The area of St Tropez known as La Ponche was a thriving fishing village for most of the 18th century. Spanish, Italian and Greek fisherman joined the French, fishing for seasonal catch. They caught calamari, anchovies, sea bass, lobsters and tuna for the entire surrounding area.
It has a very small beach – just 40 metres of sand in total, with cottages that were gradually built around it. Shipyards built very big ships and a school of hydrography was established. The main industries were cork, wood, wine and of course, fishing. It also has a military presence. There was a submarine base here, which housed the French submarine Eurydice and her crew in the 60s. The Eurydice went missing in 1970 at nearby Cap Camarat after an underwater explosion. All 57 men died and the cause is still a mystery.
St Tropez was the staging ground for the assault on the Germans at the end of World War Two and La Ponche was hit heavily by aerial attacks in 1944 by the Allied forces before they landed onshore. It has since been rebuilt and plays hosts to a number of household names whenever they visit the Hotel Ponche. This hotel is the cultural heart of the area now. Bought by a family in the early 1950s, it has 22 small, but exclusive, rooms that Parisians flocked to after the war. After Brigitte Bardot and the French New Wave cinema made the area very cool in the mid 1950s, celebrities have been coming back here every summer. The French actress Catherine Deneuve, for example, took over the hotel for part of her film tour for Princesse Marie.
Today, despite St Tropez’s international rockstar image, the area of La Ponche still keeps its old charm and small village vibe. French actress, Brigitte Bardot had a house in La Ponche for many years and is perhaps the most famous all-year-round resident of St Tropez.