Saint-Tropez –‘Being Seen’, Rade d’Agay, La Napoule

Tue 17 Jun 2014 16:49
Rob & Liliane arrived around 17.00, great to see them both again especially Liliane who we had not seen since last September. As usual they came bearing gifts of delicious Belgian chocolates. We ate aboard catching up with each other’s news.

I made an early foray through the quiet streets of Le Lavandou on Monday morning to the little boulangerie I had found a couple of days ago, buying baguettes and a bag full of deep golden brown, buttery croissants. It was with these smeared with unsalted butter, topped with confiture de abricot and washed down with milky café au lait that we broke our fast. Once breakfasted we prepared the boat and slipped our lines, calling in at the fuel dock to top up our tanks and those of the tender before setting sail in a fair breeze for Saint-Tropez.

We were making good time so we detoured to visit the Baie de Pampelonne a large east facing bay found just before you round up westwards into the Golfe de St Tropez. Pampelonne beach is a narrow strip of sand which follows the inner curve of the bay for some two and a half miles. The bay itself is shallow and although open to the east provides reasonable shelter from other points and good holding on a sandy bottom. Today (Monday 9th June) we learnt was a public holiday and in this bay are anchored more large (over 150 feet in length), glitzy, motor yachts (some of them you might class as ships!) than I have ever seen anchored in one place. The only personnel to be seen on these vessels being the uniformed crew who continue to buff and polish every square inch of their vast superstructures. A little further inshore even greater numbers of more ‘modest’ gas guzzlers in the 40/70ft/£2-8 million range, rock gently on a benign sea and between them and the shore all manner of speed boats and day boats crowd the water, many of them looking like nautical interpretations of Lamborghini motor cars. To be fair there are a few proper yachts and a couple of majestic classic vessels gracing the scene, their sweeping lines, vast lengths of boom and bowsprit and polished timber masts so elegant amongst the glitz, they appear to be here from another age due to an anomaly in the space, time continuum. The narrow beach is banded with ‘clubs’ each with their own dock, for they operate a tender service to ferry the owners and guests of the shiny marine palaces to their establishments. Here they lay in serried rows on club coloured sun loungers, lightly shaded by club coloured parasols bronzing themselves and ‘being seen’. When their oiled and pampered skin becomes too hot they might wander, nose ever so slightly tilted, never smiling or making eye contact, for they must be very important people, to the bar. When I say bar I mean shack built of drift wood, but oh so chic darling, to indulge in a small glass of Cola or Sprite at 7 euros a pop.

We anchored, took our tender to the shore and strolled along the shoreline visiting Club 55, one of the many but at the moment one of the ones definitely to be seen in. Behind their drift wood bar a drift wood shop, another shack but this full of straw hats, cushions and beach frocks. Liliane considered a rustic straw hat, tres chic bien sur, but reconsidered when she saw that the price was €240! “Oh do take it darling, it looks so lovely on you”, said a plum mouthed mother to her petulant looking teenaged daughter, who was holding up what looked like a flimsy piece of gauze to her pert chest, allowing the hem to cascade down her bethonged body. My eyes glancing, only of course at the muslin noticed the €320 price tag. The teenager thrust the gauze aside, tossed her sun bleached locks over a bronzed shoulder and sulkily returned to her allotted sun lounger without responding to mummy at all.

Behind the shop lay the restaurant, a sand floor beneath stretched white sailcloth, upwards of thirty tables, all full. The diners munched and swallowed the eye wateringly expensive food and swilled the six times the price rose wine with a nonchalant air. They were after all ‘being seen’. Strange is it not that those with such wealth should seek to eschew the comfort, privacy and luxury of their multi million pound floating palaces for the delights of lying on a crowded beach and being ripped off in a shack! To be seen or not to be seen, that must be the question.

Having been amazed enough by this scene we returned to Pamarzi, weighed our anchor at around 16.00 and set sail for St Tropez. Shortly after we had left the mass migration from Pampelonne started as the fossil fuelled monsters began their journey for home. By the time we reached the entrance to the marina in St Tropez a dull, yellowish smog had been formed by their noxious emissions that clung to the seaward skyline as far as the eye could see. That apart the approach to St Tropez harbour is beautiful, the old terracotta and ochre coloured walls mixing with ancient stone seem to cling to each other above a rocky shore indented with a small beach. As directed we quietly motored up to the waiting quay outside the Capitainerie where before we could cast a line to the dock we were instructed to proceed to pontoon berth D7. Here we med. moored, tidied Pamarzi before attending to ourselves in preparation for an evening excursion into the old town. A fair walk from our berth to the town’s quayside and one which we were to become glad of for the waterfront was an exceedingly noisy place. Stern to all along the ancient quay vast four decked monoliths soared above the milling throng, emitting a gaudy glare from their multiplicity of lights above and below the waterline, along every deck on every step from the giddy heights of their superstructure. Their crews now more formally dressed, faithfully serving their employers who appeared to relish demonstrating to the gathered gawpers what it was like to swig and chew midst the hubbub, light and fumes whilst the quiet men in dark suits and even darker sunglasses stood slightly to one side of these alfresco scenes the cut of their suits only slightly spoilt by the faint bulge over the left breast where lay holstered leather and cold steel automatics. Across the road brightly lit restaurants were full of more diners whose repast was further spiced by the fumes and noise of many a prancing horse or germanic star as their driver's unnecessarily revved and lurched along the narrow street the occupants attempting to look at the munchers on both sides of the road to ensure that they too were 'being seen'. And so we left them to it and wound our way up through the cool narrow streets into the old town behind this waterfront menagerie. Wonderful views over stone ramparts to the sea beyond, soaring stone towers built of rock gently crumbling as it has been for centuries. Winding our way down to the streets occupied by the grand names of style and fashion, Dior, Versachi, Dolce & Gabana, Lois Vuitton et al. The ladies enjoying the elegant displays of fashion, shoes, handbags and jewellery. On we went finding a large square, boule pitches lined and separated by ancient plane trees making up its sandy interior. The scent of jasmine and bougainvillea and other unknown flora deliciously assaulted the senses. Here we found Café des Art’s a very traditional, slightly old fashioned, typical St Tropez restaurant and the duck magret was quite exceptional.

