Barefoot in Saint-Tropez
© Tim Möller-Kaya

Barefoot in Saint-Tropez


 What does it mean when tourist hordes descend on a small fishing village of about 4000? By hordes, I mean around six million visitors a year, which is roughly 500 000 a month and 16 000 a day. It means that the village is no longer an insider tip. It’s no longer any kind of tip. And no travel columnist with all his marbles would send his readers there.

But I would still recommend St. Tropez to anyone who happens to be in the area anyway – just not before midnight. There are far too few hotels to accommodate such numbers, and the few that do exist are way too expensive, so most tourists leave again late in the evening to spend the night somewhere else. Until then, they treat the cradle of the jet set like a fairground or a circus or a boat show or some other festival, where you spend a few hours pushing through crowds, possibly in hopes of grabbing a selfie with a celebrity, and possibly in hopes of more – although such hopes will always be in vain, because what people really long for has only room to breathe, an empty square to dance in and narrow streets to dream in once everyone else has left. Even the promenade and the pier were virtually deserted just after midnight when I sat down on the quay wall with Lara and finally understood what Gunter Sachs had meant. The sky, the sea, the ancient stones. A summer’s night on the French Riviera. Two bars were still open across from the yachts, neither too full, nor too empty, either. Cuba libres in hand, no pickpockets in sight, we danced between the tables, kicking off our shoes to boogy barefoot in the sand. We didn’t see any celebrities and that, too, was just fine.

Our columnist, Helge Timmerberg, an irrepressible globetrotter since 1969, writes travel books and contributes monthly to our magazine.