ar­rived by boat from Nice, a 2.5-hour trip along the coast­line, and em­barked at main pier, gaw­ping at the glo­ri­ous view of the su­pery­achts jostling for at­ten­tion.

I didn’t spot Eclipse, the 550ft beast with he­li­pad owned by Chelsea boss Ro­man Abramovich but I’m sure he wasn’t far away.

If like me your two great hol­i­day loves are food and shop­ping, then you won’t be dis­ap­pointed.

I reckon there is the big­gest con­cen­tra­tion of de­signer bou­tiques per square me­tre in Europe and it doesn’t cost a cent to en­ter and in­hale the leather and eau du par­fum.

Visit the Chris­tian Dior bou­tique on rue Fran­cois Si­billi, an el­e­gant three-storey villa with a charm­ing gar­den Dior des Lices run by the Miche­lin three-star chef Yan­nick Al­leno.

For Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuit­ton, Lan­vin, Her­mes, head to rue Gamebtta and Place Ge­orges Gram­mont to soak up all the lux­ury.

Nat­u­rally I had to dis­patch a hus­band to a suit­able wa­ter­ing hole (Hys­te­ria at 1 Quai de I’Epi was a good choice with a long bar and plenty of shade).

If your credit card has buck­led, try Zolita Bou­tique Femme in the same windy street. Stylish but bet­ter priced.

Up to 100,000 day trip­pers con­verge on this Proven­cal par­adise dur­ing the sum­mer months.

A sin­gle beer nudges the $20 mark and a plate of freshly shucked oys­ters is about $100.

The res­tau­rants can get crowded so my ad­vice is to head to the Mono­prix su­per­mar­ket at 9 av du Général Le­clerc and stock up on cheese wine and baguettes. Use the beach as your out­door din­ing room and dream of vie glam­our.

Pic­ture: GETTY IMAGES

Saint Tropez lo­cals loved the gos­sip that cou­ple James Packer and Mariah Carey were vis­it­ing.

Strolling along the port area and hit­ting up the shops of Saint Tropez; and a house with jade green shut­ters found while wan­der­ing through the back streets.

Beach bas­kets on dis­play.

A cool drink af­ter the re­tail ther­apy.

A cool drink af­ter the re­tail ther­apy.

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