By Lead Travel Writer, Renee Fontaine
“Is not a kiss the very autograph of love?”
— Henry Fin
Think of the word “French” and what comes to mind? Wine, the Eiffel Tower, and the Cote d’Azur. Now, combine “French” with “Kiss” and an entirely new image arises — lovers lips sealed in a passionate embrace. Movie lovers may conjure up thoughts of the 1995 Hollywood film, French Kiss. This romantic comedy, written by Adam Brooks and starring Meg Ryan and Kevin Kline combines all the greatest aspects of French culture into one fun-filled movie — comedy, love, wine,adventure and, of course, a kiss!
— Pepe Le Pew
My enthrallment for everything French preceded my fascination for the kiss. As a young child, I dreamed of a land more exhilarating where people spoke with a soft accent, wore a beret and carried around a baguette. I like to think that this allure had something to do with an exotic past life. However, the source is more likely due to the many French influences of my childhood — the Pepe le Pew cartoon character, my French name and the thoroughfare near my childhood home — France Avenue.
Childhood led to adulthood, which led me to academia. Studying French and International Relations at the university, I was determined to absorb myself in all the intricacies and nuances of this far-off romantic land. The university years were followed by law school which led to days and nights studying the intricacies and nuances of such dull topics as Subject Matter Jurisdiction and Business Entity Formation. In 1995, French Kiss re-fired my passion for France. One year later, I boarded a plane to Paris to study international law.
My obsession grew as visits became more frequent — almost annually for several years. During each trip, I would split my time between the high-paced excitement of Paris and the relaxing ambience of the French Riviera. Despite my frequent travels, I never became acquainted with St. Tropez or the wine regions.
Years passed. My attention was diverted by a Caribbean Island, the Spanish language, a Latin lover, and affection for wine. Recently, my long-lost love, France, walked back into my life in the form of an invitation to visit St. Tropez. St. Tropez conjured up images of beautiful beaches, quaint ancient architecture, enormous yachts, and celebrity appeal. I came to learn that St. Tropez is also famous for wine!
Welcome to St. Tropez!
“It’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!”
Whenever I hear the words, “Welcome to St. Tropez,” my mind instantly plays the beat of the popular house song by DJ Antoine; and, my body is compelled to follow with techno-style dance moves.
The Port of St. Tropez came into view as my boyfriend and I crossed the gulf from St. Maxime — luxurious yachts floating effortlessly on aqua blue water against the backdrop of an ancient village. Slyviane Simmons, owner of the St. Tropez Townhouse wearing a radiant smile and speaking with a Dutch accent, greeted us as we disembarked the ferry with our suitcases in tow.
Relaxing at an open-air café while admiring the view of the port, Slyviane shared the details of her love affair with St. Tropez. From her first time visiting as a young woman, this town’s beauty, people and culture captured her heart. Three decades later her devotion for this precious gem remains strong.
Driving just five minutes outside of the center village, we arrived at the townhouse. Perfectly located half way between the old village and the beaches, this luxury townhouse is an ideal vacation property. Veiled behind the entry door, we found a stunning, spacious home. The décor is the perfect complement to the French Provencal style architecture with white-washed cross beams and doors. The kitchen is a radiant blue which mirrors the Mediterranean feel. Two spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms adjoin the main living area. Steps lead to a second level loft with a desk plus another spacious bedroom. Glass doors at the rear open to a inviting terrace overlooking a quiet wooded area.
The evening of our arrival, Sylviane escorted us on a tour of the old village. Meandering our way along the cobblestone streets, we absorbed the beauty and history of the ancient architecture. We passed through narrow alleys and archways, and found Pesquiere, a lively dinner spot on the little street of La Ponche. The restaurant was bustling with people. We took a seat by the bar and ordered some red wine. We made a toast to our new friend, Sylviane, and this amazing jewel of the Mediterranean.
The next evening, Sylviane introduced us to clubs in the area. Bistro des Arts was our first stop. This chic lounge, located on the Lices Park Square, is an embodiment of the diverse culture of St. Tropez. Men and women, nicely dressed, enjoy modern music in a welcoming atmosphere. We joined the crowd taking a place by the bar. We danced to the beat of the music, wine glasses in hand. Next, we stopped at the infamous Les Caves du Roy. Sylviane introduced us to the owner and well-known DJ Jakee. My boyfriend and I hit the dance floor.
The vibration of the music pulsated through our bodies as we moved to the rhythm. The song, Welcome to St. Tropez sounded from the speakers; a gust of cool air swept across the dance floor; confetti floated down; he held me in an embrace; and, we kissed.
“Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
— Jimi Hendrix
We quickly fell into the rhythm of St. Tropez life. Each morning, we sipped espressos at La Paniere just a short walk from the townhouse. Middays, we enjoyed lunch at our favorite Boulangerie — Le Tart Tropezienne. Facing Lices Park, this fine café offers the perfect spot to enjoy a slice of quiche while watching the local men play petanque, or admiring the fare of the fruit and flower vendors.
Early afternoons, we would take the short drive to the beaches. Set on the other side of the peninsula, the white sand beach makes a striking view against the aqua blue waters of the Mediterranean. The beach is dotted with such famous establishments as Club 55 and Nikki Beach. Relaxing on cushioned lawn chairs under a beach umbrella, we marveled at the view of the sailboats and yachts on the horizon. An upbeat mix of French and American music sounded in the background while we sipped glasses of cold Rosé, laid back and soaked up the ambience.
