Ruled by the Moors during the 9th and 10th centuries, Ramatuelle lies just south of the official borders of Saint-Tropez. It’s where all the best beaches are, and it’s only a few miles away. Sainte-Maxime, across the bay, is protected from those famous mistral winds, turning it into a sunny haven for families (there’s a water park here) and adventurers looking to scuba and windsurf off the sugar-sand beaches.
The fortified village of Grimaud, built by the Grimaldis, is renowned for its 11th-century castle and gallery nights that pack the streets on Thursdays from July through September. Nearby, the affordable inland town of Gassin, where Mission: Impossible’s Emmanuelle Beart was born, is known for its winding streets, wineries and ancient houses, all kept intact.
Rent a Riva
The slim-lined mahogany Aquarama – Riva’s most celebrated runabout design – was in production for just 35 years beginning in 1962, but it’s still the stuff of legend. The Ferrari of the boat world has secured its place in popular culture, starring in films like GoldenEye and Ocean’s Twelve and luxury ad campaigns with Charlize Theron and Jude Law. They’re hard to come by, but boy do they turn heads whenever they glide into a slip. While the new-model Rivarama has modern appeal, it’s hard to beat the old-school original, which is easily the sexiest thing on water.
Make the steep hike up the wooded hill to this 17th-century castle overlooking town – it’s worth it. The fort, built to stave off the feisty Spaniards, is almost as impressive as the unobstructed views, but the star might be the award-winning museum in the dungeon, which opened in 2013. The Museum of Maritime History chronicles man’s relationship with the sea with interactive exhibits, waterlogged maps and other intriguing ephemera from the area’s 500-year-old maritime past.
La Tarte Tropezienne
Bardot played her part in this one, too. When the French beauty was first filming in town, she fell in love with a fluffy little brioche pastry made by baker Alexandre Micka, which he’d split in half and fill with two types of sweet cream. After becoming a regular, she begged him to give her favourite treat a name. Now you find Tarte Tropeziennes all over the world, but to sample the best version fresh, hit the counter at Aux Deux Freres, at 3 Rue des Commercants.