Cannes, beyond Film Festivals

Cannes, the most famous city of the French Riviera, has come a long way from a sleepy fishing village to the favorite holiday destination of the rich and the famous. While Cannes is synonymous with the Film Festival evoking images of Movie Stars, Fashion, Night life and Casinos, there is more to it. Gourdon the perched village, the perfumeries of Grasse, the glass blowers of Biot, the potters in Vallauris are a few of the lesser known but compelling attractions at Cannes. Le Suquet, the old town with its cobbled streets takes you back in time to another era. The French Riviera has been an inspiration for artists like Picasso over the ages and some of their works can be seen in the Museums, Art Galleries spread all over Cannes.

Reaching Cannes

The most stylish way to reach Cannes is by your own Yacht! Lesser mortals can reach Cannes via Nice international Airport. From here, there is a half-hourly Express Coach to Cannes Centre via the A8 motorway. By train, you can reach Nice from Paris in just over 5 ½ hrs if you take the TGV. Another option is to take the TGV to Marseilles or Toulon and then switch to the local TER line which will stop at all Riviera destinations.

What to do in Cannes

Palais des Festivals et des Congres is the venue of the famed Cannes Film Festival. Start your Cannes tour by paying homage to this mecca of Film Festivals. Make it a point to notice the flagstones outside the building for handprints of celebrities who have graced the venue.

La Croissette is one of the worlds’ most famous promenades. The 2km stretch of Side walk along the Mediterranean is a Cultural Heritage of France. La Croissette is dotted with souvenir shops, cafes restaurants and hotels. The best way to experience La Crossette is to rent a chaise lounge and umbrella and sip a drink along the Mediterranean!

Musée de la Mer is a Maritime museum off the coast on a fort on Lerins Island. The ground floor houses the State Prison and the biggest attraction here is the cell of the Iron Mask, the mysterious prisoner held here for 11 years. The movie based on Alexander Dumas’s “Man behind the Iron Mask” was shot here. The first floor has several maritime wrecks of Roman times.  

Musée de la Castre is a world famous museum set in a castle which used to be the erstwhile abode of monks of Lerin. It began as a set of collections of Baron Lycklama in late 1800s. Today the museum has a stunning range of paintings, musical instruments, Mediterranean antiquities and pre-Columbian ceramics.

You cannot visit Cannes and not shop! This is a paradise for Shopaholics. Gucci, Lacroix, Armani are the local specialties here so you better come loaded, otherwise you will end up just window shopping!  The 3 best shopping places are La Croissette, the Rues d'Antibes and Meynadier. Duty free merchandise especially Perfumes, Cosmetics and Fashion items are the best local buys.

Grasse is the Perfume capital of the world and just 15 kms from Cannes. Galimard, founded in 1747 by Jean de Galimard, is the oldest Perfumery in Grasse. In fact, Galimard used to supply olive oil, fragrances and pomades to the court of Louis XV.  If you really fall in love with Perfumes, you can become an apprentice here and attend a 2 hour workshop at the Studio des Fragrances. The best part of this workshop is that you get to actually concoct your own fragrance! Another perfumery worth visiting is Molinard on 60 blvd Victor Hugo. It’s most famous creation is the 1921 cult scent Habanita.

Gourdon is a beautiful perched village straight out of a picture post card. It sits on the edge of a rocky spur that juts out about 500m directly above the Loup River. You will get spectacular views of 80 km of coastline from Nice to Théoule-sur-Mer. The 9th century Castle designed by André Le Nôtre is the main attraction. There are also scores of boutiques selling perfumery. The Le Nid d'Aigle restaurant is a must with its view of the Mediterranean Sea as it could turn out to be the most scenic restaurant you ever been to.

Shopping Tips for Cannes

Cannolive is an old fashioned store located on 16 Rue Vénizelos. It has been run for generations by the Raynaud family. You will get great deals on olive oils, tapenades and Lérina, the plant based liquor.

Ceneri on Rue Meynadier is a must to shop for some cheese. They have 300 different varieties of cheese which is exported to all parts of the globe.  

Jean-Luc Pele, also on Rue Meynadier is where you can get hold of 22 flavors of Macarons.

For more of my travelogues across the world, visit Great Vacations.