City Life: Models and millionaires
Rock-star villas, luxury boutiques, Chanel bikinis... For a seaside fishing village, St Tropez has evolved admirably.
Under the hot sun, jet-setters pose on the promenade, basking in the enviable gleam of super-yachts and super-tans. Honeymooners, movie stars and millionaires mingle in slinky cocktail lounges, while the party crowd soak each other with champagne at Nikki Beach. But step back a little, away from the port and its A-list shenanigans, and a different Riviera light shines. Welcome to a more insouciant St Tropez, where pétanque balls clack in sandy, tree-lined squares, and senior citizens sup pastis in humble cafés. To be stylishly simple and flagrantly status-hungry takes confidence - and this town's got it in spades.
It's a long way from the UK to this easterly port, and only a masochist would take their motor into St Tropez itself. Determined drivers can use the Autotrain from Paris to Avignon or Nice, instead, and clock up the mileage from there (0844 848 4050).
From the UK, British Airways, BMI Baby, EasyJet and Flybe fly to Nice, 90 minutes from St Tropez by car (www.ba.com; www.bmibaby.com; www.easyjet.com; www.flybe.com). The nearest airport is Toulon, served from Bristol and London Stansted by Ryanair in summer (www.ryanair.com).
From London, take the train via Lille to Marseille (www.eurostar.com); from Paris, board the TGV (www. tgv.com). From Marseille to St Raphaël (as near as the railway gets to St Trop) the train offers deckchair views.
Country code for France: 33. Provence: (0)4.
Out to Lunch in Provence by Mike Aalders; anything by Colette or Anaïs Nin, both cult 20th-century eroticists and St Tropez residents.
Do go / Don't Go
The season in St Tropez follows the sailing calendar: May to September are the best months to go. Check your dates for diary clashes with regattas, when crowds and congestion may potentially mar your trip.
You risk paying €25 to travel a distance that would take minutes on foot, so stick to walking or hotel shuttles.
Service is always included in France. Round up cab fares to the nearest euro.
Deck shoes, nautical designerwear, and the glitziest jewellery, accessories and beachwear Mrs Smith can pile on.
The Musée de l'Annonciade on the port houses works by Matisse, Bonnard and Seurat (+33 (0)4 94 17 84 10). Galerie Abrial Côté Art on Avenue Paul Roussel (+33 (0)4 94 97 31 08), has some huge pastel pieces to tempt art deco collectors. Movie geeks might wander over to the Gendarmerie Nationale, where comedy flick Le Gendarme de St Tropez was shot. On Rue Etienne Berny, the Maison des Papillons, with its 220 species of pin-skewered butterflies, makes for an eccentric afternoon's lepidoptery (+33 (0)4 94 97 63 45). There's plenty in the way of ancient architecture to ogle in nearby Grimaud.
Iconic Tropesian yachting hang-out Café de Paris is THE place to be. Wander in for lunchtime noodles, salad and seafood, or book a table to see it liven up at night (+33 (0)4 94 97 00 65).
St Tropez is a potted (or should that be ported) Milan, with designer boutiques such as Dior and Cavalli crammed into the tiny streets around Place de la Garonne and Rue Gambetta. For a more low-key spend, browse and barter in the markets at Place des Lices (Tuesday and Saturday mornings), where you can fill your bags with traditional bedlinen, Provençal cooking ingredients and desirable presents.
The ramparts of the 17th-century citadelle, which houses the naval museum, give the best lookout over the tiled rooftops. In the tiny hill village of Gassin, clamber up through the winding streets for a magnificent view over woodland, wine country and the bay - you should be able to see the three Golden Isles (Porquerolles, Port Cros and Levant).
For a super-chilled walk to find a secret beach, make your way to L'Escalet nudist beach, south-east of St Tropez, and keep walking until you come across the small, peaceful Cap Taillat strand.
May Processions of sailor-suited locals mark the three-day Bravade festival, a tribute to local patron saints. June The Giraglia Cup is a 50-year yacht-racing tradition that's one of the port's busiest regattas. July The St Tropez elite turn their attention to the turf as the International Polo Cup comes to town (www.polo-st-tropez.com). August Ramatuelle brings out the brass and blue notes at its annual jazz gathering (www.jazzfestivalramatuelle.com). September-October The international yachting competition Les Voiles de St Tropez sends the port populace sailing-giddy (www.ot-saint-tropez.com).