Madame Duckstein, 71
Simone Duckstein runs the legendary Hôtel de la Ponche in Saint-Tropez. She has written a book about the hotel, Hôtel de la Ponche: Un Autre Regarde sur Saint-Tropez and is currently writing her second.
“I will never retire, at least I hope I won’t. My work is my life, it’s like breathing air. I was born in my parents’ bedroom in what is now the hotel and I have lived here ever since. It’s a very special place, you can see right across Saint-Tropez and the beach down below – it’s very calming.
I stay young by not thinking about it. I don’t do anything special at all.
During the 50s and 60s a lot of famous faces came to the bar. I was too small to remember really but I do recall Picasso – he had a very striking face.He would sit alone always looking at the sea for hours. He was a very special man, I could see that without even knowing who he was.
The hotel hasn’t changed at all since those days – it’s all protected. And Saint-Tropez is the same too. It’s still alive. Maybe there are more houses here, but if you come from the sea or the road, you can still see the same outline. The light and the colours haven’t changed. People still come for sun, for fun, for the sea and nightlife.
I don’t live far from the hotel so usually I’ll have my breakfast and thenhead down there. I’m writing a second book about the hotel so I spend some time on that. I often speak to guests who have something to tell me about the hotel back in the old days. It’s very fulfilling.
I stay young by not thinking about it. I don’t do anything special at all. I drink and eat what I feel like. I do love to travel – perhaps to Paris, London or New York. I went to Japan recently to exhibit my first husband’s paintings. They are hanging all over the hotel. He died next to me in a car accident in 1975 but is still a big part of my life.
Perfect happiness for me is to be married to a man who loves you and with whom you can share everything. To be able to give your love to somebody and to receive it too. My second husband is the greatest love of my life. I have been married to him for 33 years now and I met him at La Ponche!
My parents’ divorce when I was seven was a disaster really. Nowadays it’s the norm, people divorce and have second families and it’s taken for granted that the kids don’t suffer. I don’t think this is true. From what I have seen, it’s very damaging for young people to see their parents split up. I remember it very well. My mother took me to England without my father and I couldn’t understand why – I could sense that something was wrong. My father never recovered from that divorce. I would not want it to happen to me.
My advice to pass on to the younger generation is to be good with people. My life motto? Have a good temper, always.”