St Tropez – An Overview
Nestled along the French Riviera and a short drive from Nice or Cannes, St. Tropez is one of the liveliest towns on the coast during the summer. There’s something to suit all tastes here – stunning sandy beaches, fascinating culture, gourmet food and a happening nightlife.
St Tropez remains as fashionable as ever, still a place to spot world-renowned celebrities who frequent its glorious beaches and quaint streets. The little town is a delight with its winding medieval streets of traditional pastel-painted fishermen’s cottages, boutiques and restaurants; the port with fishing boats moored alongside mega-yachts. Here you can combine rustic Provence and chic Côte d’A zur with a visit to the market place on Place des Lices in the morning, and an evening spent in the cafés around the harbour.
Separated by thousands of miles yet bound together by the legacy of one man, the ties that bind the French coastal town to the heart of Punjab are fascinating. The man in question is one Jean-François Allard, a French soldier born in St Tropez in 1785. Allard was a skilled military officer who served in Napoleon’s army till its defeat in the Battle of Waterloo. Fearing exile, Allard came to Persia and then onwards to Punjab, arriving in Lahore in 1822, accompanied by another officer of the French army, Jean Baptise Ventura.
Lahore was then under the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, who tasked the two men with training the Sikh army and commanding an elite squad. Allard soon proved his worth and rose through the ranks to be appointed a general in Ranjit Singh’s army. Unlike other European mercenaries in Punjab, General Allard displayed a great interest in local culture and traditions. He married a Hindu princess and built a residence for his family in old Anarkali, surrounded by a vast garden. In 1834, the general took a leave and returned to his hometown of St Tropez in order to settle his family there (A direct descendant of Allard, Henri Prevost Allard, continues to live in St Tropez and previously served as Deputy Mayor of Tourism).
Anarkali remains Allard’s final resting place, in an area colloquially referred to as ‘Kuri da Bagh’ (Daughter’s Garden). It is reported that Allard’s favourite daughter Marie-Charlotte died at a young age and was buried in the garden of his house, hence the name. The general himself died suddenly in 1839 while serving in Peshawar, and according to his wishes, was buried next to his daughter. Maharaja Ranjit Singh made sure his favourite general received a grand burial and built a beautiful domed structure to mark his grave.
To this day, General Allard’s tomb stands intact between old Anarkali and Jain Mandir, inside a gated enclosure. The French government recently undertook restoration work on it and a commemorative plaque outside the area gives a brief yet enthralling history lesson as to its significance.