Cannes comes alive each year with the glamour of the film festival. This year the film festival promises to be very exciting as the event starts with feature on the one of the worlds’ most glamorous icons, and Cannes famous neighbour, with the opening of Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman. Kidman bears a striking resemblance to Princess Grace, whose beauty and elegance is captured in so many films and pictures. The image of Grace Kelly has been captured in many ways and continues to inspire fashion and splendour for years after her untimely death. However, for me, the best imagine by far is by my friend, artist – Tom Foral, whose portrait of his friend HRH Princess Grace, hangs as the centrepiece of The Princess Grace Theatre in Monaco.
Though the film festival is the most exciting, stylish and glitzy time to be in Cannes, visiting any time of the year does not disappoint. With favourable weather at most times of the year, and luxury that exudes all year round, Cannes is one of my favourite relaxing destinations. My recent visit to the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez, the flagship Riviera hotel located on the famous La Croisette Boulevard, was second to none and reaffirms why this hotel is the undisputed ‘Grande Dame’ along the promenade. I arrived by taxi from Nice-Cote-d’Azur Airport, 20 kilometres from the hotel, one morning. I decided to have my noon meal, upon arriving, at Z Plage, the famous restaurant with two Michelin stars; the environment was amazing, and the food was exceptional. After my meal, I visited the hotel’s beach and relaxed on a comfortable pier beach chair in the comfort of the warming winter sun.
That afternoon, I ventured up the Riviera on a leisurely walk to Musée de la Castre. This museum is based on the trips of an honoured Cannes citizen, who donated an amazing collection of artefacts he collected all over the world during the 18th century. After visiting the museum, I climbed the tower and found the most dramatic view of the city and its surroundings. I climbed and climbed and climbed and then, suddenly, I arrived on the top of a historical tour, where there is a 360-degree, incredible view of Cannes.
Returning to the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez, I found the staff to be welcoming; my room was an absolutely beautiful Sea View Room. The concierge and attendants were very generous with gifts, a lovely touch. Even though the Grand Hyatt Cannes Hôtel Martinez is one of the oldest luxury hotels in Cannes, it still keeps its charm. Facing the famous “La Croisette”, it is a hotel that makes one feel special and service is extended effortlessly. It seems that the years have not passed by this hotel, due to the recent tasteful renovation that reflects the charm of a bygone era, with all the features required by today’s demanding traveller. The afternoon was spent making the most of the wonderful sea view from the French windows in the hotel room, whilst enjoying tea and macaroons watching the sunset over the Mediterranean. As night falls the experience continued with dinner at the Palm d´Or restaurant with its two Michelin stars that represent culinary excellence and old world splendour.
Also along the exciting Promenade de la Croisette I discovered the InterContinental Carlton Cannes hotel to be celebrating 100 years of history and everlasting charm. The food was outstanding for the not to be missed Sunday brunch. The hotel is surrounded by a vast amount of very exclusive shops, making the cocktail lounge a perfect retreat to relax after walking the street. When soaking up the atmosphere there you understand that you are in an extraordinary iconic place. And when you sit on the terrace in the sun, looking at the rippling sea, it is impossible not to feel good.
I ventured on to Hotel Le Cavendish, which serves as the gateway to the Victorian development of Boulevard Carnot, just on the edge of town centre and within easy walking distance. The family has modernised and restored the hotel while retaining the traditional style. The hotel has excellent rooms, accommodating staff, and a delicious breakfast. I came across an open bar during the early evening, giving me a chance to meet fellow guests from around the world in a relaxed atmosphere. Hotel Le Cavendish was full of character and charm. As an example of the service: I had been on the road for five days and was down to one change of clothing. I called down to ask where I could leave my laundry and within three minutes the front desk clerk was at my door. The continental breakfast was excellent and one of the best I have had in Europe.
I stayed in one of the rotunda suites and the view from the wrap-around balcony was worth pre-booking. When I checked in, I was asked to sit at an antique desk, and the clerk made me feel at home while explaining the hotel’s amenities and giving me pointers for my stay in Cannes. The owners offered outstanding hospitality and wonderful intimate atmosphere give the feeling or a private home with a rather than a hotel. The charm of a turn-of-the-last-century hotel has been preserved while providing the amenities of this century. The bird cage elevator that runs up the centre of the spiral staircase gives guests a sample of the grandness of 19th Century luxury.
The sister hotel to La Cavendish is Villa Garbo. Upon arriving at this hotel, I was escorted to an absolutely superb room, the penthouse suite, and the service was outstanding. Everything from the view from the rooftop deck to the daily breakfast and drinks on the terrace are the perfect reminder that you’re surrounded by the magic of Cannes. The hotel was intimate, nicely decorated, and had very excellent service, while the owners were very personable and welcoming. Villa Garbo’s convenient location and private beach arrangement were excellent. A grocery was one block from the hotel, and there were full cooking facilities in each room should you wish to try and emulate and of the culinary experiences you’re sure to experience in the French Riviera.
Each evening the owner provides “Drinks on the Terrace” which made for a fun evening. The atmosphere is friendly and lively and makes Villa Garbo a great place to stay. Interiors were modern and elegant; my room was spacious and had 2 balconies from which to watch the hustle and bustle. The location was just a 5-minute walk to La Croisette and main shopping areas. The owner made a special point of greeting me one morning over breakfast which I thought was a special touch that is so welcoming and intimate.
As a final parting gift to myself, I chose to visit Centre d’art La Malmaison and to explore the George Braque exhibition. A short, three-minute walk from the hotel on Boulevard de la Croisette, brought me to Malmaison, one of the city’s newest museums. Sections of the museum contain galleries which are displayed outdoors in beautiful gardens when the weather permits. To mark the 50th anniversary of the death of painter and sculptor Georges Braque, his prints and illustrations are on display in ‘George Braque, la magie de l’estampe,’ focusing on the prints, lithographs and book illustrations the French painter created between 1921 and 1963. Famous for his still life’s which depict objects such as guitars, pipes and pitchers, and then for his landscapes, birds and ateliers, the artist is also the inventor of the papier collé technique.
The 250 original prints were on display, including the landmark series of 16 etchings in black based on the Théogonie d’Hésiode, showing how the French master’s drawings sublimate the Surrealist texts of his famed counterparts. From colour to engraved purity, Georges Braque, with his free imagination, delivers for eternity a message of peace. Leaving Cannes this evening, I felt at peace after exploring Braques’ works and having submerged myself in the charm that is uniquely Cannes. I may not have attended the film festival, but the setting of Cannes is like a film set, and the splendour and excitement is like a magical story board that is open to those who wish to dream.
By Mr. Jones