It’s been a pretty hectic couple of months and my husband and I were both very tired and needed a break. We didn’t want to do any proper travelling this time, just relax in a nice setting. I was tasked with booking a trip for September time and keeping the destination a secret. I had a very simple brief: a sunny city with a beach. Sounds easy, right? There were obvious choices Like Barcelona and Ibiza, but I don’t like doing the obvious (sometimes to my detriment) and so I set off doing some research.
After scouring the net and maps for the perfect place that my other half would never guess, a colleague mentioned Nice on the French Riviera which I hadn’t thought about. Being a bit of a film geek, I realised that Cannes was just a few miles from Nice Airport so it ended up being the winner.
Though it’s very flashy and very touristy, the raft of cruise ships stopping off in Cannes have kept it fairly down to earth. It’s definitely possible to do Cannes on the cheap, dodge the tourist traps and still travel with grace to an extent.
Here are my 10 tips for Cannes for those in search of a relaxing trip without the huge price tag:
- Take the bus from the airport. As our flight was delayed, we missed the 210 Cannes Express bus from Nice airport to Cannes so we had to pay the eye-watering cab fare instead (€100). It’s €30 return per person by bus (or €20 each way), has air con and is pretty quick if you avoid peak times (50 mins). I’d personally rather spend the extra €140 you save per couple on food and booze.
- Stay close to the beach. We stayed at Hotel Le Cavendish which is 5 minutes walk from Rue D’Antibes and 10 minutes from La Croisette. It was a bit further than I would choose next time but that’s just because I wanted to wear heels in the evening without crippling my feet on the walk to the centre. The hotel was classically French with a beautiful facade, and 1920s decor including a very ornate original lift. It was really reasonable (€170 per night including breakfast, free bar 6-9pm and access to a private beach everyday with towels provided). The free bar attracts British holidaymakers so you won’t hear too many French accents here. Don’t let it put you off though.
- Pay extra for a private beach at least once. Many hotels either include private beach access or can do a discount for you. It’s so nice to be able to show up and have access to loungers, drinks service and a restaurant so you can keep your lounger all day. We went to La Plage Geoland which is the very first private beach on La Croisette. There is a small public beach next door which is absolutely fine, but you have to get up early to get a good spot. And that ain’t happening for me.
- Save some euros for shopping. Cannes is like a mini Paris in the sun, so there are lots of opportunities to shop. La Croisette has all the designer stores like Chanel, Michael Kors, Dior and Hermés to name a few. The best shopping is on Rue D’Antibes which has a mix of high street and designer brands. Many of which you don’t see in the UK so it’s a great place to buy stuff that you won’t see everyone else wearing. If you have money to burn, head to Manoush, if you’re a guy head to Mango Men, if you’re on a budget, head to Pull and Bear and if you like Zara’s style with designer quality, head to Massimo Dutti. I appreciate that almost all of those brands are actually Spanish, but, whatever.
- Research your restaurants before you go. Cannes is almost exclusively a tourist destination, so there are loads of crap restaurants ready to rip off unsuspecting cruise ship arrivals. Doing your research pays off. We liked off beat French brasserie Le Circus (Thanks to Billy for this recommendation) on Rue Hoche and an unassuming but excellent cafe and bar L’Epicurieux on Rue des Frères Casanova. They were also better value for money than the rubbishy tourist ones.
- Dress a little smarter. Unless you’re already pretty snappy of course. I know, it’s shallow, but it helps you feel like less of a tourist, as Cannes residents know how to dress. I’m not talking top hats, just make a bit of an effort.
- Make time to people watch. There are blue bistro chairs dotted around La Croisette. Get yourself an ice cream and sit for a while and take in the sights. It’s busy along there but also very relaxed. Be a cliché and watch the sun set. Your only interruption will be the helicopters coming in from Nice and St. Tropez.
- Visit the old town. It’s very beautiful and almost reminiscent of the winding back streets you find in Italian villages. Italy has a big influence on Cannes which is evident in the cuisine found in many restaurants plus the parades of Italian sports cars that line La Croisette. You’ll find the French population of Cannes here at Marché Forville who seemingly take great pleasure in spending hours food shopping from the beautiful market stalls before heading to the cafes that line the perimeters for a café crème.
- Take a phrase book. This advice is true of most destinations, but speaking a bit of French goes a long way and will give you a bit of class and edge over the many other English-speaking visitors.
- Don’t bother with site-seeing. Cannes is all about sunshine, nice places to walk around, food and drink. Relax, stop worrying about ticking things off a list. It’s not actually that fun. If there’s not a drink or food or somewhere to lie down at the end of your journey somewhere in Cannes, you’re doing it wrong.
We travelled in early September and temperatures were up to 29°C and there were no major events (i.e. Cannes Film Festival, Cannes Lions) so the prices were reasonable. Flights from Manchester airport were £250 return with Jet2.com.
Photo: Copyright Annie Moss-Quate 2015