Barely a week goes by when Cannes isn’t hosting a convention. However, the annual gathering of the movie world (www.festival-cannes.fr) until May 27, is its obsession, a subject raised in every other conversation.
When Hollywood stars aren’t posing outside, you’ll be able to start your walk at the film festival’s main venue, the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès (palais desfestivals.com), at the western end of the Boulevard de la Croisette. This shorefront slab of concrete and glass has rolled out the red carpet for Hollywood’s finest since 1983 – the first Palais was up the road at the JW Marriott hotel. It is vast, containing 35 000m2 of exhibition space – take a closer look on a tour (admission n3 or R31.50).
Next, head east along the south side of La Croisette, the city’s palm-lined seaside drive. The California-style mix of sun, sea and sand is said to have informed the choice of this city for the film festival back in 1946. Look south-east out to sea, where Ile Ste-Marguerite rises before you, one of the two Iles de Lérins. Tucked behind it is the second island, Ile St-Honorat (abbayedelerins.com), home to the Cistercian monastery that built Cannes out of a fishing village. Today the monks produce fine wines. Boats make the 20-minute journey there between 8am and 6pm in summer from the ferry terminal just beyond the Albert Edouard jetty (cannes-ilesdelerins.com; n13 return).
Continue along the poodle-ploughed promenade until you see the sign for Rado Plage (rado-plage.fr), the oldest private beach restaurant on La Croisette, run by the same family since 1958. Dip down the stairs to enjoy a coffee and watch the glamorous people on its blue-striped sunloungers.
Cross the road near the Hotel Martinez (hotel-martinez.com) and admire one of the strip’s grand hotels, dating from 1929, a favourite for the stars. Double back along the north side of La Croisette to a Belle Epoque treasure, the Carlton Cannes hotel (ichotelsgroup.com), the festival’s unofficial HQ.
A few steps further west brings you to La Malmaison (cannes.com), the sole public art gallery, set in the only surviving original section of the 19th century Grand Hôtel. The summer exhibition, Picasso, les Chemins du Sud, opens on July 1. Browse the designer shops that line La Croisette – Dior, Chanel, Gucci – until you reach Rue des Etats Unis. Turn into it and walk for a couple of minutes till you hit Rue d’Antibes, Canne’s main shopping street. Turn left, and walk a block to the junction of Rue des Serbs, where you should stop and look north to see the huge Marilyn Monroe mural on the side of the Best Western Cannes Riviera, one of a series of film-inspired murals around the city.
Continue all the way down Rue d’Antibes until you reach Rue Emile Négrin, where you turn right, then take a left into Rue Meynadier for some tasty local shopping. At number 22, you find the deliciously pungent cheese shop Ceneri (fromagerie-ceneri.com). The dishes at number 31, Au Bons Raviolis, include the southern French take on pizza: pissaladière. Pata negra is the star of the deli-café Le Comptoir des Gastronomes.
Turn right on to Rue Louis Blanc, then left into Rue du Marché Forville to reach the covered food market where you’ll see heaps of fish. At the western end, carry straight on and peep into the sombre 16th century Chapelle de la Miséricorde. Turn left, out of the chapel, along Rue de la Miséricorde, right into Rue Meynadier and right again into Rue St-Antoine, a steep cobbled street lined with bistros that comes alive at night. The road becomes Rue du Suquet – Le Suquet is the name for the old town, which you’re now entering.
Mantel (restaurantmantel.com) makes a good lunch stop. Refreshed, leave and continue up the hill. Turn right at Place du Suquet and right again into Rue de Pré. Fork right into Rue Louis Perrissol and continue up to Eglise Notre-Dame d’Espérance and Château de la Castre (admission n3), the Gothic church and 12th century castle that crown the old city. Climb the tower for views across the bay and inland to the posh hillside enclaves of Californie and Super Cannes.
Make your way down to Rue Louis Perrissol, cross on to Rue Montchevalier and go down to the bottom of the hill on to Rue Georges Clemenceau. When you reach a halt at the pavement’s edge, look up and you’ll see the giant Cinema Cannes mural on the side of the police station. Pick out the stars and characters, from Charlie Chaplin to Roger Rabbit.
Turn right for Place Bernard Cornut Gentille and on to Les Allées de la Liberté, site of the Hôtel de Ville and, at weekends, a flea market. Here stands a statue of Lord Brougham, the English peer who founded modern Cannes. Cross the road to the Palais, and your slice of Cannes is complete. – The Independent on Sunday
If You Go...
The nearest airport is at Nice. A bus service, No 210, departs Nice airport every half hour and takes 50 minutes to Cannes fora fare of e26.50 (R280) return; it is run by Nice Airport Xpress (00 33 8 20 48 11 11; uk.niceairportxpress.com).
In summer, arrive in style by helicopter with Hélisécurité (00 33 4 94 55 59 99; helicopter- saint-tropez.com), a 15-minute journey costs e300 return.
Kate Simon travelled with British Airways, which offers two nights at the five-star Hotel Martinez from £309 (about R4 000) a person in May, including return flights from Gatwick to Nice and B&B accommodation.
Information: Cannes Tourist Board: http://cannes.travel