Cannes. The very name inspires a thousand tales of glitzy summer nights spent alongside yachts overbrimming with champagne, of film festivals with the stars, and dining in the famous Carlton Hotel alongside the palm-fringed parasol-filled beach of the French Riviera. Having long soaked up the reputation of this celebrity hot-spot, we could not resist the temptation to pay a visit to the city, staying as we were mere kilometres away. And while our visit there involved several rather unenviable encounters with the feral French roads and the even worse drivers impersonating something akin to driving upon them, we were excited to arrive in this much reputed city, filled as it was with all of the thrills and frills of the high life.
Cannes sur la plage
The sophisticated life which brand-Cannes sells was obvious as soon as we arrived. Ladurée macarons sat alongside Dior which in turn neighboured Chanel, which faced Lacoste. Walking onto the beach, the famous domed silhouette of the Carlton Hotel glimmered in the haze of summertime heat, and beyond a rather grotesque film festival cinema building, the charming old town stood quaintly alongside a luxury harbour glimmering in the sunshine.
In the old town restaurants, prices were commensurate with the reputation of the city, and in the shops one quickly got the impression that a lack of money was not easily tolerated in this playground of the rich and famous. So very French Riviera, so very Cannes.
Old town Cannes
For us, it was a day of mixed emotions. We were charmed by the old town, with its pastel colours, soap-filled souvenir shops and a little church nestled upon a hill overlooking the luxury liners below. We were equally enamoured by the Carlton Hotel, or the outside at least, which we gazed upon with a knowing nostalgia as we remembered scenes of Grace Kelly and Cary Grant from our favourite Hitchcock film, To Catch a Thief.
But beyond these charms, the town was altogether too developed and too busy to be truly admired. True luxury comes from exclusivity, and the exclusivity of Cannes felt superficially imposed by its prices, rather than by the inaccessibility or unspoilt beauty of its location. Rather it was a location spoilt by development, by tourism, and by the ravages of money… the charms of Grace Kelly and the golden age of Hollywood seemed very lacking here. True, with money, Cannes might have its illusions still, but for those with less, being shut out on the outside is less fun. There simply isn’t enough beauty there to keep you enchanted for free.
The famous Carlton
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