Welcome to: Where I Spent My Week Off —by a NYC Restaurant "Insider"
So, what do you do in the industry?
I used to do lots of things. Now I do other things.
And you have how many weeks off a year, generally?
Maybe around two or three.
What made you choose St. Tropez for this vacation?
I didn’t exactly choose it; I was just lucky. A couple of years ago, I was invited to sail the Turkish Riviera to Greece aboard the Black Sea, a 110′ sailing yacht owned by an incredibly lovely family I was fortunate enough to have been able to do some very miniscule favors for, once or twice. Evidently, I was such “a good guest,” they invited me back this year to cruise the Cote d’Azur with them all the way to the Ligurian Coast. Obviously, I would have been a total idiot to refuse. It was one of the most amazing trips of my lifetime (and despite the danger of sounding crass, I must say I’ve been blessed to have experienced some pretty fantastic journeys all right).
And where did you stay?
Aboard the Black Sea. It has four separate guest chambers (all with full bathrooms), as well as a Master Chamber and sleeping quarters for a crew of five.
How was the ambience/service/amenities etc?
Magnificent, impeccable, luxurious. The Black Sea was entirely custom-built according to the stringent specifications of its owner. It looks and feels "like an Ian Schrager hotel," which is precisely the way I’ve heard at least several visitors aboard describing it. From what I’ve witnessed and gathered, the Black Sea is famous along the coasts of Turkey, Greece, and apparently, Croatia. It would be far from a stretch of the imagination to assert that surely it has now made its mark on the French Riviera as well. It turns heads (and camera lenses) absolutely everywhere it goes.
Any major glitches and/or disappointments?
Besides the trip being entirely too short? No.
Oh, there’s the food thing— there’s way too much of it. Breakfast, a meal I never eat, is the most problematic. Where I’d much prefer simply three consecutive cups of coffee, there is instead a daily sumptuous buffet of European delectables. And in the company of generous Turkish hosts, to decline is practically an insult. Thank goodness for the available selection of fresh fruits and juices, or I likely would have gained ten pounds.
Any great standout experiences?
Oh, where do I even begin. Aside from the accommodation of traveling the entire time in the most supreme and blissful way imaginable? Well— there were the restaurants.
Of course St Tropez has its renowned and illustrious "hotspots"— Nioulargo, Club 55, and Nikki Beach. They’re all pretty much exactly as you’d expect. I’m sure almost anything I would describe would merely sound redundant. So, I’ll just skip over the incontrovertible and recount the pointless trivialities.
Nioulargo is hot, and I don’t just mean its popularity. It’s literally hot— and very crowded. The neat thing is they spray a fine mist of cold water throughout the atmosphere intermittently.
From what I can infer, Nioulargo is the jumpoff either one step above Club Cinquante Cinq or one step below, depending on how played-out you think Cinquante Cinq is. In any case, it’s tres chic, my dear. A visit to St Tropez without a stop a Nioulargo essentially makes you a cretin.
Cinquante Cinq is, of course, St Tropez’s most famous destination. You must go, dahling. (By boat, I mean. Because the street traffic, even in a requisite Bentley or Lamborghini, is unbearable.)
Oh, look— there’s Hugh Grant (no, really). Ah look, there’s Mischa Barton. And see that swanky (albeit chartered) motor yacht over yonder in the Mediterranean? That’s where Andrea Bocelli is staying. If you’re charmed enough to be moored closeby, you can hear him practicing his scales in the morning (no, seriously).
And what would a visit to St Tropez be without a drink at Nikki Beach? You may as well drop by; it will negate and/or counterbalance your humiliation at ever having patronized the one here in New York.
Aside from all that, one day we had lunch at La Plage de Salins. It’s a short cruise away from St Tropez’s prominent Plage Pampelonne. Its primary attraction, naturally, is its location directly on the beach "where your feet touch the sea." It’s a bit more tranquil than the aforementioned "hotspots," so scoring a great table is less daunting of a feat.
The food is decent; it may not be culinarily extraordinary, but that’s not why you’re here anyway. They have some familiar staples— caesar salad, cheeseburger, moules frites… but also some wonderful grilled fresh fish. Don’t forget to order a bottle of rosé! To drink anything else in this region would make you decidedly un-Tropézienne, even perhaps nothing short of "un animal."
Another splendid day was late lunch at Le Club de Cavaliere, also a short way from Pampelonne at Le Lavandou. What a gorgeous place.
First and foremost, the service is remarkably stellar. Immediately upon dropping anchor at Le Lavandou, you will find a nice multilingual young man approaching in an immaculate white dinghy to invite you for lunch at Le Cavaliere— and of course, more than willing to personally escort you ashore avec plaisir.
But here’s a little secret: the full lunch menu (offered only until 2:00 PM, unless you have reserved otherwise) is actually rather rich and conceivably too lavish for some tastes, especially in 85+ degree weather on a balmy sunny day. Contrastingly, the midday "snack" menu is effortless and accessible and is really quite ample despite the waiters’ profound apologies. Lots of international favorites here— club sandwich, croque monsieur, tuna niçoise, omelette du jour, etc etc… more than enough to make you a very happy camper. And please don’t forget the tarte-tropézienne (their’s is made with a dash of Cointreau). The quality and execution of everything is superbe.
The other fun thing was shopping at the bi-weekly St Tropez Bazaar. If you can stand the crushing crowds, that is. Everything you can possibly imagine is available at the bazaar. But the most enthralling things to me were the poultry/paella stand and the pizza truck. The pizza truck has a full wood-burning oven inside! Yes, in the truck.
How much did you blow all week?
All week? This is just the first few days— we still got a little ways to go!
But to answer the question: believe me, not anywhere remotely as much as its worth.