You Cannes Do It

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17th Sep 2008

Cannes

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    Somehow, the south of France seems to have a way of breezing past whatever happens in the world, content to exist in its own little Bain de Soleil-oiled bubble. In this zone, Cannes has become the principal hub, hosting more annual 'business' travellers than most cities in Europe and regularly presenting such noozey events as the Monaco Grand Prix, the Cannes Film Festival, and even the occasional conference, even if it is held at anchor on a foreign registered yacht or three.

You've secured your VIP access at the American Pavilion, scoured Amy's table at Bungalow 8 for an in at l'Hôtel du Cap, and reserved the best table on the terrace of the Carlton. Now you've just got to get your air ticket down there before jetting off to la vie VIP de la Mediterranée.... But wait, désastre! C'est impossible! There are no flights?! Pas de flights du tout! This is typical of France and more so of the Côte-d'Azur; but do not panic.

If you can't hitch a ride into Toulon-Hyeres or St. Tropez's small airports, you still have hope. Normally you'd fly into Nice-Côte d'Azur, on a plane that might only have three seats left three months in advance, so at pressure points you are likely to find no availability on anything, including the big orange bus, which you'd fly even with flight attendants in baggy jeans just to get down there. Another idea is to try Marseilles' lesser known but very sleek Marignane airport instead. As at Nice-Côte d'Azur, you can ferry yourself to the action via taxi (good luck finding it airconditioned), by Pierre your private driver in posh French wheels or heli-taxi with a lot less hassle.

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Waterside beachbeds, Nikki Beach, St. Tropez
A taxi from Marignane to Cannes is only about €300 (which might include two hours worth of Gauloises fumes courtesy of your driver), but nonetheless it is money you would have spent on Cristal sprayed into the pool at Nikki Beach Club, so no real loss. Besides, Marseilles-Marignane is ever nicer, particularly if you're heading to the resorts like St. Tropez or the Porquerolles Islands west of the Estoril, and avoiding heading further east where the traffic jams of Bentley après Twingo heading east to Monaco are especially excruciating.

A favorite glamourous destination since To Catch a Thief, the South of France in general and Cannes in particular have now become a favorite hot-spot for international pleasure seekers, PR machines and Parisians. So brushing up on a bit of the latest might help you on the local scene.  Mind you if you've spent time lately in Abu Dhabi, Beverly Hills, Moscow, or ShangHai you'll be just fine too. A bit touristy, but Le Loft and sumptuous waterfront Le Bâoli decorated like a temple garden offer the best food, music and scene for late night antics, and Nikki Beach's temporary installation on the Med side of La Croisette are a must-do in the month of May when the Film Festival is in full swing,


playing the rooms field

Upon arrival it is important to understand the intricacies of where you stay. Most social agendas take place in private homes in the hills or on yachts, and if you're in for work, activities take place in and around the Palais des Festivals, a giant triangle of a building who's ongoings block traffic for miles. Do not, under any circumstances, assume that because all Cannes hotels say they are full it becomes acceptable to stay in Nice or Bangladesh or the next closest town with available rooms.You are there to stay in Cannes! And you know it.

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We like the Hotel 3.14 a new luxury hotel whose rooftop pool overlooks the Carlton and the Med. They have their own private beach across La Croisette and ElleDeco dubbes it it is as playing with the big boys, "un quatre etoiles en folie!". It is voluptuous, global and kitsch at the same time and prices are affordable for the Cote d'Azur -  although that said, during the film festival in May they only offer prices on request, and we can figure out what that means. Mahatma, the restaurant and bar, is totally happening at night with their exotic Murano lighting, perfect secret garden terrace and hub orbital plush bar seating. There is also a VIP lounge for those wanting very hip privacy.

If they have rooms available anywhere in Cannes, it means either no one wants to be there or you are not trying hard enough. Very acceptable farther afield locales do include the exclusive and very private Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat, Cap d'Antibes, and Mougins. Staying out at  l'Hôtel du Cap on Cap d'Antibes is worth the distance because you are staying at "l'Hôtel du Cap", and thus allowed to be late for everything. "Traffic, you know, Hôtel du Cap," will suffice as an excuse for the whole week under all circumstances. Don't forget your suitcase full of cash. They still won't take credit cards, don't you know. Or better yet pre-wire your bill before your arrival and save your cash for Nikki Beach bar tips.

