Ramatuelle is the secret destination in the South of France that creates the magic that is 'St Tropez'. I had been going to the South of France for years, but it was only about a decade ago that I discovered Ramatuelle and suddenly 'got' why it is the chosen destination of people who could be anywhere in the world, but choose to go there.
The number one rule is don't use the coast road in high season, if you need to get into a car and drive any of the road from St Maxim to St Tropez, you won't feel like you are on holiday, just sitting in a very hot car park. We learnt this from experience, if you want to get to the beach, you need to be on foot or by boat so choose accommodation accordingly.
If you want the night life of St Tropez as well as the beach party of Ramatulle, it is best to stay at Villa Marie or near Tahiti beach which allows a cheap taxi/walk to each so you don't have the stress and worry of car parking.
If you are staying at one of the 5 star places in town, they have shuttle services taking you to Ramatuelle and the bars and clubs so life is very relaxing.
The Chateau Messardiere is now adults only in July and apparently the best place to take a wife or husband, particularly if they are not your own.
Bagatelle, the famous NY restaurant has replaced Voile Rouge and Nikki beach as the hot new party beach, lunch is haute cuisine and they crank up the music from 2pm so the party starts there and continues at Nikki Beach (which is directly behind Bagatelle, just to confuse things Nikki Beach is not on the beach) party at Bagatelle until 4ish and then head to NB which is good from 4 until about 8pm, just gives you time to get back to your digs, change into something sexy and start all over again for the evening session. Bagatelle is pretty eye watering when it comes to the bill, 78 euro for a bottle of Minuty (usually around 40 euro in the nice places).
Club 55 is still the ultimate beach club, it is where the biggest yachts come into lunch and the beautiful people hang around trying to meet the yacht crowd to get an invitation for the party in the evening. Lunch is simple and delicious, it's all organic and local, even the wine comes from Club 55's own vineyards. Lunch sitting is for over 2000 people, but the amazing patron Patrice Colbert knows everyone and everything that is going on. The best tables are in the centre of the restaurant where there are fans and fine mist sprayers. Regulars get very upset when they are put in the trees along the pathway. But if you are new you just have to accept your table, be polite, tip well and keep going back, you will eventually get a good table and it is worth it. You will be sitting with everyone from Elton John to Puff Daddy. This year we saw Ivana Trump, Roberto Cavalli, Ashton Kutcher, Bjorn Borg, Jerry Hall, Nicole Richie to name but a few. Patrice runs the restaurant on a pretty egali.tarian basis, dress well (ie no crumpled beach tunics), be polite, come regularly and the table is yours. But be warned, do not, under any circumstances get your camera out, the pop of a single flashbulb and you will be exiled to the trees forever.
The 55 beach is a little more unpredictable, however far your book in advance, if you arrive after 11am they are likely to have lost your booking (unless you are a group of hot 18 year olds) So if you do manage to book, get there early to avoid disappointment, again, tip and be polite and go back regularly and you won't have any problems.
St Tropez port is less about boats and more about yacht parties, most of the boats are chartered in the high season, with renters coming from all over the world to taste a bit of St Tropez and paying upwards of £200,000 a week for the experience. Every night of the charter they host a party, as of course even the super rich like to make the most of their time and money, so invitations to drinks or dinner are surprisingly easy to come by (as long as you lunch/beach at Club 55 see above). The biggest tippers get the best spots in the harbour and even if you didn't make it on to a boat it is great fun just to walk by and see what they are all up to. The parties start from about 9pm on the boats.
Dinner in St Tropez starts from 10ish, everyone this year wore Alaia dresses and killer heels, it was almost a uniform, and looked fantastic whether on a 17 or 70 year old. The 5* hotel restaurants are still the most popular places to eat. The most popular restaurant was the new Alain Ducasse at the Byblos called Rivea. The Hotel de Paris is the new palace style hotel on the port, it looks incredible, and has great roof top bar, but it was very quiet and I am not sure that it has quite found its feet.
Shopping in St Tropez is incredible, it is not like Spain where everything opens late, so you have to be fairly dedicated and go in the heat of the day. Nothing is cheap, but the best value is probably the beachwear and costume jewellery. Every big brand has a summer shop, Chanel and Dior are worth a visit simply because they are so beautiful. But everything is significantly more expensive than in regular shops and you know that in October there is a huge sale for the shut down of the season with blanket 70% off.
Make sure you get 'Welcome to St Tropez' on your play list, it says all of the above much more succinctly and once you have visited, this track will bring back that St Tropez feeling wherever you are!