St Tropez: A French romance with India continues
This ultra-chic town in southern France is the playground of the world's rich and famous. But very few, even in Saint Tropez, know about its centuries-old romance with India that began with a Himalayan princess and is now scripting a new tale for golf lovers.
One of St Tropez's most famous sons, General Jean Francois Allard, who had fought alongside Napoleon, went to India and joined the army of the Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, in the early 19th century.
It was during his two decade-long sojourn in India that Allard met his future wife - a princess from the Himalayas whose name got changed to Bannu Pan Dei by the time the general married her and brought her to St Tropez.
The couple left India but couldn't leave behind its memories. The two built a cosy palace in the heart of St Tropez with Indian inspiration oozing from its architecture and decor. It was completed in 1835 and the couple lived there with their five children.
The palace is today a luxury hotel and called Pan Dei Palace Hotel.
Moreover, Allard, who was an expert in cavalry, passed on the skills to the Sikh army, which soon found itself controlling a very vast empire comprising all of modern-day's Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India.
But the love for India was not limited to General Allard or his descendants alone.
The city of St Tropez has also begun to adorn this Indo-French romantic story and it launched a ProAm Golf tournament -- the Pan Dei Indian Summer ProAm Golf Championship.
As part of this championship, PSO Productions and Media India joined hands three years ago to launch a segment called France-India Business Cup (FIBC), which pitches French and Indian corporate leaders and golf lovers against each other.
The third edition of the business cup was held recently in St Tropez where the chief guest was Indian Tourism Minister Kumari Selja.
"India is very keen to develop itself as a golf tourism destination and I believe this event is a very unique and great platform for us to promote India amongst the world's golf lovers. I would like to use this occasion to invite all of you to come and visit India not only for its beautiful golf courses but also the diverse offering that we have for any tourist," Selja told the gathering of golfers attending the ProAm championship and the FIBC.
She also spoke of potential collaboration between St Tropez and India for co-promotion of tourism.
"This is my first visit to St Tropez, but I have learnt that this is a place that attracts the most exclusive and high-end tourists from all around the world. This is a segment of tourism that India is very keen to attract and on the other hand India too is a very exciting market for a destination like St Tropez.
"Hence, we see a lot of opportunities of working with St Tropez in terms of joint promotion and co-promotions which will be mutually beneficial," Selja told the gathering.
She was accompanied by senior officials of the tourism ministry, including joint secretary Anand Kumar. The delegation was welcomed by Mayor of St Tropez Jean Pierre Tiberi and other senior officials.
It was also a happy ending for her visit as the Indian team, led by golf tourism professional Ranjan Bakshi, defeated the French team to retain the FIBC trophy for the second year in a row.
British golfing pro Phil Golding won the overall ProAm Championship for the second time in a row, thus leaving his marks firmly on the greens of the Gassin Golf Club.