Cannes has a reputation as the ultimate playground of the glitterati yet, behind the red carpets and popping flashbulbs of the celebrity-obsessed Croisette, lays a lovely old fishing port with a fascinating history. Simply book a holiday to Paris and pick up a high-speed rail connection straight to the Côte d’Azur, or check out the cheap flights to Nice from many UK airports. Then dust off your diamonds, grab a copy of Variety and head for the stars!
Jean Cocteau described the Cannes Film Festival as ‘a microcosm of what the world would be like if people could make direct contact with one another and speak the same language’. Every year since 1946, the famous festival has been just that – a global showcase for the film industry, where glamorous starlets, handsome leading men and legendary directors gather to compete for the prestigious Palme d’Or. Cannes in May literally pulsates with life, every bistro buzzes with the latest gossip and eager fans line the streets night and day to catch a glimpse of their favourite stars. At this very special time of year when demand is sky high, hotel accommodation in Cannes itself can be hard to find and high season rates often apply, so it really pays to shop around well in advance. You might find a better deal if you look further afield – try laid-back St Raphael or the popular beach resort of Juan les Pins, both an easy hop along the coast, or head inland to Grasse, home to some of the most famous perfume houses in France.
The heady atmosphere of Cannes at festival time is unique, but this beautiful city has a year-round appeal which you don’t need a platinum card to enjoy! Stroll along the old harbour and admire the sleek yachts of the super-rich, then treat yourself to a breathtaking panorama of the Cannes waterfront from your own seagoing vessel – otherwise known as the ferry to St Marguerite Island. Here you can visit the cell of the Man in the Iron Mask and examine ancient shipwrecked treasures in the Musée de la Mer. Back on the mainland, explore Le Suquet; the old town, with its narrow alleyways winding between traditional fishermen’s houses, then climb the ancient ramparts for a wonderful view across the rooftops to the striking red peaks of the Esterel mountains.
Cannes might have an international image, but when it comes to food and drink it’s still unmistakably Provençal. If you need proof, you’ll find it in abundance at Forville, the huge covered market where you can select the finest local produce for an impromptu picnic, and on the menus of dozens of family-run restaurants around the port which serve up delicious French cuisine such as bouillabaisse, mopped up with crusty bread and washed down with a glass of chilled rosé.
If your plastic won’t stretch to the impossibly chic designer boutiques around the Rue d’Antibes, indulge your inner fashionista with a spot of window-shopping before heading for the lively pedestrian area of the Rue Meynadier, where you can pick up some little treats from the market stalls without breaking your bank manager’s heart. Then watch the evening sunset over a glass of champagne on the manicured lawns of the Carlton Hotel and enjoy your very own fifteen minutes of fame.