Cannes

Cannes wasn't always world famous. In the fifth century, a small community of monks found their way to the nearby Lerin Islands and established a monastery. For hundreds of years, fishermen and sailors were the only inhabitants of the small Riviera town. In the early 20th Century, Cannes was a place where French families came to get away from work for a while to enjoy the temperate weather and beautiful scenery. Then Hollywood heard about the place, and the rest is history. Today, if you asked an American to name two cities in France, you had better believe that most would respond Paris and Cannes. With fame comes notoriety, and the town has received its share of the latter. People who have been to the Cannes Film Festival complain about the inflated prices and the fact that the town seemingly sells its soul every year in late May.

Like the festival itself, these complaints are overblown. Cannes has retained its charm, and if you visit during any other time of the year you will be enchanted by this small beachside community built into the cliffs. 78,000 people call Cannes home, and they get to enjoy this beautiful city all year long. Plan your trip around the festival, and you'll enjoy it, too.

Docking & Local Transportation

Cruise ships dock in the bay outside of the Port of Cannes. Ferry boats transport you from the bay to the actual port itself, with road links to the rest of the city.

Trains travel between Cannes and Antibes, Nice, and other spots along the French Riviera. In Cannes itself, taxis are the preferred method of transportation, although you will be able to cover a lot of ground on foot.

Local Interests

The tourist office (Palais des Festivals, Boulevard de la Croisette, 04/9339-2453) in Cannes is a great place to start. Stop by for maps and brochures along with suggested itineraries. Promenade de la Croisette is where Cannes begins. Along this road are gaudy hotels, exclusive restaurants, and haughty boutiques. Chances are that you will be spending a majority of your time in Cannes in the vicinity of this street.

Of course, there is a city beyond the promenade. The Tour de Suquet, a tower dating back to the 1300s, is a good landmark. Close to the tower is the Musée de la Castre (Le Suquet, 04/9338-5526). This museum has a great exhibit on ancient Mediterranean civilizations. There's also an entire wing devoted to artwork from the 19th Century.

Twice an hour, ferryboats head from Cannes to the Îles de Lérins. Contact Trans-Cote d'Azur (04/9298-7130) for more information. This collection of islands has a rich history. Île St-Honorat is best known for its ancient and still-operating monastery, the Abbaye de St-Honorat (04/9299-5400). Travelers who visit for purposes of prayer and meditation are welcomed on a limited basis. If you would rather commune with nature, head toward the island's west coast, which is covered by pine forests and beaches.

Île Ste-Marguerite is where the now famous Man in The Iron Mask was imprisoned in 1698. No one knows who the man was, or what he did to infuriate King Louis XIV to such an extent. His cell has been preserved, although its most famous inhabitant died there in 1703. On Ste-Marguerite is the Musée de la Mer (Fort Royal, 04/9338-5526), full of interesting artifacts from ancient Roman and Arab civilizations.

Activities

Beaches

The beaches of Cannes are among the best on the entire Riviera. Unfortunately, many of the nicer hotels have snapped up beach property, and they charge admission for access to the area. Your best bet is to pay for the privilege to lie on the Plage de la Croisette. Your money will cover mattress rental, an umbrella, and showers. If you find the thought of paying for the beach to be morally reprehensible, there are public beaches in town. Plage Gazagnaire and Plage du Midi are nice beaches, but be sure to bring a beach mat so that you don't have to deal with the sharp pebbles that pass for sand along the Riviera.

Cannes Film Festival

The entire movie industry heads to this small Riviera town en masse for the Cannes International Film Festival, an annual event that takes place in late May. The festival has become a carnival of celebrity gawkers and all-night soirees. It has also become a celebration of exclusivity, as no one from the public is allowed into any of the screenings. If you happen to visit during the festival, stake out a place next to the paparazzi and try to get the attention of your favorite celebrity. While the frenzy of the film festival is dizzying and can be fun, you would be better off trying to avoid Cannes during May if you are just looking for some relaxation.

Shopping

Cannes has a vibrant shopping scene. Prices are naturally inflated when the jet-set is in town in May, but otherwise there are a great deal of values to be found. Promenade de la Croisette is crammed wall to wall with brand name boutiques, from Yves Saint Laurent to Hermes. For more offbeat items, check out some unique antiques at Marc Francl (142 Rue d'Antibes, 04/9343-8643). There are some delicious treats available at Chez Bruno (50 Rue d'Antibes, 04/9339-2663).

Dining & Nightlife

The restaurants of Cannes offer a wide selection of delectable menu items for even the most discriminating palates. La Mère Besson (13 Rue des Frères-Pradignac, 04/9339-5924) focuses on local Provencal recipes, with anything on the menu with the word Provencale attached to the end sure to be a hit. La Mesclun (16 Rue du Suquet, 04/9399-4519), Le Maschou (15 Rue St-Antoine, 04/9339-6221) and Le Marais (9 Rue de Souquet, 04/9338-3919) are three more magnificent French restaurants. The best of all is La Palme d'Or (73 Boulevard de la Croisette, 04/9298-7414) in the Hotel Martinez.

Nightlife in Cannes is always an adventure. Gamblers will love Le Carlton Casino Club (58 Boulevard de la Croisette, 04/9299-5100). You will need to provide proper identification, and men are expected to wear sport coats and ties. Another place to lose your money is Casino Croisette (1 Esplanade Lucien Barrière, 04/9298-7800). Once you're broke, head to one of the best spots in town, Jimmy's de Régine (1 Jetée Albert-Edouard, 04/9368-0007) which is located conveniently in the casino itself. The Whiskey a Gogo (115 Avenue des Lerins, 04/9343-2063) is always packed, as is Le Vogue (20 Rue du Suquet, 04/9339-9918).