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You Cannes Do It

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17th Sep 2008

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Somehow, the south of France seems to have a way of breezing past whatever happens in the world, content to exist in its own little Bain de Soleil-oiled bubble. In this zone, Cannes has become the principal hub, hosting more annual 'business' travellers than most cities in Europe and regularly presenting events such as the Monaco Grand Prix, the Cannes Film Festival, and even the occasional conference, even if it is held at anchor on a foreign registered yacht or three.



You’re hotels all booked at The Carlton and you've just got to get your air ticket down there. But wait, d’sastre! C'est impossible! There are no flights?! Pas de flights du tout! This is typical of France and more so of the C te-d'Azur; but do not panic.

If you can't hitch a ride into Toulon-Hyeres or St. Tropez's small airports, you still have hope. Normally you'd fly into Nice-C te d'Azur, on a plane that might only have three seats left three months in advance, so at pressure points you are likely to find no availability on anything, including the big orange bus, which you'd fly even with flight attendants in baggy jeans just to get down there. Another idea is to try Marseilles' lesser known but very sleek Marseille Provence airport instead. As at Nice-C te d'Azur, you can ferry yourself to the action via taxi by Pierre, your private driver in posh French wheels or heli-taxi with a lot less hassle.

Taxi’s to Cannes from Marseille Provence airport take around 2 hours and can be quite pricey, but nonetheless it is money you would have spent at the pool at Nikki Beach Club, so no real loss. Besides, Marseilles-Marignane is ever nicer, particularly if you're heading to the resorts like St. Tropez or the Porquerolles Islands west of the Estoril. Avoid heading further east where the traffic jams of Bentley’s and Twingo’s heading east to Monaco are especially excruciating.

Cannes - a favourite glamourous destination since the film To Catch a Thief; the South of France in general and Cannes in particular have now become a favourite hot-spot for international pleasure seekers, PR machines and Parisians. So, brushing up on a bit of the latest might help you on the local scene. Mind you if you've spent time lately in Abu Dhabi, Beverly Hills, Moscow, or Shang Hai you'll be just fine too.

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Where to Stay

Upon arrival it is important to understand the intricacies of where you stay. Most social agendas take place in private homes in the hills or on yachts. Do not, under any circumstances, assume that because all Cannes hotels say they are full it becomes acceptable to stay in Nice or Bangladesh or the next closest town with available rooms. You are there to stay in Cannes! And you know it.

We like the Hotel 3.14 a new luxury hotel whose rooftop pool overlooks the Carlton and the Mediterranean. They have their own private beach across La Croisette and ElleDeco dubbes. It is voluptuous, global and kitsch at the same time and prices are affordable for the Cote d'Azur - although that said, during the film festival in May they only offer prices on request, and we can figure out what that means. The hotel restaurant and bar, is totally happening at night with their exotic Murano lighting, perfect secret garden terrace and hub orbital plush bar seating. There is also a VIP lounge for those wanting very hip privacy.

If they have rooms available anywhere in Cannes, it means either no one wants to be there, or you are not trying hard enough. Very acceptable farther afield locales do include the exclusive and very private Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat, Cap d'Antibes, and Mougins. Staying out at l'H tel du Cap on Cap d'Antibes is worth the distance because you are staying at "l'H tel du Cap", and thus allowed to be late for everything. "Traffic, you know, H tel du Cap," will suffice as an excuse for the whole week under all circumstances.

If you get a hotel in Cannes, the power structure is around the InterContinental Carlton, the Martinez and the Majestic Barriere (our favourite pool). If you need to do an event, know that the Carlton will annoy you to no end and do it half right (how many times can you hear 'non mais Monsieur c'est pas possible!), while the Martinez is a bit more chic and pricey; go to the Noga Hilton only if you work for Intel and like bad lighting and seek comfort in functional corporate.

Alternatively, Hub Culture's new Penthouse Pavilion can be privately booked for events, dinners and meetings - bookable now from our valets. Described as a dream haven just away from the bustle of La Croisette, the newly renovated space boasts a rooftop terrace and worth stopping by just for the views

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What to Eat

When in Cannes, take meals at Le Congres. Located on La Croisette across from Le Palais, it is packed with cool urbanites and good music. It just has that something that the other restaurants don't. The owners are fabulous: Christian and his brother have been running it a while, they're very nice to friends and are even civil to people they don't know, this is a rarity in the South of France. The food is great too, especially the steak tartare. There are other places to go in town, but really, just let them hook you up on the inside dinner track. Relax, it's Cannes, you don't want to look like you are trying too hard.

In St. Paul de Vence, lunch at La Colombe d'Or - a beautiful spot with exquisite food, flower-filled terraces and marvellous Miro sculptures around their pool. La Colombe D'or is a good twenty-minute drive from Cannes and was a favourite of the city's old artistic set, including Picasso and Matisse, many of whose art adorns the walls inside. After lunch stroll through the Maeght Foundation Museum and Sculpture Park amongst one of the world's largest collections of Miro and Picasso located five minutes back down the hill. End the afternoon with a homemade crepe au Nutella after a historic walk through St. Paul de Vence's old walled city and narrow walking streets.


Things to Do

Should you have extra time away from La Croisette, take the gin palace over to the one and only Nikki Beach in St Tropez. This is where everyone goes for Domaines Ott in the afternoon with a huge 'plat de fruits de mer' enough seafood for the whole mob. Then crash under a beach pavilion after lunch and rest up for the night ahead. Nikki Beach's DJ on the other hand won't let you catch a wink, but you'll get a good head start on your champagne intake for the day. Plan on a wild time. Females typically wear bikini’s, lots of jewellery and towering high heels, along with a wrap or kaftan for a cover up. A linen suit or Ermenegildo Zegna bathing suit with sandals and dark Valentino shades will do just nicely for the boys. As mentioned before, you may see people spraying champagne into the pool, onto the beach, and at anyone reasonably attractive. There is no reason to indulge in such behaviour yourself, as it's very nouveau.

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Taking it all in

Take a nice stroll down the beach and alongside the stunning yachts in the port, pass the clowns and corporate touts, flying banners, and branded taxis and watch the golden sun sink into the glowing red Mas d'Estoril behind a tall sea of masts. Take a moment to yourself to think about the Riviera's romance and the all glamour of the past: Grace Kelly, Brigitte Bardot, King Leopold of Belgium and all of that. Then realize this: Today Cannes is Europe's Vegas. More expensive. Just as corporate. Nearly as cheesy. But somehow, like Vegas, it's a required stop. Make the most of it and be froufrou for a week! See some art and hit the beaches further afield but buy that sunscreen beforehand as it tends to be expensive with the Euro.

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