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congratulations, you’re in Cannes! how to get the hell out.

It’s that time of year again.   Advertising people will soon gather in Cannes for the most prestigious, coveted award show in the whole wide world (if you win, otherwise it’s just a sucky award show judged by hacks).

Just going to Cannes proves you’re somebody in the biz or will soon be.   The croisette will be jammed with attractive people in designer eye-wear craning their necks to catch a glimpse of advertising icons and superstars (whose names escape me) while navigating the vomit=lined sidewalks in impossibly trendy shoes/flip flops.

Now, I’m not a huge Cannes fan the rest of the year, but every time I’ve been to Cannes during the advertising festival, my first reaction (and all reactions subsequent) has been to flee (to be fair, I kind of felt the same way about advertising).   Granted, if I’m in the market for a $700 pair of shoes or sequin shorts, there’s no better place in the South of France.

Say you’re one of the lucky few whose agency sent you to Cannes, but you haven’t figured out how to expense $700 shoes and you don’t have a limo and driver at your service.  Maybe you want to escape the advertising fishbowl for a little while.   Not so long that you’ll miss some career-making party, but long enough to chill a bit and get a taste of the real South of France (Cannes is NOT France, it might as well be Cabo with a French accent.)

I know the thought is scary.   If your career is anything like mine was, you may not have actually seen the light of day in ages, except from your cubicle.    Going out in the real world and dealing with non-advertising people, especially in a foreign language, is terrifying.     Which is why I’m keeping it really simple.   These are places that are less than an hour away and easily accessible by train or boat.   Getting to these places is practically idiot proof.

For the very timid

Cannes  

Suquet district

You can leave Cannes without actually leaving Cannes.   There are two morning Provencal markets every day, a small one with gorgeous produce, flowers and clothes about three blocks east of the train station a block or two north of Rue d’Antibes, at  Place Gambetta.   The Forville market in the Suquet district  is huge, but only carries food and flowers (also gorgeous).   Since you’re probably dining out in lavish restaurants, you’ll probably prefer the smaller market with the clothes.   But I recommend wandering through the Suquet district (west of the Palais), up the hill.   It’s quieter, medieval-er and feels more like a French village.   Go down the hill and head east and you’ll find free beaches and fewer people you know in case you don’t want anyone you work with to see you in a bathing suit.

15 MINUTES FROM CANNES:

The Lerin Islands  

View from St. Marguerite

Less than a mile from Cannes, but it feels like light years away.

  • Ile St. Marguerite A pretty little island on which the man in the iron mask was held prisoner.   It’s very rustic and charming, with few cars, a naval museum, unspoiled beaches a couple of snack stands and two restaurants with stunning views where a lentil salad will cost you E23 (for those of you on an expense accounts).   Warning:   there are no little shops on this island, so forget about getting any cute souvenirs here.
  • Ile St. Honorat A monastery and refuge.   The boat to this Island, (like everything else on the Island) is run by monks.    Again, the island is totally unspoiled, with no cars, beautiful beaches and woods and best of all, there is a little shop whereyou can buy wines and jams and other things made by monks on the island.

The boats to each island are run separately, but you can buy tickets and board in the same place, in the South Port.   They run hourly, so you won’t be stranded and miss your seminar “Facebook marketing: how to win friends and influence people” .

Boat info:   St. Marguerite,  St. Honorat

Juan les Pins  A resort town on the west side of the Cap d’Antibes.  Unlike many of the towns here, there is no old town.   Juan les Pins is a product of the early 1900’s when the region was rediscovered by luxury travelers.   It’s got nice sandy beaches, trendy shops, restaurants and night clubs.  It’s the home of the famous Antibes-Juan les Pins jazz festival and is where Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald used to get really, really drunk.   Easy 10 minute train ride.

Antibes

View of old town Antibes from ramparts

Nothing to see here, move along.

Biot

A pretty corner of Biot

A beautiful little hilltop village one train stop east of Antibes.   It’s famous for its handblown glassware.  But it’s got several boutiques, restaurants and cafes as well.   The only problem is, you have to take the bus from the train station to get to the actual village, and nobody you know has ever heard of it so they won’t be jealous when you tell them you were there, so never mind.

1/2 HOUR FROM CANNES

Haut de Cagnes

 A wonderful medieval village with a castle and small museum.   The hill is a bit steep, but manageable.   It’s not heavily touristed and has some nice restaurants with lovely outlooks.   Even a couple of shops!!!   It’s about a 20 minute train ride, get off at the Cagnes sur Mer stop and head west when you leave the train station.  You can also catch the 400 bus from here to St. Paul de Vence and Vence, if you’re really bold.

Nice

View of old Nice

I love Nice.   It’s totally underrated.   You can head north into the hills to the Matisse and Chagall Museums, Roman ruins, and monastary (really pretty gardens and views), head South to the old town, Castle, Promenade, Provencal Market (awesome antique market on Mondays) and the Mediterranean.   There’s amazing architecture and art all kinds of shops and stores from high end designer to funky little crafts, restaurants, cafes and ice cream flavors that will blow your mind at Fenocchio’s.   It’s got everything, but it’s not overwhelming.

Grasse

Grasse

If you’re into the whole perfume thing, this is a great place to go.   It’s a pretty big village built into the hills, with several perfume factories, a perfume museum and lots of shops and restaurants.   About 20 minute train ride from Cannes, but unless you’re a mountain goat, you’ll probably want to take the bus up to the village from the train station.

45 MINUTES FROM CANNES

Villefranche sur mer

Villefranche sur mer

A lovely little village on the sea.   Lots of little shops and restaurants.     Keith Richards has a villa here.   About a 40 minute train ride from Cannes.

Eze 

View from the exotic plant garden of Eze

A hilltop village atop cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.   Probably the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen and the village is pretty damn sweet too (but very touristed).   The only problem is, you have to take a 10 minute, pulse pounding bus ride to get to the village from the bus stop, but it just might be worth it.

Monaco  Ugh.   It’s not really even France.   But it does have more billionaires per capita than anyplace in the world.   Sadly, many of those billionaires acquired their wealth in nefarious ways.   Who knows, you may bump into Martin Sorrell.  About a 50 minute train ride from Cannes.

Train schedule information

MISCELLANEOUS TIPS:

Do not drive.   It’s very stressful.   The only way I can deal with driving in France is if I’m very, very drunk, which isn’t a good idea.   It’s illegal here too.

Do not rent a motor scooter, unless you want to experience the French healthcare system first hand.

If you have to go to San Tropez because it sounds so glamorous, do not take a car, even if you have car service.   Traffic sucks this time of year.   Take the boat.   Go on Tuesday or Saturday which are the market days.  Boat info

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