SAINT-TROPEZ: CITY DESCENDED FROM THE SCREEN
... They put the body of martyr named Saint Tropes, beheaded on the orders of the cruel king Nero, into the boat, a rooster and a dog rested nearby. And the vessel was sailing on the waves until it came to the shores of an unfamiliar settlement... No, it is not an imagination of avant-garde artists (who, incidentally, were also fascinated by Saint-Tropez), but the legend about why the famous French resort got its name. And what do you know about Saint-Tropez - a modern sizzling jet-set favourite where the film stars on the beach are the same numerous as stars in the sky?
Passing through history zigzags
Everything known to the people about history of Saint-Tropez till the 20th century, is easy to describe with several lines. The Greek colony of the 2nd century, the invasion of Arabs, expulsion of the infidels away from the mini-state... At the middle of the 11th century the town got under control of the monks, but the power of religion could not keep local princes of civil wars, which resulted in damaging Saint-Tropez. In the 15th century, the town re-gained its former strength, was surrounded with stone walls. Victorious moment, that the history was hiding from the public for a few centuries, happened in 1637 when four vessels, a part of the Saint-Tropez fleet, defeated twenty Spanish ships. However, even this glorious event added no popular to the place, for many years the coastal town was considered as a village good for fishing only.
They make Saint-Tropez popular
Beau monde first started talking about small Mediterranean town when at the end of the 19th century Guy de Maupassant paid a visit there. A few years after this event, the French painter Neo-Impressionist Paul Signac anchored his sailboat Olympia at the peaceful fishing village. Fleeing from depression and distressing thoughts after the death of his two friends Vincent Van Gogh and Georges Seurat, Signac was sailing the sea in search of solitude: "Just returned from Brittany, I want to go away again... I had enough of it, it rains too often there". Paul Signac chose Saint Tropez on the recommendation of his friend Henri-Edmond Cross, who often invited the artist to visit unusual places as if created for plain-air painting: "The hills covered with pine and oak trees gently descend down to the sea and fade completely turning into sandy beach, where the sand grains are different from those on the English Channel. Verdure forest reaches tops of sharp rocks. And almost everything is created with flowing wavy lines." So, once fascinated by some local neighbourhoods, Signac fills his landscape pictures with sunlight, which was not observed on his earlier canvases. His brush created the painting Saint-Tropez. Storm (1895), Port of Saint-Tropez (1901). When Henri Matisse came to visit Signac, Saint-Tropez made a lasting impression on him by bestowing a long-awaited spiritual harmony, as evidenced by the Matisse's picture Richness, Calm, and Pleasure (1904).
20th century marked for Saint-Tropez the beginning of the cinema era. Film director Roger Vadim called at this place long before the filming of the cult movie with Brigitte Bardot starring, And God Created Woman. The coastal town, which became a haven of French love, and a place for sorting out the relationship between free from prejudice Juliette and her jealous husband Michel, was not chosen by chance: Roger Vadim was captured by the small port and the atmospheric seafront dotted with seaside restaurants. Scenery was perfectly complemented with the St. Anne Chapel, where sailors used to come asking for blessings before long voyage, and now tourists drop in to relax in a hot day near the picturesque altar.
The next movie, contributed to fame of Saint-Tropez, narrates about the adventures of a gendarme (police officer), who arrived at a small town, to restore order there, and ended up wreaking the havoc. Yes, it is all about Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez, the first movie from a comedy film series directed by Jean Giraud, telling us about the funny and a bit muddled gendarme Cruchot, with Louis de Funès starring as main character. They say that the choice of location came to the director while he was having holiday on the beach in Saint-Tropez, where his video camera was stolen. Angered Jean Giraud came to complain to the local gendarmerie station, and there he got a reply that they did not investigate trifle cases. That is how Giraud began to film a movie designed to make fun of such an attitude to work.
The same Saint-Tropez was a background for a movie by Jacques Deray The Swimming Pool, starring Alain Delon and Romy Schneider. The main character - a writer jealous to insanity - drowns the former lover of his beloved in the pool. Although, of course, it is unlikely that someone would like to be in shoes of the movie characters, various travel editions gently hint that in l'Oumède area you can find luxury villas with not less attractive pools.
Saint-Tropez is a city of discoveries
Coming to Saint-Tropez from around the world, holiday-makers often rest on the beaches of the French Riviera, enjoying the summer sun. Though the French resort has something to offer to supporters of active leisure.
At Rue Etienne Berny, 9 in Saint-Tropez there is a paradise for collectors: the Maison des Papillons, known among the tourists as the House of Butterflies. In addition to the above-mentioned fine insects, here you can find the family of ants and a lot of tarantulas. Museum opened in Saint-Tropez at the beginning of the 20th century, when the son of photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue settled on the French Riviera. His collection of butterflies had 4500 exhibits, and then this figure was something incredible. Today pinned to the stands and fluttering in the greenhouse butterflies are more than 20 000 specimens.
Another attraction that is worth a visit to feel the spirit of Saint-Tropez, is an old fortress with an adamant story. In the 16th century military leaders thought over matter of national importance: how to strengthen the city and protect it from possible intrusions. Thus was started construction of the citadel, which met strong opposition from Tropéziens. The king suppressed the uprising and construction of the main tower, preserved to our time, was completed in 1607. Another sight, which is admired by city guests to this day, is the fence that served as barriers against pirates and militant Turks. This foreboding fortress now houses the Museum of Maritime History.
Taking a walk through the city centre, passing the of the Annunciation Chapel, the attentive traveller will definitely look into the Art Museum de l'Annonciade. It contains works by French artists who enjoyed the sunshine of Saint-Tropez and played with light creating paintings masterpieces. Art experts, and just admirers of beauty will be pleased with the canvas by Jean Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and Henri Matisse, André Derain, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque.
The most curious explorers are advised to do an experiment: passing through the streets of Saint-Tropez, take a picture of a few notable panoramas, and then, while in the museum, compare your photographs with the paintings of Paul Signac The Quay, Saint-Tropez and View Of St Tropez, the sunset over the pine forest. Incredible as it may seem, the differences are extremely difficult to find.
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