It’s that time of year — and no, I don’t mean the glorious transition of spring into summer — I mean that one time of the year when NICHE magazine digs deep into the world of fashion, beauty, home, travel and lifestyle to find topics that inspire. When we began preparing for this greatly anticipated issue, there was one subject that was undeniably NICHE, and even more undeniably inspiring. It was a location, and it is Cannes, France.
Cannes is located in the French Riviera in the southeastern region of France. The city is a quick 36-kilometre jaunt from Nice, 55 kilometres from Monaco and 60 kilometres from the Italian border — so, essentially the perfect location, for an even more perfect city. It curls around the Mediterranean ocean and offers a comfortable climate with sunshine 300 days of the year.
Cannes was originally a small fishing village, founded along one of the world’s most idyllic stretches of land. The simplicity of the village, its quiet and remarkable beauty, is what originally drew the world’s aristocrats, stars and royalty to the region. Generations later, that same demographic of visitors still plays in the streets of Cannes and seeks leisure in its great arms of unprecedented luxury. Let’s put it this way — if the Mediterranean Ocean were a tiara, Cannes would be the giant, glistening diamond sitting on its centre spike. The city is the nexus of luxury, fame and wealth.
When visiting Cannes you will be astounded by the fantastically wealthy people and their outlandish indulgences — anything goes in Cannes and the laid- back, sunny city offers a relaxed atmosphere for visitors to (often) outrageously spend without receiving a second look from other travellers or locals.
Plenty of your time in Cannes will be spent wandering the ever-famous, ultra-luxurious Boulevard de la Croisette. The boulevard has been described as the heart and soul of Cannes. It runs down the coast of the city and is bordered on one side by lavish hotels, boutiques, restaurants and lounges, and on the other side by Cannes’ famed sandy beaches. While the city boasts a number of superb shopping districts, this prestigious walk offers pretty much every lavish designer name you could ever dream of — Chanel, Dior, Hermès, Ferret and Fred, Chopard, Yves Saint Laurent, Armani and Céline are just a handful of names from the dozens along the boulevard. Chanel is particularly near and dear to the area because it was in Cannes that the designer was first inspired for her original scent, Chanel N° 5.
The Boulevard de la Croisette is also home to the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes — best known for hosting the Cannes Film Festival. If you walk to the west of Palais des Festivals you will find the Vieux Port. This is the best place to grab an ice cream cone and a seat, and get a good look at the super yachts in the harbour and the sunning passengers aboard — hello, Leo and Beyoncé. If you make your way up rue St. Antoine you will find the oldest district of Cannes, Le Suquet. Here you will be able to see the magnificent 14th-century tower, Tour du Suquet. A few blocks inland from Vieux Port is the city’s most important market, which supplies many of the restaurants and practically every household pantry: Marché Forville — fondly nicknamed the “Belly of Cannes.” This is a great place to snag some classic French delicacies, including olive oil and tapenade. Try to go to old town on a Monday when the antique market is held.
FESTIVAL DE CANNES
In my opinion, the Cannes Film Festival is, without a doubt, the greatest glamour fest in modern-day society. The location, the stars, the sweeping red carpet, the names — from designers to models to billionaires. It’s the crème de la crème of ridiculously fancy people dressed in their fanciest attire. And at the end of the day, all of these outrageously famous people go and eat expensive French food and drink Champagne together on yachts. What’s not to love? It’s almost like some fantastic fairytale that a very pampered mind stirred up.
The Cannes Film Festival is an annual event, founded in 1946. It previews new films of every genre, including documentaries, from around the world. It is possibly the most prestigious publicized, invite-only event in the world (sorry, Met Ball). If you plan on visiting Cannes during the festival, go and book your hotel, now; you may find somewhere for 2015. It will cost you an absolute fortune but if you’re into celeb sightings, you literally can stand in one spot and see every headliner you could imagine walking the red carpet. While the A-lister are in the festival, take a quick stroll to the nearby Allée des Étoiles du Cinéma, where you can browse a path of celebrity hand imprints in the pavement.
Check out the rue d’Antibes for a more intimate shopping experience. It boasts a number of designer boutiques, one-off shops and some smaller French fashion chains. The rue d’Antibes runs into rues Meynadier and Hoche, both worth exploring.
If shopping and sunning aren’t your fancy, not to worry — Cannes is the gambling capital of France. Pop into the Hôtel Martinez, Palme d ́Or, for dinner at Christian Sinicropi’s two Michelin-starred restaurant (revered as France’s finest eatery for over 20 years, reservation strongly recommended) and then take a quick five-minute stroll along the ocean to Casino Barrière Les Princes for a night of high-end, sophisticated gambling. This is the place to don your Alexander McQueen smoking jacket and add a little James Bond pizzazz to your trip.
For those of you (like me) who are a little obsessed with history and a lot in love with culture, try to set some time aside to visit the Lérins Islands — comprised of four small islands, each is just a short ferry trip from Cannes. The islands are each unique and breathtaking with rich history spanning from pirates to mysterious folklore. I recommend visiting St. Marguerite Island, where you will walk through a eucalyptus forest to the 17th-century Fort Royal. The fort, now renamed the “Musée de la Mer” (Museum of the Sea) is most famous for holding the Man in the Iron Mask prisoner for 11 years. St. Honorat is another island well worth exploring. It is a totally serene and spiritual experience. There is an ancient monastery, which is still home to 30 Cistercian monks who make wine to sell. The island has a strict rule of silence around the ancient monastery and quiet for the rest of the island.
While Cannes is a remarkable city to visit any time of year, May is particularly dazzling as the number of celebrities and who’s-who flocking the streets is exponentially greater. Why? The Cannes Film Festival, of course, ma chérie!
Inside the 2014 Inspiration issue of NICHE