The following morning we breakfasted on the quayside, quieter than the evenings but it was still amusing to watch the goings on, between reading English newspapers and eating our pain de chocolate. Lynn and Liliane sallied forth to the weekly market whilst Rob and I lingered over our café au lait before setting off to do some exploring. Later we lunched by the fish market on oysters and local rose wine before buying a large chunk of fresh tuna for tonight’s supper.

Liliane and I took the tender to the vielle port early next morning for fresh bread and croissant. We enjoyed the early morning activity, local fishermen returning, deliveries being made, stalls set up and al fresco seating being arranged. After a leisurely breakfast we set sail for Rade d’Agay a well sheltered bay not far up the coast and had a very pleasant reach over calm seas arriving around 14.30. Hook down in good holding about 300 metres off the nearest shore we spent the rest of the day enjoying the clear blue water and afternoon sun. After dining aboard we took the dinghy around the headland to a tiny, charming little bay. Beaching the tender we enjoyed drinks in the little beach bar with just enough other diners and drinkers to provide a nice atmosphere and as the light faded we headed back to Pamarzi looking forward to a good night’s sleep at anchor in the gentle conditions.

Around 01.30 my sleep was disturbed by what I thought in my still slumbering state was the tender touching the side of the boat in the light conditions. My sub conscience must not have agreed because over the next 10 minutes thoughts flowed through my head that had me heading deck wards where I discovered that our dinghy had gone! Search light out we scanned the coast line, no sightings but we could hear talking behind a headland. The police were rung but before they arrived we saw the tail lights of a car disappearing and the talking had stopped. We realised that these thieves had been aboard and had been in the process of getting down into our living quarters when the sound of me stirring must have scared them off. I spent the rest of the night on watch in the cockpit feeling pretty damned low.

Next morning Liliane and I got a lift ashore from a boat hire business owner from the far side of the bay where the little town lay and found our way to the local Gendarmerie. My mood was still low as we entered the small office to be greeted by a smiling rotund Gendarme. Liliane acting as interpreter explained what had happened and the questioning, form filling and statement writing started. Despite my low mood our gentle gendarme was an amusing fellow who did his best to make the process light hearted. He was very helpful and obviously found Liliane charming for he flirted outrageously for the entire hour or so we were there. Our friendly boat hirer took us back across the bay to Pamarzi. A rather sombre day of contacting insurers and Oyster and seeing what contacts we could find in this part of France who might be able to supply a replacement. Choice is very limited as the tender must fit exactly on our davits. Although Zodiac’s (the brand of our dinghy) are based in France there is not a single craft of the correct size and specification to be found in the entire country! Oyster Marine are on the case and we have hopes of one being shipped out to us before too long. By late afternoon I had done all that I could, so to relieve my black mood I dived into the water with a 3M pad and scrubbed Pamarzi’s water line, all 120 feet of it.

Friday morning, dinghy less (for the police had rung to say they had had no success and our boat and engine was probably in Rumania now.) we upped anchor and headed further eastwards to La Napoule. We arrived early afternoon but as there was not a berth available anchored off a pleasant beach and had a lazy few hours. By 19.00 we were tucked into our mooring in Port La Napoule. Deciding to eat ashore we explored the water front and found a reasonable restaurant where we ate reasonably good food served by a clowning waiter. Next day we visited the castle on the shore at the entrance to the marina. A wonderfully romantic pile of very old stones famously restored by the wealthy American sculptor Henry Clews who lived and worked there for 30 years between 1920 and 1950. The building still full of his sculptures and the bodies of him and his wife who are entombed in one of the towers a sealed room above supposedly providing a place for the meeting of their spirits. Returning to Pamarzi we slipped our moorings, Lynn practising her boat manoeuvring skills as she guided the boat out of the marina into the open sea, Antibes beckoning.