Cannes – Pearl of the French Riviera

What do you first think of when you hear Cannes? Palms? Sandy Beaches? Or is it something else? Probably the first association you have is the Cannes Film Festival. And that is for a good reason. During the 12 days of the World’s most famous international film festival Cannes is the centre of the glitz and the glamour of the movie industry. Rich and famous gather here to enjoy in the beauties of the 7th art. It is a place to see and to be seen.

Perks of the Film Festival

Normally, Cannes has around 73 000 inhabitants, but during the festival, that number rises up to 200 000. Also, Cannes has around 100 hotels, and 32 of them have 4 stars or more. Most of them are booked far in advance of the film festival. Those hotels acquire around 15% of their annual turnover during the 12 days of Festival!

Moreover, according to this website, with more than 3700 journalists, Cannes film festival is the 2nd largest media-covered event after the Olympic games.  Another fun fact is that during a festival there’s more than 2 km of the red carpet! 60-meters long red carpet is covering the iconic 24 staircase and its changing 3 times per day, due to the intensity of the movement.

Famous Cannes Hotels

The most famous and the most luxurious ones – like Carlton Intercontinental, The Martinez, Majestic Barriere or The Grand Hotel are located on one of the most beautiful promenades in the world – la Croisette. The oldest hotel in Cannes is the Grand Hotel, originally built in 1863, but demolished and rebuilt in 1963. Martinez is the biggest one, and Carlton Intercontinental is by many considered the most beautiful one. It is thought that the two domes on Carlton resemble perfect breast of Spanish courtesan La Belle Otero.

La Croisette

This boulevard is one of the most famous and recognizable in the world. Long some 3 km, it connects the sea and the city. Other than glorious hotels, on Boulevard de la Croisette you can find Casinos, stores of well-known brands, sandy beaches, a rose garden, Cannes ports and palms after palms. During the night, the boulevard is illuminated with soft warm colours, giving it even more splendid look.

Its name comes from “Crouseto”, which means ‘little cross’ in old Provencal dialect. That little cross was located on the far end of the cape, and it reminds visitors of the religious history of the Lerins island – St Marguerite and St Honorat. Lerins islands are interconnected with a history of Cannes and thus worth mentioning.

La-croisette-Cannes

Lerins Islands

Lerins Islands are 15min ferry ride from town. Ferry leaves the port every hour in summer. The last boat back to the city leaves at 4:30 pm, so have that in mind. Another must do is boarding a boat and going to anchor in between the islands in a shallow protected blue lagoon.

Ile St Honorat

This smaller, southern island is inhabited only by 30 Cistercian monks, who have inhabited the island since 410. Medieval vestiges remain in the stark church, which is open to the public, and in the ruins of the 11th-century monastery on the seashore. The monks inhabit the Lérins Abbey and divide their time between praying and producing red and white wines, according to the rule of St Benedict. They produce some 30 000 bottles of quality wine under label “Mois des Vendagnes”. You can find those in several restaurants and hotels in Cannes.

Ile St Margaurite 

Long some 8 km, it is the bigger island of the two and its completely open for the public. This island has become popular because it was something like a French version of Alcatraz. In the 17th century, a prison called Fort Royal was built on Saint Marguerite island where the most dangerous criminals were sent. The one that was supposed to be the most dangerous was the man with the iron mask who lived from one prison to the next through his life. He stayed in jail here for 11 years. No one really knew his identity but historians believe that he was, in reality, the twin brother of King Louis XIV.

Palais de la Festival et des Congress

At the beginning of the promenade, you can find the tourist office, in case you need a map of the city or any other information. The tourist office is conveniently located next to the Palais des Festival et Congress. In case you want to go inside the palace and see the interior and all of 18 cinema screenings, apply for a tour of the Palace, organized by the tourist office.

Nowadays, it is a postmodern-looking building with glass façade. It was originally built in 1949. To host the Cannes Film Festival, but it was thoroughly renovated in 1979, and again reopened in 1982.

Palais-des-festivals-et-des-congress

History of the Cannes Film Festival

In Cannes, everything is revolving around the film festival. And it all began a long time ago…

The first unofficial festival took place in September of 1939, at the same time as Mostra film festival in Venice, because of the scandal that happened at the Mostra festival just a year before. Just a few weeks before announcing the festival winner, the jury changed a winner in favor of a Nazi propaganda film – Olympia. Those events shocked French diplomat and historian, Phillipe Erlanger, who was already thinking about organizing a free festival, with no pressure and no constraints. He got approval from the French minister of education at the time – Jean Zay and festival took place. The original aspect of the festival was emphasized; each country would propose a film to be played at the festival. On the first festival, only 9 countries participated, because of the breakout of WWII. So the first official ceremony took place in 1946.

Palm d’Or

The 1955 Cannes Film Festival saw the birth of the Palme d’Or, the most prestigious reward of the Festival. Since 1998, Chopard is in charge of the famous trophée called “golden palm” in real gold 18 carats « Fairmined ». No more than 7 artists will work on it for 40 hours. Price? 20 000 euros and there are always two spare ones in case of a tie(ex-aequo).

Cannes-film-festival-poster

Cannes Film Festival Nowdays

This year (2019th) is the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival. It will take place between 14th and 25th of May. Here you can find just a brief overview of the Festival.  For a schedule of the screenings and all other information, visit their official pages.

The general director of the Festival is Thiery Fremaux. He is in charge of the Festival since 2007. This year’s jury president is Alejandro González Iñarritu. The films selected for the Official Selection 2019 are:

– The Dead Don’t Die de Jim Jarmusch, with Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton (opening)
– Douleur et Gloire, from Pedro Almodovar (Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz)
– Il traditore (Le Traître), from Marco Bellocchio
– Nan Fang Che Zhan De Ju Hui, from Diao Yi’nan
– Parasite, from Bong Joon-Ho
– Le jeune Ahmed, Les Frères Dardenne
– Roubaix, une lumière, Arnaud Desplechin with Roschdy Zem, Léa Seydoux
– Atlantiques, Mati Diop
– Matthias & Maxime, from Xavier Dolan
– Les Misérables, Ladj Ly
– Little Joe, Jessica Hausner
– Sorry We Missed You, from Ken Loach
– Bacurau, Kleber Mendonça Filho
– A Hidden Life, from Terrence Malick
– Gomera, Corneliu Porumboiu
– Portrait de la jeune fille en feu, from Céline Sciamma with Adèle Haenel
– It must be Heaven, Elia Suleiman
– Sibyl, from Justine Triet

Convinced?

I hope this article inspired you to visit Cannes upon your arrival on the French Riviera. I have covered just the most basic points about Cannes, without even mentioning anything about its Provincial charm. For a complete experience, join our Cannes walking tour and get personal with this gem.