Weekend in ... Cannes
The glamorous, star-friendly town is always ready for its close-up
A walk along La Croisette in Cannes, France. Photograph: Rebecca Marshall/New York Times
La Tonnelle, an open-air restaurant in Cannes. Photograph: Rebecca Marshall/New York Times
Handprints of cinema stars on the street in Cannes. Photograph: Rebecca Marshall/New York Times
With its marinas full of white mega yachts and waterfront streets abuzz with Ferraris and Mercedes, the glittery French Riviera resort at first gives off the rarefied vibe of a town where huffing around on foot must surely offend local mores and offer glaring proof of D-List status.
But footwear gets plenty of use in Cannes, and not only by the stars who traipse down the red carpet during the annual Cannes International Film Festival in May. This year it’s from May 14th-25th. Whether you’re strolling along La Croisette, the celebrated seaside promenade, ambling up the twisting streets of the city’s historical Le Suquet neighbourhood, hiking the trails on one of the nearby islands, or sashaying across a dance floor, you’ll need at least a few pairs of shoes. Luckily, you can find abundant specimens while strutting down the fashionable Rue d’Antibes, yet another essential Cannes walk.
1. Walk of Fame
You’ll run into Quentin Tarantino, Angelina Jolie, Catherine Deneuve and other titans of the silver screen – or at least their handprints and signatures in the pavement – as you walk along the western part of La Croisette, notably around the Palais des Festivals et des Congres convention centre (the site of the film festival’s main red carpet) and Esplanade Georges Pompidou. Heading east along the Mediterranean, you’ll find yourself alongside Chanel-clad women walking tiny dogs and other Cannes types as the golden sands and music-pounding beach restaurants drift past. Across the palm-lined street, note the grandiosely decorated belle époque and Art Deco hotels like the Intercontinental Carlton Cannes and Hôtel Martinez, both favourites of the celluloid set.
2. A Perfect perch
Get helicopter views of the city from Le 360 bar (2, Boulevard Jean Hibert; radissonblu.com/hotel-cannes) atop the Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso. The tiny indoor lounge is perfect for an intimate twilight tryst over a glass of chilled Chablis (€12) or a cocktail while the large outdoor deck offers a more lively atmosphere and more panoramic vistas of the nighttime city and sea.
3. Chef’s Surprise
Have trouble making decisions? Let the chef Bruno Gensdarme, a veteran of the celebrated Guy Savoy restaurant in Paris, choose dinner for you. There’s no menu at La Table du Chef (5, Rue Jean Daumas; 33-4-93682740), his tiny, friendly restaurant, which draws cologne-scented professionals, patrician couples and other local cognoscenti. Instead, Monsieur Gensdarme roves the daily produce markets and decides on a nightly four-course menu accordingly.
4. Local Libations
Avoid the tourist-trap of La Croisette’s bars and direct your feet instead to the old quarter of Le Suquet, where Cannes natives party. For a laid-back glass of wine amid candlelight and orchids, slip into L’Endroit (10, Rue du Suquet; 33-4-93990923), a wine bar overseen by a pleasant young team who serve some 40 vintages by the glass. Then cross the street to Charly’s Bar (5, Rue Suquet; pubcharlysbar.com), a lively stone cave of a spot with a democratic door policy. Everyone from gilded youth to overtanned divorcees packs in to grind to 1960s soul, 1980s remixes and French pop. No cover.
A covered market running three blocks long, Marché Forville is a riot of produce and meats. The northwest corner is the spot to stock up on gifts that transport well. Delicacies include dry sausage made from pork, duck and boar, plum-prune and fig james and olive tapenade
6. Castle in the air
Village life emerges as you climb the streets of Le Suquet. Ascending cobbled lanes and zigzagging stairways, you pass town houses with peach and lime facades and decked with lanterns. On the hilltop, the fortress houses the Musée de la Castre. The collection of ethnographic art – Indonesian shadow puppets, stone Etruscan sarcophagi, Tibetan Buddhist tablets – is impressive, but the museum’s marquee attraction is the 11th-century tower, which offers a commanding view of the sea, golden beaches, sublime hills, orange-tile roofs and distant mountains. Admission, €6.
7. Culinary curiosities
Within the candlelit space of Le 7 Place (7, Rue des Freres Casanova; 33-4-93995348) rustic decor (crates as shelves, black-and-white photos of old-time Cannes) mingles with kitsch-cool details such as faux snakeskin chairs and oversized cutlery mounted as wall art. The restaurant’s kitchen also mixes the classic and the kooky, providing table butter spiked with pistachios and Parmesan cheese, and serving an apple-and-spice tarte tatin as a first course topped with a ball of goats cheese instead of ice cream. Equally fun, a succulent sliced duck breast arrives topped in smashed white shards of dragée, a French style of sugar-coated almonds, lending sweetness and crunch. A three-course meal for two costs around €80.
