Saint-Tropez in high summer really can be a bit de trop. In July and August young and old flock here to bronze themselves at the numerous beach clubs lining the Plage de Pampelonne and to promenade down the pretty Tropezienne harbour, which is fringed by row upon row of "mine's bigger than yours" yachts. But another quieter, more discreet side to life on the Riviera also exists here among the bling.
Tucked amid clumps of shady parasol pines on the gently undulating hills between Saint-Tropez and the hilltop village of Ramatuelle are numerous sprawling villas where a lot of the quieter money whiles away the hot, balmy summer days. This is also the setting for the Villa Marie, although you could easily be forgiven for thinking that you had mistakenly arrived at the imposing gates of someone's très chic summer pad, so little distinguishes it as a hotel from its neighbours.
Once you have announced your arrival on the intercom, the gates swing open and the ideal Rivieria bolthole awaits: a rambling, jasmine-and-wisteria-draped ochre-coloured villa.
The hotel is the work of team Jean-Louis and Jocelyne Sibuet, whose boutique hotel chain Groupe Sibuet offers some of the most stylish and unstuffy places to stay in France. Part of the attraction is the look; Madame Sibuet is no slouch in the interior design department and Villa Marie is adorned with a mixture of artfully placed objets and attractive painted furniture.
The overall effect is more private house than hotel. In front of the main house, limestone terraces tumble down to a glass-walled dining room with coastal views while another level down there's a chic open-air lounge with an elaborate, shell-encrusted bar. This in turn gives way to a pool. There's also a Pure Altitude Spa. Everything is surrounded by verdant, tranquil gardens.
Villa Marie, Route des Plages, Chemin Val de Rian, 83350 Ramatuelle, Saint-Tropez, France (00 33 4 94 97 40 22; www.villamarie.fr).
Time to international airport: an hour by road from Toulon and Marseilles airports.
Each of the 42 guest rooms is different. Ours was symphony of tasteful hues of grey and white, scattered with pretty, painted Florentine furniture, cool white-washed floors and a large wrought iron bed with billowing curtains. Two chunky Cassis limestone washbasins standing side-by-side and a large roll top bath were a feature of the bathroom. There was also a separate drenching-style shower and a toilet. All rooms are spacious and have views over the grounds or towards the coast; the majority have terraces or balconies.
Freebies: Pure Altitude spa products. Regular free shuttle bus into Saint Tropez.
Keeping in touch: free Wi-fi in every room . There is also a computer available for free internet access.
The Bottom Line
Double rooms start at €450 (£375) on a room-only basis.
I'm not paying that: Hotel Pastis (00 33 4 98 12 56 50; www.pastis-st-tropez.com), in Saint-Tropez proper offers doubles from €200 (£167) room-only.