Cannes: L.A. on the Med

If Nice is Newport on the Mediterranean, then Cannes is Los Angeles.

In Nice, the Belle Epoch hotels and apartments majestically overlook the rocky beach and cerulean waters on the land side of Promenade des Anglais. In Cannes, buildings of the same style have been butchered by bolting on garish contemporary luxury goods mini-malls facing the street on the beach side.

The Carlton, one of the grandest of the hotels along the waterfront in Cannes, is now an Inter-Continental.
The Carlton, one of the grandest of the hotels along the waterfront in Cannes, is now an Inter-Continental.

The seaside walk along the shore is well landscaped, overlooking an actual sand beach, but the water here is a nondescript murky green.

Cannes is unquestionably all about the movie industry. The walkways in the promenade near the Palais des Festivals feature handprints of American and European movie stars. The sleek restaurant where we ate an overpriced lunch also operates an outpost in Los Angeles, which makes perfect sense. The historical sightseeing monuments consist of  a small castle and an 18th century church once visited by Napoleon.

The bus ride from Nice, still the same fare, takes nearly two hours. The route runs through fully urbanized areas once it turns north off the Mediterranean at the Nice airport. There is no discernible difference from one town to another, and one starts as soon as the other ends.

From the station, we walked the three blocks down to the shore. Strolling along the beach promenade, we marveled at menu prices in the beachside restaurants that were open during off season. Prices were easily half again more than what the beachside restaurants in Nice charge. We returned via the street side, window shopping at the glitzy stores of designer names, from Armani (which has its own cafe) to Zegna. Harry Winston even has a small storefront on Blvd. de la Croisette. Every last store has at least one if not two black-suited security guards standing out front to screen people entering.

One of our enduring interests is to stop and compare prices at the real estate agents that stand on virtually every block in France. In Paris and Nice, believe it or not, the price of an apartment in some pretty desirable neighborhoods is not unreasonable. In Cannes, they don’t even post prices in some of the windows. That tells you something–if you have to know the price, you can’t afford it. Apparently, the Californie neighborhood is where the richest of the glitterati congregate, because prices there range upward in the mid-single digit millions.

Generally unimpressed with Cannes, we caught the 2 p.m. bus back to the comforts and delights of Old Town Nice. We arrived home just in time for an early cocktail hour before our third dinner downstairs at Chat Noir Chat Blanc. (Melt-in-your-mouth seared foie gras with quince for an appetizer.)

Giorgio, the co-proprieter of Chat Noir Chat Blanc restaurant at the bottom of our building.
Giorgio, the co-proprieter of Chat Noir Chat Blanc restaurant at the bottom of our building.

That was the last time we’ll see Giorgio, as he was heading to Marseilles to see his son Wednesday and Thursday, then on to a meeting to discuss opening a third branch of his restaurant near Paris to accompany the one he already operates in Orleans. So Giorgio is not only an splendid chef but an ambitious entrepreneur, something truly rare in France. We wished him the best and promised to stay in touch.

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