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Saint-Tropez? Ooh la la

It's 11pm in the Vieux Port Saint-Tropez.

The super yachts are lined up in splendour; shiny monsters 70 metres long, side by side in their €1400 a night moorings, squaring up to each other like combative beauty queens.

Astern and facing the port, the decks are festooned with sprinkles of light, strong enough to show us the lounging owners and friends.

On one, a servant pours Dom Perignon to a young woman lying alone in a corner of a crowded little party. Her hand reaches up many times for a refill. The curve of her shoulder signals her determination to be apart. Or her despair.

On another, a group of six is finishing dinner apparently oblivious to the camera flashes as tourists snap them for their back-home travelogues.

Of course they are not oblivious. They are part of the ostentatious night-time show and they know it.

These are the ones who enjoy being watched and envied: who get a kick out of gazing stonily back at the hundreds of faces tilted upwards from the restaurant tables lining the most famous dock in the world.

From my own table at Le Gorille, one of the oldest 24-hour bar-restaurants in St Trop, I sip my wine and enjoy the human parade as it weaves down the narrow streets, spilling on to the harbour for a last saunter.

Once Bardot, Sagan and Picasso partied in this bar before heading for the clubs. Now the fabulously rich - of course mainly Russian - stay hidden in well-guarded villas, helicoptered in and out. They seek only privacy and safety with no need to validate themselves in the eyes of others.

By day, the sight and sound of these helicopters pollute the cobalt-blue sky in an endless ferrying of visitors to this vastly overpeopled port.

Here the shops rarely close. Chanel, Roberto Cavalli, Tod's, Balmain and dozens of other couture brands, beckon from air-conditioned interiors.

Top-marque cars, windows blackened to discourage the peerers, nudge the pavements, stopping to disgorge exquisite women and often old, ugly, dead-eyed men, the ones who carry the black cards.

It's hard to pick out the hookers here. Often, they're even more beautiful than the streams of women - many just girls, really - who come in pairs, striding on vertiginous heels, in hopes of catching a pretty, rich boy's gaze.

Sadly the pretty boys are mainly crew or cruising themselves. Real money, billionaire money, usually comes packaged in a less palatable form.

Amid the tide of young peak perfection, there's a surprising amount of ageing flesh. These baby boomers all share a similar look of slight bewilderment; a sort of shock that they've come to this age, or rather it's come to them, stealthily and cruelly. Or is that my face I'm looking at?

Their still wafer-thin bodies are up to style - skinny trousers and spiky heels this season - but Pucci arm-covering mini-kaftans have replaced the strappy tops and over-large sunglasses, and Panama hats hide surgery-tweaked faces and thinning hair.

Love is now bestowed on teacup-sized yorkies and french bulldogs who are clutched and kissed to near death. One woman pushes two shih tzus in a pushchair; another carries a chihuahua in a leather bag with its tiny paws pushed through "arm-holes".

The taxi that brought me to this place from my hotel seven minutes away cost €30. But then it was a blackened-out limo and the driver, a handsome, fit young Pole, was dressed in Armani.

The following day, I sip wine in another bar as many of the yachts cast off for lunch in more inaccessible places.

The girls still advertise their wares in casual strolls along the harbour, desperately hoping a hand might wave them on board. These are the amateur hopefuls. The pros are already on, their meters running.

The glass of sancerre costs €12 and in another week it will rise to €17 as the high season kicks in. But if that bothers you, well, you shouldn't be here.

There is little point in angrily balancing the woes of half the world against the hedonistic frivolity of places like Saint-Tropez.

The rich, like the poor, are always with us and also marking time until the final exit. I met a man who lives in Monaco, who told me he had never met so many miserable people. "They are all so jaded," he said. "They've done it all. Nothing can excite them any more. And yet still they want more even if they no longer know what for."

As we talked, a 47-metre-long berthed yacht eased its way out, crew running to check its access to the open sea, no other signs of life on board.

Owned by an American, she's open for charter and when put up for sale two years ago was worth a little more than £12 million.

Perhaps her owner isn't one of the miserable rich. Her name is One More Toy. Perhaps he even has a sense of humour.

To enjoy Saint-Tropez I'd suggest it's vital. And Saint-Tropez should simply be enjoyed.

It is, after all, only a fishing village that got lucky.

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