If you get a hotel in Cannes, the power structure is around the InterContinental Carlton, the Martinez and the Majestic Barriere (our favorite pool). If you need to do an event, know that the Carlton will annoy you to no end and do it half right (how many times can you hear 'non mais Monsieur c'est pas possible!), while the Martinez is a bit more chic and pricey; go to the Noga Hilton only if you work for Intel and like bad lighting and seek comfort in functional corporate. Alternatively Hub Culture's new Penthouse Pavilion is launching just in time for the Film Festival this year. Private bookings for events, dinners and meetings are bookable now from our valets.  Described as a dream haven just away from the bustle of La Croisette, the newly renovated space boasts a rooftop terrace and worth stopping by just for the views

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The chic Hotel Martinez on La Croisette, Cannes
The truly chic Cannes set take villas in the hills of La Canette, Mougins or St. Paul de Vence or out on Cap d'Antibes. Philipe Marmayou is the one to call on that front— his real estate holdings are slim, but he knows everyone and will have you set up in a spiffy. Reach him at +33 6 2545 5799.

the sea, see, scene

When in Cannes, take meals at Le Congres. Located on La Croisette across from Le Palais, it is packed with cool urbanites and grooves to good music. It just has that something that the other restaurants don't. The owners are fabulous: Christian and his brother have been running it since whenever, they're very nice to friends and are even civil to people they don't know, this is a rarity in the South of France. The food is great too, especially the steak tartare. There are other places to go in town, but really, just let them hook you up on the inside dinner track. Relax, it's Cannes, you don't want to look like you are trying too hard.

In St. Paul de Vence, lunch at La Colombe d'Or - a beautiful spot with exquisite food, flower-filled terraces and marvelous Miro sculptures around their pool. La Colombe D'or is a good twenty minute drive from Cannes, and was a favorite of the city's old artistic set, including Picasso and Matisse, many of whose art adorns the walls inside. After lunch stroll through the Maeght Foundation Museum and Sculpture Park amongst one of the world's largest collections of Miro and Picasso located five minutes back down the hill. End the afternoon with a homemade crêpe au Nutella after a historic walk through St. Paul de Vence's old walled city and narrow walking streets.

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Sculpture gardens, Fondation Maeght, St. Paul de Vence
Should you have extra time away from La Croisette, take the gin palace over to the one and only St.Tropez, to Nikki Beach or Le Club 55. Novices, you must pronounce the latter as "Sank-ont-Sank," but you knew that. This is where everyone goes for Domaines Ott in the afternoon with a huge 'plat de fruits de mer' — enough seafood for the whole mob. Then crash under a beach pavilion after lunch and rest up for the night ahead. Nikki Beach's DJ on the other hand won't let you catch a wink, but you'll get a good head start on your champagne intake for the day. Plan on a wild time. For females, uniforms are bikini, bling-jewelry, and towering high heels with see-thru wrap, kaftan, or sheeth; linen suit or Ermenegildo Zegna bathing suit with sandals and dark Valentino shades will do just nicely for the boys. As mentioned before, you may see people spraying champagne into the pool, onto the beach, and at anyone reasonably attractive. There is no reason to indulge in such behavior yourself, as it's very nouveau. Instead, donate a small sum to charity and lie back on your $2,000 Hermès towel, not thinking about the wonderful things you are doing in the world, while ignoring the irony of your towel costing more than some annual incomes.

taking it all in

Back in Cannes, when everyone else is showering, take a nice stroll down the beach and alongside the stunning yachts in the port, pass the clowns and corporate touts, flying banners, and branded taxis and watch the golden sun sink into the glowing red Mas d'Estoril behind a tall sea of masts. Take a moment to yourself to think about the Riviera's romance and the all glamour of the past: Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, King Leopold of Belgium and all of that. Then realize this: Today Cannes is Europe's Vegas. Diddy, there you were!  More expensive. Just as corporate. Nearly as cheesy. But somehow, like Vegas, it's a required stop. Make the most of it and be frou-frou for a week, you can do it!  See some art and hit the beaches further afield, but buy that sunscreen beforehand, the Euro remains crazily high!

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