8. The retail trail
A Saturday stroll along the boutique-packed Rue d’Antibes is what the French call “un must”. Sniffing out indie design and threads among the Zara-Camper-Swarovski-Mont Blanc mafia, however, requires a refined nose. You can attire yourself in skull-themed T-shirts by the French brand Seven Tees at Bathroom Graffiti (52, rue d’Antibes; bathroomgraffiti.com), a vast emporium that also sells funky pillows and night lights shaped like Gummy Bears. Just off the street, the eponymous closet-size shop of Augustin Latour (8, rue Chabaud; 33-4-93990894) showcases home decor, like garlands of small paper lanterns by Paris-based Tsé & Tsé Associées and place mats resembling Ginkgo biloba leaves by Agence Art Terre. Fashion and design go global at ethno-chic Ahimsa (148, Rue d’Antibes; 33-4-93437824). Those red ceramic lamps from Morocco (€95) would look lovely hanging over that goat-hair carpet from Turkey (€280), non?
9. Discreet dinner
Illicit lovers, camera-shy celebrities and vampires avoiding daylight will appreciate L’Affable (5, rue Lafontaine, restaurant-laffable.fr). The discreet dining room, an elegant padded space in gray and beige, has no windows, ensuring that no prying paparazzi can peer inside. Light and colour come from the €44 dinner menu of attractively presented Mediterranean dishes and French classics. Recent stars have included duck foie gras on toast, tartare salmon and scallops with lemon juice, sea bream, roast lamb, and a Grand marnier soufflé. Windows would just be a distraction.
10. Flames and stars
Women in black dresses and guys with untucked dress shirts ring the rectangular bar of B Pub (22, Rue Macé; 33-4-93381730), an ersatz neo-Classical-style nightclub that brims with gilt-painted columns and moldings. Sometimes flames ring the bar, when the bartenders douse it with lighter fluid and toss matches, or when someone orders a bottle of Champagne (€110 for Moët & Chandon), which arrives in a glowing ice bucket shooting off sparks. Afterward, hit up the uber flashy nightclub Le Bâoli. Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg and Prince Albert of Monaco are just some of the global jet-set who have graced the grounds and Playboy Mansion-worthy interiors. If a Methuselah of Dom Perignon (six litres; €25,000) seems too flashy, go for a humble Champagne mojito (€30).
11. Offshore chilling
A restorative nature walk awaits on Île Saint-Honorat, the smaller of the two Île de Lerins, which lie just off the coast. A ferry from the tip of the marina of the Vieux Port, past Quai Laubeuf, drops you 20 minutes later on the craggy coast of the island, whose inhabitants are monks of the Abbaye de Lerins.
Strolling the island’s perimeter requires two to three hours and takes you past rocky coves, promontories, wildflowers, vineyards (where the monks cultivate grapes for their several wine labels), and the ruins of centuries-old stone chapels. The highlight is the abandoned medieval abbey on the island’s south side, an eerie Gothic edifice out of a ghost story. In the current abbey, next door, a gift shop sells wines made by the monks, including the St. Sauveur 2008 syrah (€45).
12. Scales and shells
The Mediterranean’s bounty awaits at La Tonnelle, (Île Saint-Honorat, Lérins Islands (33-4-92995408; tonnelle-abbayedelerins.com) an upscale open-air restaurant of raw wood and rough stone near the island’s ferry landing. The tender meat of a half-cooked bonito nugget plays off the crunch of half-cooked carrot, fennel, cabbage and squash, while a fillet of cod comes with chorizo shards and drizzled in pistou. Fish soup and langoustine are also on the card. Everything pairs well with wines made by local monks. A three-course meal for two, without drinks, runs about €100.
The Five Hotel & Spa (1, rue Notre Dame; five-seas-hotel-cannes.com) opened in 2011 with 45 rooms just off La Croisette. It houses a Michelin-starred restaurant, a tearoom created by the pastry chef Jérôme De Oliveira , a Cinq Mondes spa, a rooftop pool and an 88-foot yacht. Rooms from around €200, low season; €465, high.
The Hôtel Pruly (32, boulevard d’Alsace; hotel-pruly.com) occupies a white town house with a garden and 14 colourful rooms. Doubles from around €70.
© The New York Times 2014, distributed
by The New York Times Syndicate