Pouting sexpot Brigitte Bardot came to St-Tropez in the '50s to star in Et Dieu Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman; 1956) and transformed the peaceful fishing village overnight into a sizzling jet-set favourite. Tropeziens have thrived on their sexy image ever since: at the Vieux Port, yachts like spaceships jostle for millionaire moorings, and infinitely more tourists jostle to admire them.
Yet there is a serene side to this village trampled by 100,000 visitors a day in summer. Out of season the St-Tropez of mesmerising quaint beauty and ‘sardine scales glistening like pearls on the cobblestones’ that charmed Guy de Maupassant (1850–93) comes to life. Meander cobbled lanes in the old fishing quarter of La Ponche, sip pastis at a place des Lices cafe, watch old men play pétanque (a variant on the game of bowls) beneath plane trees, or walk in solitary splendour from beach to beach along the coastal path.