What happened to St. Tropez?

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There is something very special about landing at Nice airport; it’s something about the south of France, it’s vegetation, architecture, its scents; the color of the ocean and this feeling of summer that take over me each time I’m here. After collecting our luggage we make our way to the very convenient and glamorous helicopter service to St. Tropez. There is no better way to avoid traffic and get a good idea of the shear beauty of this renowned coast all the way from Nice, through, Antibes, Cannes, Juan les Pins all the way to St. Tropez.

I’ve been coming to St. Tropez over the summer every year since I was 10 years old; I must admit I am quite jaded about this summer mecca and when I say: “What happened to St. Tropez” I’m referring to the tragic change this spectacular French resort has gone through over the last 10 years. It’s become a victim of it’s own success and today, it’s a playground for really tacky, nouveau riche (or wannabe “Riche”) wanting to flaunt their money and trophies and St. Tropez is happy to oblige with a myriad of ridiculous, commercialized gimmicks designed to take as much money as they can while dignifying and promoting such appalling behavior. Hummmm…do I sound a little negative? As I said, I’m really jaded when it comes to this place; there was a time when I thought St. Tropez was the most amazing summer resort in the world. I guess that after doing the same thing over and over for so many years, you grow tired of it and less welcoming of imminent change. Make no mistake, St. Tropez is absolutely beautiful, it’s just the summer people and the summer commerce that ruin it these days. If you have the opportunity to rent a house in one of the many little villages that pepper the coast’s hills, with a group of friends and enjoy the many local restaurants, markets, wineries and beaches, then this place is still amazing; but hanging out in town, along side the new madness…well, that’s clearly not for me anymore! Enough said…let’s move on.

 

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Our helicopter service to St. Tropez

 

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The very unfreindly French pilots

 

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Arial view of the port of Cap d’Antibes

 

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The stunning bays of St. Tropez

 

Once we land in St. Tropez, our driver is waiting to drive us to our hotel: Pan Dai Palais (www.pandei.com); one of the newer five start hotels in town and probably my favorite, because of it’s small and intimate size (only 10 gorgeous rooms), its exclusivity and it’s impeccable service. The Moroccan themed hotel is a converted 18-century estate that reeks of chic and it’s literally in the middle of town where everything is happening. It comes in handy when you had a few too many drinks and need to crawl back home.

 

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The super-chic Pan Dei Palais Hotel in St. Tropez

 

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Pan Dai Palace lobby

 

P1010058Pan Dai Palace swimming pool

 

saint-tropez-pan-dei-1305Pan Dai Palace Dining Room

 

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My beautiful Maharaja Suite

 

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More Maharaja Suite

 

After settling into my room, we begin our 24 hours jammed packed visits of St. Tropez; starting with, what else, the beach! There are plenty of beaches in St. Tropez’s Pampelonne Bay and each one has a totally different crowd and purpose; my days of Nikki Beach, Voile Rouge or Bagatelle are most definitely over; the only beach I can bear these days, is Les Palmier, which is the most upscale and subdued of the whole lot, though I still like a long, boozy lunch at the iconic Club 55 (www.club55.fr/en/). After tipping the doorman $100 to get through the gate (you have to tip everyone here to get anywhere…kind of like Vegas), $200 for 2 chaise-lounge on the beach, $50 for two towels, $80 for a bottle of Evian, it’s finally time to relax and enjoy the beautiful sun and the expensive blue waters of the Pampelonne Bay, that looks more like a parking lot of mega yachts, fighting for the best position along the coast, than an ocean. After a lovely $400 lunch for two on the beach and a party at Tahiti Beach with my old friend Luigi (a staple in St. Tropez for over 30 years) spinning away and making us Tropical drinks the size of a fish bowl, it’s back to Pan Dai for a little siesta before the night marathon. $1000 afternoon and no shopping bag to show for…

 

IMG_5498The upscale Les Palmier Beach Club


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Robert Kass and Raphael Tessier getting sauced on Luigi’s Tropical Punch massive drink

 

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IMG_5616The amazing Luigi spinning at Tahiti Beach

