by Kate King
We wandered past the bay, a large cruise ship sitting idly waiting for passengers to board, rocking in the water. Dressed like Swedish backpackers, we wandered down the walkway, awaiting the harsh gazes of the locals as we crashed their street party. awaiting the harsh gazes of the locals as I crashed their street party. We stepped into a square and approached a raucous group of people drinking, laughing and chattering happily. As soon as we settled we had a small coloured glass full of rosé in our hands. Although small, our glasses seemed to be bottomless.
The square had small terrace-like house surrounding it sporting a beautiful brick yellow that radiated throughout Saint Tropez. Women and their husbands wandered from their doorways with platters of food; the scent of meat, cheeses and pastries carried through Old Town like a gentle fog. Pâté, flavoured meats, vegetables and a couple of bowls of crisps sat atop small colourful tables. Throughout the evening, we were introduced to people that were scattered across the map. Hailing from America, Switzerland and other areas of France, most of them were in Saint Tropez on holiday, visiting old friends or simply getting away from their hometowns for a break over the summer season.
Being overseas creates a strong desire to find out absolutely everything you can about anyone. Having people from overseas in your home-town only does the same. We were surrounded by strangers that felt immediately like family. We discussed their families, children, hopes of study abroad, internships, marriages and just about all you can find out in a basic character interview. As we stood and talked with a myriad of people, thunder rolled in across the water and lightning split the sky, and our conversations, in half.
We all scrambled. The food was priority of course. The tables were dragged under the two large trees in the middle of the courtyard and umbrellas were perched above them above them to protect the abundance of delights. The rain only got heavier and the thunder louder. Eventually the food was taken back into one of the hosts homes and all the guests flocked into her dining room. Wandering past and seeing twenty or more people crowded into her tiny kitchen made me realise how normal social precautions are ignored to accommodate others and make them comfortable. Half of these people, she may have barely known and yet, almost like second nature, she ushered them into her home.
We wandered around the now dreary and wet old-town of Saint Tropez. It was past 10pm, but unlike Australia the entire town was buzzing. People were sat in restaurants drinking, chefs were seen through street level windows chopping vegetables and port workers were out gallivanting in tiny pubs. After looping through the streets and turning down every windy corridor we made it back to the square where the merriment had begun again.
As we wandered up, glasses were thrust upon us and some brown liquid poured into it. We were offered some very strong but smooth Armagnac. The men who offered us the liquor smirked as we attempted to sip on the spirit with their wives sat behind them watching on. We chatted with them a while longer before we decided it was time to take our leave.
As we wandered out of old-town and into downtown for a baguette, I had remembered what people told me while I was in Paris a couple of weeks beforehand: Saint Tropez was where the rich lived. It was full of millionaires and their young wives. While Saint Tropez may be renowned for luxury, there’s a side to Saint Tropez that is quaint and humble. The people are welcoming and free pour the rosé like its water. They may exude elegance but in a way that makes you feel at home even on the other side of the world.