The town oozes Riviera glitter, but there are also historic alleyways, olives for sale in the covered market, and nature walks.
With its marinas full of white megayachts and waterfront streets abuzz with Ferraris and Mercedeses, the glittery French Riviera resort at first gives off the rarefied vibe of 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. Whether you’re strolling along the celebrated seaside promenade known as La Croisette, ambling up the twisting streets of the city’s historical Le Suquet neighborhood, hiking the trails on one of the nearby island, 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.
- Palais des Festivals et des Congrès; Esplanade Georges Pompidou.
- Le 360, 2, boulevard Jean Hibert; radissonblu.com/hotel-cannes.
- La Table du Chef, 5, rue Jean Daumas; (33-4) 93-68-27-40.
- L’Endroit, 10, rue du Suquet; (33-4) 93-99-09-23. Charly’s Bar, 5, rue Suquet; pubcharlysbar.com.
- Marché Forville.
- Musée de la Castre, culture.gouv.fr/culture/nllefce/fr/mu_06400.
- Le 7 Place, 7, rue des Frères Casanova; (33-4) 93-99-53-48.
- Bathroom Graffiti, 52, rue d’Antibes; bathroomgraffiti.com. Augustin Latour, 8, rue Chabaud; (33-4) 93-99-08-94. Ahimsa, 148, rue d’Antibes; (33-4) 93-43-78-24.
- L’Affable, 5, rue Lafontaine, restaurant-laffable.fr.
- B. Pub, 22, rue Macé; (33-4) 93-38-17-30. Le Bâoli; lebaoli.com.
- Île Saint Honorat, cannes-ilesdelerins.com.
- La Tonnelle, tonnelle-abbayedelerins.com.
1. 5 P.M. > 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 dos Congrès convention center (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 favorites of the celluloid set. For culture, La Malmaison art space hosts rotating exhibitions of major artists from the Riviera.
2. 7:30 P.M. > A Perfection Perch
Even if your chopper is in the shop, you can get helicopter views of the city from Le 360 bar atop the new Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso. The tiny indoor lounge is perfect for an intimate twilight tryst over a glass of chilled Chablis (12 euros, or $15.25 at $1.28 to the euro) or a Radisson Royal cocktail (Curaçao, pineapple juice, mango nectar and Champagne, 20 euros), while the large outdoor deck offers a more lively atmosphere and more panoramic vistas of the nighttime city and sea.
3. 9 P.M. > 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, 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 (41 euros a person) accordingly. Recent concoctions have included seared tuna with sweet potato purée, rare filet de boeuf with foie gras gravy, and chocolate terrine with strawberry-raspberry foam.
4. 11 P.M. > Local Libations
Avoid the tourist-trap La Croisette 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 candle light and orchids, slip into L’Endroit, a month-old wine bar overseen by a pleasant young team who serve some 40 vintages by the glass (including a muscular red Bandol, 9 euros). Then cross the street to Charly’s Bar, a lively stone cave on a spot with a democratic door policy. Everyone from gilded youth to overtanned divorcées packs in to grind to ‘60s soul, ‘80s remixes and French pop. No cover.
5. 10 A.M. > Cannes-O-Copia
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. The illustrated sign of the smiling pig welcomes you to the stand of Thomas and Julien, who deal in dry sausage made from pork, duck, boar, and more (3.50 euros). Next to them, Patricia Hilbert sells jams (4.50 euros) in flavors like plum-prune and fig. The Baussy family sells olive tapenade (7 euros) on the same row.
6. Noon > 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 – 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 euros.
7. 2 P.M. > Culinary Curiosities
Playful marriages fill Le 7 Place. Within the candlelit space, rustic décor (crates as shelves, black-and-white photos of old-time Cannes) mingles with kitsch-cool details like faux snakeskin chairs and oversized cutlery mounted as wall art. The 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 goat cheese instead of ice cream. Equally fun, a succulent sliced duck breast arrives topped in smashed white shards of Dragée – a French style of candy-coated almonds – lending sweetness and crunch around 80 euros.
8. 4 P.M. > 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, a vast emporium that also sells funky throw pillows and night lights shaped like Gummy Bears. Just off the street, the eponymous closet-size shop of Augustin Latour showcases home décor, 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. Those red ceramic lamps from Morocco over that goat-hair carpet from Turkey (280 euros), non?
9. 8 P.M. > Discreet Dinner
Illicit lovers, camera-shy celebrities and vampires avoiding daylight will appreciate L’Affable. The discreet dining room, and elegant padded space in grey and beige, has no windows, ensuring that no prying paparazzi or jealous spouses can peer inside. Light and color come from the 42-euro prix fixe menu of attractively presented Mediterranean dishes and French classics. Recent stars have included a velvety yellow squash soup with foie gras and splashes of green pistou; unbreaded calamari with zesty tomato and creamy artichoke; veal with mustard sauce and crunchy carrot; a bright orange soufflé spiked with Grand Marnier; and unctuous meringue, soft as ice cream, ringed with a sea of red raspberry coulis and green mint leaves. Windows would just be a distraction.
10. 10 P.M. > Flames and Stars
Women in black dresses and guys with untucked dress shirts ring the rectangular bar of B. Pub, an ersatz neo-Classical-style nightclub that brims with gilt-painted columns and moldings. Sometimes flames ring the bar, such as when the bartenders douse it with lighter fluid and toss matches, or when someone orders a bottle of Champagne (110 euros for Moët & Chandon), which arrives in a glowing ice bucket shooting off sparks. Afterward, hit up the uberflashy nightclub Le Bâoli. Jude Law, Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg and Prince Albert of Monaco are a fraction of the global jet-set who have graced the palm-planted grounds and Playboy Mansion-worthy interiors. If the Methuselah of Dom Pérignon (six liters; 25,000 euros) seems too flashy, go for a humble Champagne mojito (30 euros).
11. 10 A.M. > Offshore Chilling
A restorative nature walk awaits on Île St. Honorat, the smaller of the two Îles de Lérins, 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 Lérins. Strolling the island’s perimeter requires two to three hours and takes you past the 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 monk-made wines, including the St. Sauveur 2008 syrah (45 euros).
12. 1 P.M. > Scales and Shells
The Mediterranean’s bounty awaits at La Tonnelle, 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 the local monks. A three-course meal for two, without drinks, runs about 100 euros.
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 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 196 euros, low season; 465, high.
The year-old Hôtel Pruly (32, boulevard d’Alsace; hotel-pruly.com) occupies a white town house with a garden and 14 colorful rooms. Doubles from 70 euros.
Article by Seth Sherwood
New York Times – April 21, 2013