By Sharon Gomes Thomas
Cannes is known mostly for the Cannes International Film Festival (http://www.festival-cannes.com) in May, when glitterati like George Clooney, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt sweep into town, grace the red carpet and make every paparazzi’s dream come true. There are also a multitude of other media and television festivals that happen in Cannes year round, with varying degrees of glamour, taking place at the Palais des Festivals et des Congres.
If possible, avoid visiting Cannes during one of those times. (Go to the Palais website to check out their event calendar at http://www.palaisdesfestivals.com) Why? Because hotels are obscenely expensive, getting a reservation at a decent restaurant is like the search for the Holy Grail, and getting a drink at any bar is a gladiator sport. I know, because several times a year I go to Cannes and have to work at some of these events. Amidst my sleep deprived days, I do manage to squeeze in a few seconds of ME-time at this French Riviera town. And if I had one work-free day (I can dream, can’t I?) this is what my day would be:-
It would start with a stroll along the Promenade de la Croisette with the beach on one side, and beautiful old world hotels and upscale stores lining the other. Be careful, you could do some serious damage on the credit card if you get tempted to go shopping here. Instead, focus on the beach where you can see sandcastle artists creating some of the most fantastic sculptures, and watch pooches trotting next to their fit owners. Don’t forget to dip your toes into the Mediterranean!
If you can’t shake the shopping bug, make your way to Rue d’Antibes, which has far more interesting stores than the designer offerings of the Croisette, including Monoprix at 9 Rue du Marechal Foch, where you can get anything from fabulous French cosmetics, soft cotton lingerie and compact European house wares on their main floor, to that must-have chocolate croissant from the supermarket upstairs. Be warned – bring your own bag as most French supermarkets encourage you to bring your own shopping bag or basket.
Another great street is Rue Meynadier, a side street filled with quaint stores selling Provence linens, French wines, meats and cheeses at the market, and cheap bags and shoes. This is also where you can buy souvenirs for the folks back home. There’s even a 2 Euro store, our equivalent of the ubiquitous 99 cent store!
Walk over or hop on a scooter taxi and have lunch at the famous Ondine http://www.ondineplage.com beach restaurant at 15 Boulevard de la Croisette. Be sure to get a table on the sand itself. When I was there in February, a delightful Spaniel came by my table (he belonged to one of the shop owners on the Rue d’Antibes) to say hello before he went swimming in the ocean.
In the afternoon, check out the picturesque yachts moored on the Jetee Albert Edouard and wish one of them was yours, or take a ride over to Ile Saint Marguerite from the port. Explore the old Fort Royal where the infamous Man In The Iron Mask was held. You can even stay at the fort at the Fort Cannes Jeunesse Youth Hostel http://www.cannes-jeunesse.fr if you’re in the adventuresome mood for downscale lodging.
In the evening, you must stop by the Grand Hotel http://www.grand-hotel-cannes.com at 45 Boulevard de la Croisette. Have a drink (rose wine is the drink of choice at the Riviera) on the water at Le Plage 45 or have dinner in the garden terrace of Le Park 45.
Cannes is not a big destination but there are more places to experience and explore in the Old Town, up the hills away from the water. I have yet to find the time to trek uphill. You should go and tell me all about it!