Other afternoons we spent exploring the winding cobblestone streets of the old village. One day, we stumbled upon a hat shop that sells the most exquisite designs. The girl at the counter was wearing a hat in the style of the Mad Hatter which made me smile as the scene felt surreal — as if we had just fallen down a rabbit hole into wonderland. The hats are finely woven, in elegant panama and wide brim designs, in colors and weaves that are truly one of a kind. In fact, we found each shop in the village to have unique clothing and accessories of the finest quality and distinctive style. Truly a shopper’s haven!
Other days we drove the rural roads finding such marvels as Ramaruelle, Gassin, and Grimond. Perched upon the top of the high hills near St. Tropez, these ancient little villages are reminiscent of French country-style charm. We learned that Gassin was named the most beautiful town in France in 2011. Wandering the narrow winding streets, we felt transported back in time to the Middle Ages. Stopping for lunch at one of the quaint restaurants, we gazed upon the far-reaching view of the peninsula leading toward St. Tropez. Vineyards, fine homes, perfectly manicured pine trees mixed with palms dotted the horizon — breathtaking! I looked up and kissed the sky.
“Wine is like people. The vine takes all the influences in life all around it. It absorbs them and it its personality.” — French Kiss, 1995
One day while driving along the winding country roads, we came across a sign that read: Cote de Provence — Vins de Provence — Terre de Rosés depuis 2600 ans. Curious as to why Rosé wine has predominated this region for more than 2600 years, my boyfriend and I set out on a tour of the local vineyards.
Majestically situated on the road that leads to Gassin, we found Bertaud Belieu. Stepping inside the ancient wine cellar, we marveled at the curved stone walls and ceilings lined with bottles of fine wines. Our guide, Anthony Guyot, provided background on the vineyard. Built by Lord Bertaud in the year 1350, this vineyard has been in continuous operation since that time. The estate grows twelve varieties of grapes to produce Rosé, white and red wines. He explained that eighty percent of the wine they produce is Rosé. Of this, forty percent is exported to the United States, being the number-two selling Rosé wine in New York and the number-one selling Rosé in Las Vegas.
Elaborating further, he said that the reason for the large production of Rosé is due to the demand in the region. St. Tropez is at peak season during the summer. When the weather is hot, people like to drink a light, cold wine.
He offered us a tasting of several of the Rosé wines. The Cuvee Bertaud Belieu 2012 was my favorite. This wine is produced with three grape varieties in equal quantities: Cinsualt, Tibourin and Grenache. The combination unites for a fresh and fruity taste.
Upon our departure, Anthony generously gave us a bottle of Rosé and a bottle of red wine. Anthony explained that Bertuad Belieu is one of the few vineyards in the area that also produce a quality red wine.
That evening at the townhouse, my boyfriend and I relaxed on the spacious back terrace with a couple of glasses of the Cuvee Millennium 2000 red wine from Anthony. The taste on the palate was smooth, yet rich in aroma with a hint of flavors of currant and cinnamon. The best red wine I have tasted all year! The next day we returned to Bertuad Belieu to buy three more bottles.
The following afternoon, we were warmly welcomed at Domaine La Rouillere by proprietor, Bertrand Letartre. Set on 40 hectors of land of rolling vine rows, this picturesque wine estate, named after a small river that passes through the area, has been in operation since the eighteenth century. Bertrand purchased the estate several years ago and turned the archaic system into a state-of-the-art production facility. The high-tech temperature control system, juice extractor and stainless-steel tanks assure that each bottle of wine produced will be of the finest quality. He showed us the machinery that selects the grapes for each wine and pushes them through a tub to cool them from a harvest temperature of 25 degrees Celsius to 12 degrees Celsius. No sulfates are needed when the wine is fermented between 15 and 18 degrees, he explained. At the tasting room, we were offered a variety of wines to sample. As my boyfriend tasted the 2010 Cuvee Grande Reserve Red, he described what images the taste brought to mind — a cozy cottage in the mountains sitting next to a warm fire. He asked me, what images the taste brought to my mind. The dialogue from a scene in French Kiss came to my mind:
Luc: “Can you describe it, the taste?
Kate: “It’s a nice red wine.”
Luc: “I think you can do better.”
Kate: “A bold wine with a hint of sophistication and lacking in pretension. Actually, I was just talking about myself.”
I smiled to myself and then agreed with his analysis of the wine. Next we tasted the Cuvee Premium Rosé 2012. An entirely other image came to mind — warm summer days at the beach with friends. Now we understood why Rosé wines are in high demand in this region. In fact, ninety percent of the wine produced by La Rouillere is sold within the Cote de Provence. Back at the beach, we opened a bottle of Rosé and watched the sun set. The kiss of the light pink wine on our lips was perfect on this warm, spring evening.
Sealed with a Kiss
“A kiss seals two souls for a moment in time.”
— Levende Waters
St. Tropez stole my heart like an unexpected lover. This Mediterranean jewel is the epitome of the fine features of France. I felt my soul sealed with the spirit of this quaint village. As we drove out of town, I looked back through the rearview mirror at the calm blue water, ancient architecture and rolling hills. In my mind’s eye, I could see the former me — the child skipping through the house singing “Savoir Faire is everywhere,” while dreaming of this place. To seal this dream come true, I looked back with one last loving glance and blew a kiss to St. Tropez. For reservations, please contact Sylviane Simmons at firstname.lastname@example.org, +31 20 776 9600, +31 65 063 5770.
This property was selected for the Beach Area Vacation Rental category due to its proximity to the beach. This property is also suitable for the categories of Vacation Rentals for the Sports Enthusiast, Super Romantic Vacation Rentals, and Vacation Rentals for the Wine Connoisseur.
Comments Welcome: Make a comment below (our writers work hard…give them some love!) on any of our Live Reviews by Travel Writer Cindy White, Deborah Nelson, or Renee Fontaine, and get a FREE Digital version of The Vacation Rental Travel Guide when it is hot off the press!