Hotel La Ponche*****, St. Tropez, Cote d'Azur, France
If you find yourself in that lovely fishing village (yes they still have working fishermen), and you want to stay in the center of the old town, you have one of the most charming and historic five star hotels located just far enough away from the tourist yacht harbor to avoid the noise yet set in the historic soul of the old town right on the see wall above a pocket beach. Many rooms have a few of the Bay of St. Tropez and you can see the Mediterranean from the front tables of their marvelous restaurant. The rooms are all totally individualized, charming, well appointed and air conditioned. What more could you want? Did I mention its history?
Yes, historic, iconic and utterly adorable, Hotel la Ponche***** in Saint Tropez, Cote d'Azur, remains one of its "hidden" treasures. Set back in the "Old Village", for over seventy years it has been home to literary giants such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Françoise Sagan as well as the creme de la creme of the film world. Regulars like Juliet Greco, Jack Nichelson, Jeanne Moreau and, of course, Bridgette Bardot herself who helped place St. Tropez on the map with La Ponche firmly in the center of it as the place to come in July & August. (But we can attest that it is a great destination Spring and Autumn.) And there were painters like Picasso and Bernard Buffet and others.
At the time (after WWII and into the 1950's) it was anything but a five star luxury hotel. It was, in fact, a small family owned fisherman's bar that grew in popularity and in size. Today it is a place where life feels as good as it can be if you are fortunate enough to be there. However, the literati and discerning come back year after year to La Ponche for the charm and the impeccable service which is maintained under the astute eye of its charming owner and manager Madame Duckstein (see her welcome video) who was born in the room above the bar when it was still just a bar with a few rooms above for those who might have enjoyed the libations a little too much. (more history >>)
And service, attention to detail and the guests' needs and wants is the hall mark of Madame Duckstein's approach to her hotel and its restaurant. She offered five star service back when it was still a four star. She says "I did not try for a fifth star since we did not have a pool nor spa." It turns out that it is the quality, not the quantity that counts and she quickly gained that fifth star. After all, just down the steps is the beach and the swimming cove fed by the waters of the Mediterranean - so who needs a pool?
Today there are twenty two sound proofed and air conditioned rooms and suites. All of them are different and totally individual in shape, style and configuration. All beautifully and charmingly furnished in a traditional style, some in Mediterranean blues and others in sandy and Italian tones. Many play gallery to Mme. Duckstein's husbands original paintings. Newly remodeled bathrooms accompanied that fifth star, tiled in a warm tone of marble, equipped with Hermes products that grace these welcoming bathrooms. The rooms themselves are airy and open onto the out of doors, some with sea views, others have views over the Roman tiles roofs of the old town, and others open onto the courtyard. The bells of the local church filter through. Named after their famous occupants, you might stay in the Bridgette Bardot suite or the Georges Pompidou room looking up to the Citadel on the hill above. (view hotel tour video >>)
And lest you wonder where on earth in the tiny streets of old St. Tropez you will find a place for your car; that is no worry. The hotel maintains its own secure car park. You just arrive, off load and they take care of the rest.
Unlike many hotels even in and around St. Tropez today, this hotel lets you feel you are really in France, a traditional part of France from the ancient building to the interior decoration; traditional looking but modern in its comforts, facilities and services. You are just off the tourist center, free of the glitz and crowds but within a block of the yacht harbor, the discos, the bistros, the cafes and brand name boutiques. The varnished wood and shining chrome of the floating palaces vie for dock space with the traditional fishing boats that have been there forever even if they did not have to share quay space with their larger, faster cousins. Fishermen still fish the waters and mend their nets as liveried crew members wipe imagined finger prints from the chrome and brass and touch up the varnish further down the quay. Everything is within walking distance. Little store front mini-markets can supply most of what you might want for a picnic. The twice weekly village market sets up on the Place des Lices which is itself surrounded by restaurants and cafe's. When there is not market, there is always "boules" or "Pétanque" (bocce in Italy) being played.
This very special address in St. Tropez is a place you will want to return to as often as possible and breath in the atmosphere that surrounds this enchanting hotel that is redolent with history, the arts and the sea.
Hotel La Ponche*****
5 rue des remparts
Tel. : +33 (0)4 94 97 02 53
Fax : +33 (0)4 94 97 78 61