Ou est Brigitte Bardot?

Bust, bust, bust!  I took a train for a half hour to St. Raphael, and then a bus for an hour and a half to St. Tropez to see Brigitte Bardot.  She was supposed to be sitting on a bench outside of the tourist information office from 3-5:30 Antibes 9.17 033today, Thursday.  But she wasn’t there.  A two hour one-way trip for me, four hours round-trip and Brigitte was a no-show.  That bitch.  That’s me, not Brigitte, in the picture to the right sitting in St. Tropez.  No one, not one person in all of St. Tropez that I inquired about Brigitte had any knowledge of her ever signing autographs outside of the TI (tourist information) office.  Never.  I kept showing them the excerpt in my Rick Steves’ travel guide to PROVE that she did do just that, but one after another just shook their heads with a disdainful roll of the eyes.  The sweet girl in the TI office told me Brigitte Bardot lived in Paris and had no reason to be here, i.e (unspoken) especially to sit outside on a dumb-ass bench and sign autographs.  When I asked the lady at the ticket booth who sold tickets for a boat tour that was supposed to go by her house, about Brigitte’s appearance schedule, she informed me that Ms. Bardot retired 37 years ago, and with the short tone of her voice clearly implied the same as the TI girl. 

Oh, well, I wanted to see the other French Riviera resorts anyway, and I did.  St. Tropez which I have been pronouncing “saint” as it should be and Tro(troe) – Pez (pez) as in candy dispenser, is apparently pronounced differently in its homeland.  It is pronounced Sahn – chroll – pay.  And an Antibes 9.17 042unsettling place Sahn-Chroll-Pay is.  There’s a feeling of contrived, forced elegance that gives it a thin, worn coating of glamour with a core of emptiness. It didn’t feel comforting or cozy.  It all sort of fell flat.  The best part was the Old Town that sports shades of pretty pastel colors, that glow in the warm energy of this amazing south-of-France sunlight. 

Since I had no hope of seeing yesteryear’s sex-goddess legend, I decided to just sit and have a nice lunch and glass of wine in front of the Mediterranean.  Except that the big yachts are the attraction, not the sea, Antibes 9.17 034and no matter in which café you choose to sit on the town’s street bordering the water, the view is blocked by yachts, each one of greater magnitude than the other.  I’m not too interested in seeing the yachts unless I can get on one, and if invited I’d gladly drop my shoes on the sidewalk before stepping on the gangplank as I’ve come to realize is required etiquette.  But no one invited me, so I decided to have a Caesar salad instead.  By the way, dining in St. Tropez in unbelievably expensive!  It makes Antibes’ dinner costs seem like the blue plate special.  I wanted the steak sandwich I saw on the outside menu, but I didn’t see it offered on the fan-shaped menu located on the table.  With the waiter beside me, I jumped out of my seat to try and show him (I didn’t know how to say steak or sandwich) the item on the menu on the entrance post.   That’s all I remember for the next few minutes or so.  I somehow didn’t see the metal frame housing the menu that was bolted on the post right next to me and rammed full force into it with my forehead.  I wouldn’t Antibes 9.17 036have even noticed if Brigitte Bardot came over to help me.  I have a bump on my forehead that I can feel, but I haven’t seen it yet.  Because there are NO BATHROOMS ANYWHERE!  More on that in a second.  But I had already ordered my glass of wine, so I had to decide whether to drink it at 3pm on a fairly empty stomach and feel a little buzz or to monitor the bump and make sure I was alright.  I chose the first.  

Now, my bathroom gripe with St. Tropez and St. Raphael.  I had to change from the train to the bus in St. Raphael for the 1.5 hour bus ride.  There was a WC (water closet) at the area where the busses loaded, but it was one small room with three stalls.  It was one of those unisex numbers.  I saw an older man, who looked to need some cleaning up, go into one of the stalls.  The other two were locked or occupied, I never figured out which.  I waited, getting more hesitant by the minute if I wanted to go in after him.  I finally left and walked around to find another bathroom.  Finally I saw a McDonalds!  Perfect.  Their door marked WC was right next to the cash register with a keypad next to it.  And everyone seemed to have a secret code.  But there was only one toilet for the entire restaurant.  I ordered a coke and asked her how to use the toilette (twal–lette) and she told me there was a code number on my receipt.  Lots of bathroom control in St. Raphael.  I went into the room where there was a sink, but the room with the toilette was occupied.   For as long as I stood there.  My bus departure was getting too close.  I left and went back to the three toilets at the bus stop.  I made the best of it.  They were those toilettes with no seat, in wee-tiny stalls like so many in France.  What ARE people to do when they need to sit?  And as a special surprise, no toilet paper, not even a PLACE for toilet paper.  It wasn’t that it was empty, this was a place where they saw no need for paper.    

