Today we are in the uber-chic French seaside resort of St Tropez, the playground of celebs and wannabe-celebs worldwide. It is massively chic and wildly expensive, especially if you want to shop.
It is also the perfect summer spot for a bit of idle wandering, stopping for a bite to eat (we recommend the sardines, mussels and salad), the occasional glass of vino, some window shopping (unless you are also in the millionaire bracket, in which case, spend away!) and just generally enjoying that carefree Provençal spirit. Pure cruise bliss.
But, as much as we enjoyed the view and the food, we couldn’t help thinking back to the previous evening in the Marina at Monte Carlo when The Buffet happened.
There we were, just minding our own business aboard the prettiest ship in the harbour (that would be the gorgeous Wind Surf of Windstar Cruises, in case you hadn’t been paying attention) when this amazing party broke out.
Seriously, we were just kicking back in the Compass Rose lounge, enjoying the immense view of Millionaire’s Row with an ice-cool G&T when they made The Announcement – “The buffet is open.”
Okay, so we hadn’t been paying a LOT of attention after an idyllic afternoon checking out the high spots of Monte Carlo, hence the announcement took us by surprise. Buffet? What buffet?
Only the On Deck Barbecue, we were told, and it is help-yourself time. Sure enough, the upper deck was laid out in magnificent style, with table after table of salads, fresh seafood, vegetables, desserts, paella and barbecue delicacies, from ribs and chicken to a full roast suckling pig. It had all been beautifully smoked over the previous 24 hours (where did they manage to hide it, we wondered) and was presented on the dot of 7pm for the whole ship’s passenger complement.
As George Takei might well have said: “Oh my!”
To say we have eaten well on this cruise would be a major understatement, but The Barbecue took things to a whole new level for quality, quantity and variety, and all with the benefit of the backdrop of Monte Carlo as our dining stage. Mark another one down to Memories of the Indelible Kind.
This morning provided yet another grand view, albeit of a more modest kind compared to the growing vastness of the capital of Monaco. St Tropez is generally celebrated as the birthplace of Pointillism, the happy haunt of artists of varying kinds, and the jetset hangout par excellence.
The tender ride into the harbour was less than 10 minutes and the full array of the old town was only a few minutes’ walk further on, capped by The Citadel atop the small hill at one end, a 16th century monolith to a period when the city was founded as a major fortress gateway to this section of Provence.
It became a favourite of the arts and artists from the 19th century onwards, and now revels in its reputation as a retreat for the rich and famous, with the marina boasting yet more of the massive ‘yachts’ that pass as the playthings of the super-wealthy.
In truth, away from the immediate harbour-front cafes and shops, the old town had more to offer, and at a more modest price point, hence we enjoyed the laziest of lunches, some excellent wine, the finest ratatouille we have sampled in many a long year (along with the sardines and salad), and a rich espresso, all for the princely sum of 60 Euros.
Back on board in the late afternoon, the hot Mediterranean sun had taken a terrible toll of our fellow travellers, laying waste to those had had camped out by the pool, on the serried array of loungers along Star Deck and even cooling off by the signature watersports platform aft on the ship. All this intense holidaying exacts a fierce toll, it seems, and there was hardly anyone stirring as we took our afternoon constitutional, via the Yacht Club for a timely caramel latte.
This evening marked another first on this voyage, Dinner Under The Stars (or Dinner Under the Sunset, as it should more properly be termed at eight in the evening on the summer solstice), and a chance to enjoy yet another different menu from the amazingly versatile kitchen staff.
As if three evening options aren’t enough, tonight’s choice made it four, in addition to main restaurant Amphora, the steakhouse style of Candles (the daytime buffet reconfigured for dinner) and the full French culinary experience of Stella Bistro.
With the pool deck as our dinner locale on a truly golden evening, we dined on shrimp, salad, filet mignon and fresh sea bream, all delivered in impeccable style and with no small measure of pizzazz by the wait staff. As an exercise in cruise sophistication, it hit all the high notes and, with the setting sun ensuring a jaw-dropping backdrop to the whole production, we simply couldn’t fail to be impressed.
It capped off yet another supremely memorable day in the company of Windstar Cruises and their exceptional crew. Getting back to reality is definitely going to be a struggle after this….
Simon & Susan