 

Tonight we are driving 35 minutes outside St. Tropez in La Croix Valmer to dine at Couleurs Jardin Restaurant, a super charming outdoor restaurant perched on the beach. The food is amazing like most of the restaurants in these parts; my Pata Negra, a Spanish pork specialty, is to dye for! Two bottles of Burgundy later, it’s time for trouble! We drive back to St. Tropez and after a walk around this beautiful port town to digest our very heavy dinner, we move to the trendy Cafe de Paris at the port, where another old friends of mine from St. Tropez, is the GM. My friend Philippe has been running trendy clubs and bars in St. Tropez for the last 30 years, from the days of Le Bal to Le Pigeonnier to Chez Maggy’s and this one is no exception. Philippe is bigger than life and probably the funniest person in France; he will not let you leave his establishments standing, in fact, he’s happy to see you leave horizontally! Thankfully, I manage to stumble out before the customary demise.

 

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The ocean-side Couleurs Jardin Restaurant in La Croix-Valmer

 

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The open terrace dining room at Couleurs Jardin

 

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Heirloom tomatoes with burrata and tapenade

 

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Mussels au Gratin


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Spanish Pata Negra

 

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The charming, restaurant lined side alleys of St. Tropez

 

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St. Tropez’s iconic port lined with mega-yachts

 

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The omni-present Mega Yachts in the port oif St. Tropez

 

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The one and only Philippe holding court at Café de Paris

 

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The famous Tarte Tropézienne at Café de Paris

 

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The best dessert ever at Café de Paris

 

It’s now 2am and the perfect time to go to “THE” club in St. Tropez for the last 40 years: Les Caves des Roy at the Hotel Byblos (www.byblos.com/en/). This place is difficult to explain; it’s like a seventy’s club that never grew up but intact, shines brighter than ever; it’s a mecca for the worst kind of rich patrons one could think of and their dreadful groupies than come along with them. I will admit, I had many, many of amazing nights at Les Caves through the years, but now it’s literally painful to visit this joint. I remember many years ago when this club started a trend of interrupting the music every time someone bought a $15,000 Magnum of Dom Perignon or Crystal and the DJ announced the city from where the rich buyers came from, which in those days was not to often.

Today there are so many rich people that they literally interrupt the music every 10 minutes to announce a new city every time someone buys a mega bottle with the incredibly annoying words: “Dubai in the house” or, “Bangladesh in the house” or “Hong Kong in the house” while the waiters fight their way across the club, carrying the large bottles with sparklers in toe, to the your table, so that everyone knows you’re the ONE. Not to mention they pack this relatively small club to the hilt making it impossible to even move; I’m seeing the headlines already if ever a fire brakes out in this place: “French Toast”. The funny thing is that unequivocally, year after year, I run into so many of my friends in here from all over the world who are just having the time of their lives, just like I used to…I guess I started to early. This place is generation proof and here to stay no matter what this old goat says…Good for them!

 

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Place des Lices on the way to the Byblos Hotel

 

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The very exclusive and eternally jammed-packed Caves du Roy in St. Tropez

 

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Robert Kass in St. Tropez in 1995 sporting the young fashionista look

 

n1210396193_1230368_2265Dinner in St. Tropez with friends in 1995

It’s 5am and this grumpy and inebriated Suizo is ready for bed and thankfully, I can crawl back to my fabulous hotel that is just around the corner and slip into my four post Maharaja throne for whatever is left of this night before tomorrow’s imminent departure to Monte Carlo for the day and finally Paris for dinnertime. I don’t think I’ll be coming back to St. Tropez anytime soon, or at least, until I can afford a villa in the hills for me and my friends.

Bonne nuit mes petits poussins!