The road from St. Raphael to St. Tropez is beautifully picturesque.  The Antibes 9.17 020Esterel Massif Antibes 9.17 045mountains come right next to the sea, making for areas of rocky cliffs along the shoreline.  The Mediterranean is it’s normal beautifully jeweled-tone blue and turquoise colors.  There are marinas everywhere and often are right beside the beaches.  The beaches, however leave something to be desired.  We’re spoiled with our huge expanses of white, sandy Antibes 9.17 047beaches on the mid-Atlantic coastline.  I’ve always thought that they are some of the most beautiful in the world, and the more I travel, the more sure I am of it.  The beaches here, that all of Europe flocks to in the summer have a Sandy Point State Park appearance, except smaller.  Brownish sand and bay-like waters. 

St. Raphael, bathroom issues aside, has a junky, over-stressed feeling about it.  My theory is that the number of shops that sell the blaring t-shirts “I LOVE (THIS PLACE)” is directly in inverse proportion to how much I love it.  St. Raphael was loaded. was loaded.  Shop after shop, more souvenir-style stuff.  And interestingly enough, one shop with round displays of sunglasses outside advertised Prada, Gucci, Ray Ban.  I walked over to see the knock-offs, and the sunglasses were attached so they couldn’t come off.  And priced in the $200 range!  Obviously, they were the real thing, but even they couldn’t help becoming mistaken in their cheap surroundings. 

After my wine and before leaving St. Tropez on the hour and a half bus ride I had searched for a bathroom.  None to be found.  Imagine that.  By the time I arrived back in St. Raphael to get on the train I was getting pretty desperate.  There was a pay bathroom at the train station for .30 Euros (45 cents).  These pay bathrooms are quite expensive.  I was put off by having to pay .50 Euros (75 cents) to a gentleman attendant to use the bathroom in the Nice train station a couple days ago, but at least it was nice and clean and supplied with toilet paper.  I shoved my coins in the slot and opened the bathroom door.  What the???  How the???  Yuck!  It smelled disgusting and look at this!  WHERE IS THE TOILETTE???Antibes 9.17 057The entire floor had a thin coat of wetness and the “bathroom area” was even wetter.  No matter how I maneuvered myself- and I had a huge purse with my computer inside and a bag with a gift in it, there was no way for the water to not splash up on my feet and ankles.  I was wearing my favorite sandals.  And that splashing had to be not only mine, but everyone else’s pee that was in the trough.  Double yuck!  What a mess.  And obviously no paper… not in this place.  I finished and stood in front of what is the sink, the area with a thin stream of cold water continually running.  I balanced myself on one foot and without touching ANYTHING and holding all of my posessions, placed one foot under the stream.  I rinsed off all the way up to the top of my ankle, then the other.  And of course nothing to dry with.  So I walked out of bathroom with wet feet and wet shoes.  People must have thought I had really bad aim. 

If I told you that when I got home I rinsed my shoes off with Clorox and washed my feet and bottom of my legs with hot soapy water, would you think I was lying? 

End of an exhausting day and with a bump on my head.  I walked home from the train station, got freshened up and then went out to have a glass of wine and some little tid-bits to eat from the Lebanese restaurant.  And I used their Wi-Fi as usual.  It felt good to be home- back in comfortable, unpretentious Antibes.  A bientot, Brigitte!Antibes 9.7 029

  • m says:

    Yikes on the no toilet paper! Have you taken to carrying around a packet of tissues or a baggie of TP? I would.

  • Nancy says:

    BONJOUR Vickie!!!! I have a suggestion for you that may at first sound a bit crazy but anything is better than your horrifying toilet experiences!!!! Carry with you in your purse a plastic/throw away cup and take that with you into the bathrooms. Pee into the cup. Crazy but simple … and it works. That along with tissue also carried in your purse and VOILA … a solution to the probleme!!! You will eliminate nasty splash ups and stepping in disgusting pee puddles!! Do not knock it until you have tried it! Now that that problem is solved … your trip sounds very exciting. Your writing is so reader friendly and captivating. Your french VOYAGE has turned you into a true artiste! One hears about how visits to France turn people into artists whether it be painting, poetry,photography, cooking and in your case a writer/story teller! You have described your days so vividly. The photos and movies complete the full story. Keep the stories coming. Also, try to get a picture of someone wearing these great Italian cotton shirts you write about. I’m dying to see the wonderful french/italian fashion. Take care and continue to update us all!!!!

    • Perfect idea! And another popular look… the pants that Alladin wore when he came out of the lamp! For women! Except… get this… the crotch is at the knees or lower! OMG- how uncomfortable would that be to walk around in. Everytime I see someone wearing those pants I want to say “What are you THINKING!”