Cannes. Itâ€™s more than a film festival, attended by the likes of Guy Ritchie, Angelina Jolie, and Robert DeNiro. The city is sophisticated and seaside too. What it isnâ€™t is much more. There is a palpable luxury tourism bent, between the centrally proud casino, acres of waterfront marina equipped to handle megayachts, and La Croisette, a shopping avenue along the water.
This being my first vacation on the French Riviera, I suppose a proper assessment would take into account the differences and similarities with other nearby towns like Nice, Monte Carlo, and Marseille. Those will have to wait for another trip.
But Cannes is interesting. I arrived to a bit of deja vu from my time spent in Bordeaux almost eight years ago. The town is similar with its sandy, shuttered, vaguely mediterranean architecture and cozy boulangeries serving croque monsieurs.
I made none of the arrangements so it came as a pleasant surprise when we rolled into our 3 bedroom 3 bath, huge living room and all black gloss kitchen, recently renovated flat. It was a gluttonous amount of space really for four people, but a nice change from the typical accommodations of a student. I was particularly taken with the Gressi fixtures, which were all minimal and chic but intuitive and tactile.
For this weary grad student, outside of the relaxing waterfall shower and fluffy bedding, I found Cannes to be mostly about very expensive eating, no doubt a result of the monied clientele of the grand hotels here. At least it was satisfying food, if not the healthiest. My favorite meal was a late lunch of chopped steak, rocket salad, and frites at Da Nina. I dipped them in mayo and it was decadent!
We ate crepes, cacciatore chicken, tuna, and I had an amazing beef tartare with endive salad the first night. We even bought Laduree macarons, which are embarrassingly expensive but SO SO GOOD. As an alternative, I suggest a stop at La Maison du Chocolat, a brand out of Paris that makes fantastic truffles and two-bite pieces of chocolate in flavors like Andalousie (lemon zest), Bacchus (rum raisin), and Jolika (pistachio almond paste).
There isnâ€™t so much to do in Cannes. Food is the primary highlight. There is plenty of shopping, though it is limited to the very basic high street brands (Zara, Mango), luxury fashion (Miu Miu, Dior), and more horlogerie than you could ever want (Breguet, Blancpain, Hublot). The one exception was a fun multi brand store called Projecteurs, which is at the tail end of Rue Dâ€™Antibes (to the east) and stocks urban cool brands like Rick Owens, Dries Van Noten, Marni, and Linda Farrow, both for men and women.
Monday afternoon we made our sole excursion, by ferry boat, to Honorat, a small island off Cannes home to a monastery and vineyard. It was charming and solitary, reminding me of rural Europe with beautiful rocky beaches and a crumbling fort. Many enclaves like this island, unchanged for centuries, are spoiled by an uncomfortable feeling of being a tourist trap. Whereas the gift shop was swamped, the chapel was deserted for at least five minutes while I sat in silence, stuck by the paradox of my atheism and appreciation for hushed places, which the churches of Europe often are.
At this moment I am awaiting my train back to Milano on Thello, a sort of Easyjet for rail service. My first class ticket cost only 35â‚¬, which is suspect. But, a direct trip of about five hours is not terrible for getting to skip airport security and enjoy some refined travel, such a rarity these days.
See my Cannes Map for references to everything we did and saw in the city.
A side note about the luxury shopping along La Croisette in Cannes: in the winter season, most shops are closed on Sunday, and a lunch break is taken from 13h00 to 14h30 all other days.
Almost all are well stocked for both genders, some with separate -1 (basement) level menswear areas.
Maybe due to the regularity of UHNW (ultra high net worth) shoppers, the boutiques impress with many rare pieces. An alligator fedora hat at Prada (2500â‚¬), anyone?
My favorite store to browse was HermÃ¨s. Not only did I find a most beautiful pair of â€œMilanoâ€ loafers (simple, single-hide black calf on thin soles), but there was plenty of interesting mens clothing, like a snakeskin jacket (I was too scared to check the price), and a collier de chien belt buckle in white gold with pavÃ© diamonds. Guess the priceâ€¦
72,000â‚¬!!! No wonder they had as many security personnel as they did sales associates.
Sadly I didnâ€™t find anything suitable at the H, neither at Bottega Veneta. If you do visit BV, Xian is a friendly face who offered me a caffe and water, as he will you. I have in my eyes a new wallet in the vesuvio color, which is a flashy red-orange. They didnâ€™t have what I wanted, though I was charmed and enjoyed chatting anyhow.
I predict I will be visiting many of these seaside retreats as the months tick off between now and the end of the MBA. Cinqueterre is on my list, and Portofino enjoys great reviews from some of my friends.
For now, a homecoming in my new home a few days before New Years, for which I have no set plans. Then, another 10 or so days of holiday break before resuming classes and a breakneck schedule for the winter term.
I promise to update more regularly! XO from Italy 🙂 //A