Cannes in Late Winter
A half-written essay resurrected from Google docs
This week, I decided to purge my Google Docs. I discovered I had plenty of half-written and/or abandoned pieces of writing I’d accumulated over the years. I stumbled upon this one which sent me down memory lane. I was motivated to complete the story and resurrect the photographs for Sundays with Stella. I couldn't afford the luxuries the city of Cannes had to offer. But, I found joy in wandering with my camera and documenting my observations.
Dear readers, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
As the sun set over the city of Cannes on the French Riviera, the palm trees on Boulevard de la Croisette swayed in the breeze. The picturesque scene invited my sister Malyn and me to explore the waterfront. She was in town for an annual convention and I joined her on the trip.
The steady roar of the waves mixed with the low hum of traffic filled the air. Luxury hotels, high-end boutique shops, restaurants, and apartments glowed in hues of amber. Empty cobalt blue chairs lined the promenade. We passed fashion-clad locals with their dogs on an afternoon stroll. Conventioneers sat on the ledge typing on their mobile phones. Instead of a vibrant tapestry of colorful parasols on the seashore, the beach was sparse. Kids played soccer in the sand. Nearby, a juggler tossed wooden bottles in the air. Couples, locked in embraces, laid out blankets waiting for the sunset.
Cannes is known for hosting the Cannes International Film Festival, which has attracted movie industry luminaries since 1946. This affluent coastal city wears a deep affinity with cinema on its sleeves. A local bus features a black and white portrait of French actress Catherine Deneuve. On Boulevard de la Croisette, etchings of tiny director's chairs wrap the bus shelters. A trompe l'oeil fresco entitled “Cinema Cannes,” graces the top of the bus station close to Hotel De Ville. We passed a restaurant featuring a photo mural of George Clooney and Brad Pitt as a backdrop for a special event.
The city boasts over 700 name-brand stores. Most of these luxury shops are concentrated on Boulevard de la Croisette and Rue d' Antibes. High-heeled patrons bustled along these streets, their arms full of Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel shopping bags. A few impeccably groomed Shih Tzus and poodles trotted alongside their owners. At Vertu's, a group of men with slicked-back hair, well-trimmed beards, and dressed in suits were examining the latest titanium mobile phone on display.
Beyond the Michelin-rated restaurants in Cannes, there is Le Suquet. Local restaurants lined the narrow, uphill cobblestone road in the old town district. The ambiance was alluring. At dusk, tea lights glowed from the tables warming their tiny interiors. Fresh floral arrangements decorated the entryways. Flower beds hung on the outdoor decks. Handwritten menus and daily specials were displayed on glass doors. “Bonjour,” the waitstaff greeted us as we passed by.
Le Marais served a pan-fried foie gras glazed in apricot and prune sauce as an appetizer, a unique option compared to the typical salad offered by most restaurants. The description was enough to whet our appetites and got us through the door. I picked a dish with a medley of meats–a magret of duck, beef filet, and shoulder of lamb served in a bed of mashed potatoes and green beans. Malyn chose scallops with eggplant risotto and cream. We ordered a half bottle of local red wine to pair with our meal. We shared two desserts: a plate of truffles in three different varieties and a nougat drizzled with mango and strawberry sauce.
We lost our way back to the hotel. We made a wrong turn and followed a longer route uphill. We had to stop a few times to catch our breath.
“We just walked off our dinner!” Malyn joked in Tagalog.
We laughed so hard by the time we inserted the hotel key card into the door.
Sundays with Stella is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
At Marche Forville the following morning, an elderly lady smiled from afar and pointed at the plate of sliced clementine oranges in her stall. I walked over, took a small bite and the sweet juice poured down my fingers.
“Trois, Madame,” I said.
I grabbed a packet of tissue from my backpack and wiped my hands. She filled a bag with oranges and added an extra one to round off the total to one euro.
“Mercy Beaucoup!” I replied.
On Rue des Frères Pradignac, I stumbled upon Ciné-Folie, a bookstore and movie memorabilia shop. Framed posters hung on the walls. An array of boxes containing postcards lined the glass shelf facing the entrance. I leafed through them and picked one of my favorite films, Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love. I found a secluded bench a few yards away. I sat and wrote a postcard to Tina describing my lucky find. I shoved it into my backpack to mail it later at the hotel.
Next, I headed to Rue Meynadier. This pedestrian street is a sensory delight. The fragrant aroma of freshly baked bread and coffee wafted through the air. I spent a few hours people-watching, window shopping, sampling pastries, and photographing. I visited several shops to admire the artful packaging of local products such as soaps and olive oil bottles.
My last stop was at a grocery store to pick up a liter of bottled water before heading back to the hotel.
How about you, dear readers? Can you share a time when you explored a new place, whether it was in your hometown or somewhere overseas? Leave your stories in the comments below, I'd love to hear from you!