Upon arrival in Cannes, getting my coach ticket was a breeze. I handed over my 30€ to the woman behind the counter and there was my ticket. Simple. It seems that if you’re going to Cannes on business, you have to find the badly signposted desk and wait around for someone to notice you before they hand you your ticket. Still, I’m the one 30€ down. The coach ride in to Cannes was relatively short and comfortable, and thankfully we didn’t have to wait in a queue for hours to get on our way. I stepped of the coach, slipped on my wonky sunglasses, and basked in the sunshine. I had arrived, and the weather was there to greet me.
Finding accommodation in Cannes can be tricky if you’re on a budget, but thanks to some social networking we found a place a short walk from the Croisette (this is the main boulevard in Cannes – more on that in a bit), staying with two guys from California, Jordan and Glenn. Their flight in was less than perfect – a baggage handlers’ strike meant no luggage for them, at least not for a day or two. Sharing an apartment is the cheapest way to stay in Cannes during the festival. Hotels are outside the realms of possibility for most people I know and most small apartments, even for two people, is unaffordable. Our apartment was a one-bedroom-sleeps-four deal, but we had a large balcony and there was a communal pool which we could use. We also had – and this is a major point in selecting anywhere these days – WiFi in abundance. Even though you’re away from home, it’s nice to know the world is back there doing what it does 140 characters at a time.
Promenade de la Croisette
Whilst the other three members of our new household went off to collect their passes and bags, I went for a wander down the Croisette to see what was there, and to get my bearings. During the festival, the Croisette is lined with posters for some of the bigger films playing at Cannes this year, and some that aren’t playing at all.
The Croisette is an odd place to walk down during the festival. They stop the traffic all along one side of the road, so you’re free to wander in the road without getting honked out of the way by an angry driver (unless there’s a premiere, in which case, you almost certainly will be). The streets have ice cream/crepe stands at regular intervals along the road, but be warned: a bottle of drink will set you back over 2€. Along the beach, there’s plenty of restaurants, some of which are open to the general public during the festival, but it’s always worth checking. To eat on the beach, you will pay a premium, and if it’s windy, be prepared to lose your salad.
Also along the Croisette, there are a variety of shops, boutiques and hotels. If you’re a “normal” person, every single shop will be a window-gazing, fantasy trip. But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll seek out every opportunity to mock the uber-rich for their ludicrous wardrobe choices.
The more affordable shops are up on the Rue d’Antibes – there’s a wide variety of high street shops and pharmacies to browse through (I recommend Pharmacie Lienhard – they helped me with my blocked ear despite our language barrier and they sell all the wonderful skincare products you just can’t buy here in the UK).
Don’t fancy hanging around in Cannes for more than a day at a time? No worries. For a mere 12,50€, you can hop on a boat to the Lérins Islands. I took a trip over to Sainte-Marguerite Island, the larger of the islands. The island makes for a peaceful retreat from the seemingly non-stop nature of the town, with its narrow, windy paths, the lofty trees protecting you from the sun and its small museum perched on a cliff-edge. The museum charges a small fee for entry, but for the fortress that once housed the Man in the Iron Mask (the real one, not the dodgy Leonardo DiCaprio one), it’s probably worth it. There are very few options on the island for refreshments – I was rained in to the restaurant closest to the jetty and managed to grab an obscenely huge plate of sardines and a Coke for 20€. The service was a little slow, but they can be forgiven due to the sudden increase in demand.
If monasteries and vineyards are more your scene, you can also get the boat from Cannes to the other island, Saint-Honorat Island. If you book in advance, you can get a ticket from 11€. The island boasts an impressive Abbey complete with a fortified monastery and the shop sells honey and wine made by the monks that reside on the island.
Further afield, Monaco is but an hour away by train and will only cost you 18,20€ return. During Cannes fortnight, they’re usually busy setting up for the Monaco Grand Prix, and so expect the town to be busy and try and avoid race days if possible. Monaco town boasts many museums, including the Oceanographic Museum – a palace filled with aquariums and exhibits with panoramic views to boot. There are also many gardens and parks to walk through to while away the hours if you don’t feel like gambling away your savings in the casinos.
If you’ve come to Cannes during festival fortnight, you’re either a film fan or you enjoy large crowds of people all talking about things you don’t understand, mostly in languages you can’t even recognise. If you do like films, then your chances of catching a movie are reduced somewhat with you being a member of the general public. But you do have a few options available to you.
The Director’s Fortnight (Quinzaine des Réalisateurs) is open to the general public, but you will need to buy your tickets in advance from the tent on the Croisette. Each ticket costs 7€ or a carnet of six will set you back 30€. The tickets are valid for any of the films showing at the Théâtre Croisette, so you’re not bound to watch any specific film at any given time. The downside of this is that press and market pass holders still get priority, so you may find yourself queuing in the rain for an hour and a half only to be turned away (like I did when I attempted to see The Congress). However, if you do get in, you may get to see some fantastic films that you would not get to see otherwise. I saw La Danza de la Realidad and The Last Days on Mars, which I’m sure I would never have seen had it not been for the festival.
The other way to get in to films is to beg, plead and stand around asking for tickets to screenings. I’ve seen people in tuxedos and dresses standing outside the Palais at 10am holding signs for evening screenings and, by some miracle, it works. If the weather’s nice, don some Factor 30 and your best smile. If it’s raining, take a brolly but don’t stop smiling. Keep going and you’ll make it.
Cannes is a fantastic place to visit in the springtime, weather permitting. There’s plenty to see and do even if you’re not an avid film fan, and you don’t need to spend a fortune to feel like a celebrity. Whether it’s a week on the beach, or a walking holiday you’re after, this section of the Cote D’Azur will not disappoint. Flights to Nice are available from most London airports. All prices correct at time of going to press.