 

Back to Göcek for our last meal with the Turks and off to St. Tropez

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Once again, during the night, we sailed back to Göcek, Turkey; so by the time we wake up, we’re already anchored in one of Göcek’s spectacular natural bays. It’s a bittersweet day today; we are leaving for the South of France this afternoon and leaving my Turkish family behind is always a tough nut to swallow. After my morning breakfast on the deck, it’s packing time before a few last hours of lounging and sunbathing. Both Raffi and I get our last massage from the talented Jasmine and a long swim before lunch. Today we are going to the magnificent reservation of the Datça Peninsula, where the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas meet, to have lunch at the famous Il Riccio restaurant from Capri (www.dhotel.com.tr/en/dining/restaurants/il-riccio.aspx), that recently opened it’s doors as part of the super luxurious D Hotel and resort (www.dhotel.com.tr/en/home.aspx); there, all of our Turkish friends are joining us for the last supper: including the beautiful Burçak Sayilgan, Selim Sayilgan, Mr. and Mrs. K, Feti, the fabulous Endar, etc…

 

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Someone is getting a massage

 

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Someone is pole dancing…

 

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Goodbye home away from home!

 

Il Riccio is one of the most famous restaurants in Capri and always a favorite with the rich and famous clan; the food is always very good but they are well known for their dessert room where you find the most amazing selection of desserts enough to satisfy the most difficult of palates; furthermore, the room is decorated in the most beautiful fantasy of marine blue and white that just ads a whole new element to the whole experience. Clearly, this new Riccio franchise, has recreated the signature “Dessert room” of the original restaurant behind the dining room; not quite the same WOW factor as the one in Capri, but definitely good enough for this little dessert monster…me, that is! The food was also not as good as the original, but not bad at all. As a restaurateur I’ve learned that it is close to impossible to re-create the same cuisine of one country in another country and expect it to be exactly the same. Ingredients change flavor from country to country, from the basic ingredients such as water, spices and flower all the way to vegetables and meats. The place is stunning though, not easy to compete with Capri, but this location is beyond beautiful, right on the beach with the most mind-blowing natural views of the bay with its white sand beaches.

 

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Arriving at Il Riccio for our last lunch before heading off to Istanbul


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Outdoor ding area at Il Riccio

 

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Bar at Il Riccio

 

IMG_5568Our table at Il Riccio



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Menu at Il Riccio

 

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The amazing dessert room at Il Riccio

 

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Switzerland, Turkey and Canada united over dessert!

 

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The last supper with two of my favorite people in the world

 

IMG_4971Our helicopter is arriving to pick us up at Il Riccio

 

After a big lunch, a case of Domaine Ott Rosé, 6 desserts and lots and lots of laughter, it’s time to say goodbye to my amazing hosts and dear friends: Mr. and Mrs. K. They have arranged for a helicopter to pick us up at the resort hotel we are at and fly us to Istanbul where we will connect on a flight to Nice and another helicopter to St. Tropez. I know…how glamorous is that???? If it was up too my budged, we’d be paddling on a rafter all the way to the South of France. After many, many kisses, hugs and tears, we jump on a Golf cart with our luggage and climb the hill to the helipad where our Augusta Helicopter is waiting to take us on the two hour journey to Istanbul.

Taking off on a heli, gives you a totally unique prospective over this incredible region; both Raffi and I couldn’t stop taking photos of this magical landscape. It’s quite noisy on a helicopter, so they provide you with headphones that are connected to one another so you can speak to each other, while blocking the outside noise. Two hours seem to go by in a second and, once again, the view of Istanbul, its bridges and palaces like you can only experience from a helicopter, is breathtaking; I don’t want to get off!

Like all good things…this too must come to an end and we must face our own reality now and reluctantly, board an incredibly ordinary commercial jet as the pedestrians we are…sigh! I’m just kidding…I don’t care how I get anywhere as long as I’m going somewhere all the time!!!!!


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That’s the way we roll…

 

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Robert Kass serious Heli pose

 

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Robert Kass and Raffi’s stupid pose

 

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The amazing views of Goçek from our helicopter


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IMG_5021Arriving in Istanbul

 

The rest of the trip is quite ordinary so I’ll catch up with you possums tomorrow morning when I wake up in “Cheese ball City” St. Tropez for my quick, 24 hour visit.

Au revoir ma Turquie, au revoir mes amis…à la prochaine!