Feeling oh so Jackie O, we were whisked from London to St Tropez on a private 10-seater challenger plane. This was no time for moderation or restraint. We drank Bollinger’s. Then we boarded a 40-metre yacht.
The New York gossip columnist Cholly Knickerbocker coined the term jet set in the 50’s. Commercial jet travel had just begun and café society was on the move. A new era was born. Socialites moved from luxurious destination to luxurious destination following a loosely fixed party circuit. London, New York, Paris, Rome, Gsstad in the winter and the Riviera in the summer.
Everyone who was anyone made their way to St Tropez. We were just the latest in a long line who have turned up on these shores. The first arrived without his head. Caius Silvius Torpetius was one of Nero’s henchmen. St Paul converted him to Christianity pissing off Nero who chopped off his head and threw it in the Arno. His body was put in an old boat with a dog and a cock. The animals were expected to eat him, the boat to sink. Instead, both pristine body and hungry animals landed safe and sound on the French shore. The local people named their town after him; he became the patron saint of sailors.
The town endured some ups and downs over the next few centuries… It was invaded by Arabs; became an independent republic; invaded by Spanish; became a tax-free haven (ending 1672 when the highly taxed French took control). The Allies invaded at the end WWII liberating the city. And, finally St Tropez was invaded by paparazzi. They have never left.
And why would they. Celebrities abound, following in the footsteps of Brigit Bardot who came to make a movie and stayed. Her photos are everywhere. She is elusive. Her look alikes are not. Countless women with extreme plastic surgery were dining at Club 55 while we ate lunch. I was mesmerized; staring at women aged 40 to 70 replete with hair extensions, extreme Botox, giant breasts and filled lips, all trying unsuccessfully to look like young sex kittens. They made a compelling argument for trying to age gracefully. But each to their own.
30,000 people descend onto the charming medieval town each day during the season. We stumbled back to the relative privacy of our boat, opened a 6-litre bottle of 1989 Chateau Trotanoy and watched the scene promenading in front of our stern. An English gawker looked up at us before turning to his companion saying, with mixed envy and distain, “Proper Euro trash”. I felt I had finally arrived! Returning to the real world, even via private plane, is going to be tough.