Monday, May 23, 2011

Brigitte Bardot and Club 55 Saint-Tropez

‘De trop’ means over-the-top in French. Which makes the abbreviated 'Saint Trop' for the ritzy Cote d’Azur seaport seem aptly originated by bemused gods. For each day during high season from May through October—and especially in July and August--60,000 visitors invade the tiny fishing village of Saint-Tropez--melding into a Chagall-like scene.

Tattooed teens with spiked green hair. Palm Beach matrons with tiny white dogs tizzied-up in pink. Russian billionaires driving their mega-yachts--cocktails and noses aloft with a Thurston Howell air. Those juxtaposed snapshots reawaken a sense of exalting mirth.

Serenity returns to the sleepy arts community after the annual Les Voiles Regatta festivities. Over 300 sailing yachts converge from around the globe to participate--then vanish at the end of the first week of October--along with the vivid contrasts.

But while in Saint-Tropez, visitor ‘must dos’ include AM pastry at Sénéquier—where at the adjacent table Cindy Crawford or Leonardo DiCaprio might be munching a croissant. The colorful Farmer’s Markets in the square on Tuesday and Saturday mornings are de rigueur. A stroll of old Port illuminated by slanting gold, pink and tangerine rays of sunset--steals your breath away. And a meal at Club 55—or Cinquante-cinq—the most famous beach club in the world--restores a sense of common humanity in this party of life together.

Club owner, Patrice de Colmont was a child when his parents purchased a fisherman's house on the white sand crescent beach of Pampelonne--six-miles from town. They’d offer hospitality to passing tourists they deemed simpatico. Then in 1955, as Brigitte Bardot and hubby-director Roger Vadim filmed ‘And God Created Woman’ on the beach—Patrice’s mother was engaged to prepare meals for the crew. When the project wrapped~Club 55 was born.

With its incomparably scenic setting--the club that Bridget Bardot called her favorite remains as timeless and popular as ever. The restaurant is in a laid-back Provencal chic bungalow within a forest of bamboo--shaded by white canopies floating above the terra cotta-terrace. Star-studded helicopters, yachts, and Ferraris might deposit Oprah, George Clooney, P Diddy, Jerry Hall and Claudia Schiffer at the door or pier…still, what dominates the happy scene are children and dogs scampering beneath the trees, the fresh, simple and delicious cuisine, an atmosphere where everyone is alike--and as a friend.

Just remember that if a Chagall-ish violin-playing unicorn arrives—it’s all Haute Nirvana. Simply nod, smile, and sip your sangria.

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