I arrived in Cannes (pictured above) a few days before the Film Festival started. Every time I visit there seems to be a new adventure awaiting me and I always manage to discover new dimensions to this luxurious city. I wanted to see how it prepares for this special event as well as do some exploring before and after the festival. Cannes hosts a very large number of tourists and visitors from all over the world and has stamped its brand name on the world map. The mere mention of its name immediately conjures up images of wealth and glamour – a playground for the rich and famous.
But what lies beneath this charming city’s surface? What about the ordinary people who live here – what do they really think about the buzz that surrounds Cannes? They rely heavily on tourism, especially the various festivals that take place throughout the year. Festivals for them mean business, employment and entertainment. As I walk along the Boulevard de la Croissette, I see workmen laying big, boxed flowerpots to block its entrance. Policemen are closing off the roads and men are painting new street markings. Festival banners are flown on posts. Tents are erected, and stylish temporary stages and cabins are built by on the seaside. Huge cranes lift furniture to the top floor of 7-star hotels and high-rise buildings in preparation for large parties. It’s an unusual scene, and it’s amazing to see how a quiet city can be transformed so quickly and smoothly.
As I walk through the modern part of the city, I see how it is shaped by different layers. Restaurants and clubs occupy the main part of the seaside promenade. The sandy beaches are privately owned and exclusively used by the major hotels for their guests. They stretch from the Palais des Festivals in the west to the Palm Beach Casino in the east. There are two sandy beaches on either side of this stretch for the public to enjoy. All the major luxury hotels such as the Carlton, Martinez, Majestic and Hilton are on the Boulevard de la Croissette. There are many expensive high-rise residential blocks, trendy gastronomic restaurants and stylish cafes, along with chic boutiques and designer shops. Along the Boulevard itself, palm trees and flowerbeds add to the many factors that make this street one of the most bourgeois streets in the world.
Though wealthy visitors may relish a stay in an exclusive hotel or apartment, there is still somewhere for everyone to enjoy, relax and forget about their worries on any budget. Children play in a funfair near the Palais des Festivals. Street performers show off their many talents while others display their acrobatic prowess. An artist paints portraits, whilst another sells landscape paintings, displaying them near the beach. Old men sit on benches playing backgammon, their friends watching on. A sand artist works on the beach, finishing off a fortress alongside other sandy sculptures. Everywhere you look the atmosphere is filled with laughter, happiness and joy.
Running parallel to the boulevard, just a short distance behind it, is the rue d’Antibes. It is a fashionable and very classy street with numerous shops, cafes and restaurants. There are a few banks and some major brand stores. It has a different atmosphere to Croissette. It is a nicely paved shopping street that accommodates the more budget-minded shopper. Flower baskets hanging from well-designed buildings combine with the one-way traffic to create tranquility and peace for shoppers.
Cannes is a dream resort, full of excitement and variety with lots to offer both its permanent residents and visitors. It is a relaxing oasis in which to escape our chaotic world. I would love to return to Cannes again and again, to explore its unknown districts and to get to know more of its peaceful citizens.