The forecast called for rain for the next two days and I was sorely disappointed given that I had anticipated plenty of beach time during our stay in Saint Tropez. But given that the weather was not going to cooperate, we decided that rather than rushing over there, we would eat our breakfast in Aix and do a bit of shopping before hitting the road. We thought we'd take the long way there, passing through the towns of Bandol, Toulon, and Hyeres. I'm not sure if it was the unpleasant weather, but none of these places seemed overly appealing. Toulon was especially rundown and industrial, with tasteless medium-rise condos crowding the city next to graffiti-laden buildings and streets. We didn`t even bother to stop and continued driving eastbound until the scenery improved a bit in Lavandou, a tiny, one-street beach town about 3/4 of the way between Aix and Saint Tropez. There we stopped for a brief coffee break at a local cafe, watching the sunbathers laze along the pale sand until it was time to move on. We drove along for sometime until suddenly, a Mercedes drove by. Then a BMW. Then a Ferrari. And then a Bentley. Well we certainly weren't in Kansas anymore, Toto. We were in Saint Tropez.
For some reason our GPS wasn't able to find our hotel so we drove around aimless (and irritably!) for a bit before it finally came into view on a quiet unassuming street away from the busy city-centre. The hotel was called the Sezz Saint Tropez and it stood hidden in a grassy gated area, barely visible above the rows of trees lining the entrance. We pulled up in our mighty Megaine, which looked rather humble in comparison to the sparkling cherry red Ferrari parked directly in front. "Maybe we should park in the back of the lot," said the copain and I silently nodded my agreement.
The hotel reception opened out to a large outdoor area where a white geometrically-shaped pool was set into a white deck and surrounded by white sun loungers. Beside it was a white bar and some white tables and chairs in between the stout palm trees. There we were seated for a welcome drink by the friendly young staff, before being led to our suite. Each of the suites were bungalow-style, connected only gravel pathways in between. As the hotel staff unlocked to the door to ours, my jaw dropped. Mirrored closet doors led from the foyer into the main area, which was spacious and with high ceilings, where an all-white bed lay on a bright yellow rug facing a floor-to-ceiling window that was revealed when the curtains drew back at the press of a button. Another wall was dark hardwood, punctuated by a series of spotlights set within the curved side of the wall above the bed. Across from the mirrored closets was the bathroom, which had a shower, and a large square bathtub. Beside the tub, a glass door opened up into yet another shower! It was a fully enclosed, private outdoor shower with a stainless steel spout through which the water poured forth like a fountain. It was incredible. This was luxury, and at 600 Euros a night, would have been worth every penny. But considering we paid much, much less for it, thanks to a great deal that we found online, it was most definitely a steal!
I decided right away to try the outdoor shower and felt ever so refreshed after washing out in the open air. We both relaxed in our fluffy white bathrobes after freshening up, until it was time to prep for dinner. The copain pulled out a pair of wrinkledpants from his suitcase and I, an equally wrinkled dress from mine. We couldn't seem to find an iron in the room, so the copain called reception to ask for one. They kindly offered to come by and pick up whatever it was we needed pressed, and that made me suspicious right away. After hanging up the phone, the copain looked over at the hotel information booklet sitting on the bedisde table which listed a price of 14 EUR to press his pants and 20 EUR to press my dress. (The booklet also mentioned that it was for our own safety not to have irons in the room----really). Well, I wasn't having any of that! The indignation!! I promptly marched into the bathroom, turned the dial in the shower to the highest temperature possible and between the steam from that and the heat from the blowdryer that I aimed at it, my dress straightened itself out just like that. By my count, it was Me: 1; Saint Tropez: 0.
Dinner that night was in town at a restaurant called Spoon, located at the very swank and infamous Hotel Byblos. (Apparently Mick proposed to Bianca there). The hotel's "shuttle" (which was a Mercedes SUV) dropped us off at the posh restaurant, which was filled with English-speaking patrons. That should have been our first warning. We were seated at the table and on it was a knife, a fork, and a set of chopsticks. Well, nothing about the place thus far seemed remotely Asian, but, apparently the cuisine was "Asian-fusion". But the haphazard menu didn't have a clear theme, and the only thing Asian about it was a very small section devoted to a random selection of sushi. With seemingly limited choices, I ended up ordering the raw ceviche-style tuna to start while the copain chose a 25 EUR boiled egg. He was rather disatisfied with his chicken entree and picked at it with a sour face, while I happily devoured my lobster bolognese pasta. The artisan-dried pasta noodles from Tuscany were positively divine and I'm sure I could've just as easily eaten them without the bolognese. All in all, I would say it was a decent meal but way overpriced for what it was (I cringed when we saw the bill and the copain's gin and tonic came to 17 Euros). Lesson learned.
It was still really warm after dinner so we wandered down towards the lively waterfront to walk off our meal. We stopped for espresso at a cafe by the docks and stared in awe at the ships moored there (for the bargain price of 55,000EUR per week). A beautiful two-storey white yacht sat to our right, which we guessed would probably be worth about 5 million and change. However, this luxury yacht was dwarfed, just rendered insignificant, by the three-storey sleek black yacht which stood gargantuan beside it, illuminated by bright blue lights against the blackness of the water. Tourists stopped and snapped photos, looking on incredulously as the copain and I wondered who it was that could afford to own these toys. Mafia? Oil tycoons? Arabian Princes? Many of them had "Georgetown, C.I." embossed on them, but one yacht said "Halifax, N.S." Now that is a long way's away. The copain pointed out towards the water: "you see those yachts out there?" he asked me. "Those are the ones that are too big to make it into port." Wow. We were clearly rolling with he big boys here, and were but wee tiny minnows amongst these whales. We walked around some more until we just couldn't take in any more of the fabulousness and decided to catch a cab home from the Hotel Byblos. Another Mercedes, this time a van, took us back to our hotel but didn't have a meter, which made me assume it was free. Neither the copain and I had change for a tip so grudgingly, he discreetly handed the driver 10 Euros, with thanks. The driver cleared his throat and responded "I'm sorry, Monsier, but the cost is 30 Euros." 30 EUROS FOR A 5-MINUTE CAB RIDE???? Okay. We were clearly out of our league here. I was in disbelief and the copain was still seething after we got back to our suite. Well I know that I'd certainly had enough of the blatant gouging that we'd experienced that evening, so I promised myself that I would not be so naiive tomorrow. Before turning in for the night, we both pulled out the next day's clothes from our suitcases and hung them up to loosen out the creases. No hotel pressing for us! After tonight, it was Me: 1, Saint Tropez: 1.