Finding my feet

Cannes Travel Blog

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A hotel room in a Bohemian setting gives a dose of living in Paris.
The Belle Epoque buildings of Cannes shadowed little of the sun and the chairs and tables of restaurants and cafes sprawled out onto the pavement. There weren't many streets and lanes that crisscrossed between the sea and the station, but it took a few turns off the main busy shopping high street before I found the Hotel Azurene Royal. It couldn't have been more than fifty yards from the sea and getting a room that close was a miracle, let alone for the low price. It was hot, I'd been on the train for five hours, so the hotel room was going to be the first stop. The clean and pleasurable entrance lead straight to a stair to the first floor where the reception sits in a small hallway.
Getting on the TGV train at Gare De Lyon, Paris.
One of the owners was busy behind the desk with another client but soon dealt with my booking that I'd made through The first shock was my room, the famous room number two was directly behind the receptionists desk and this felt so odd and intrusive, not toward me but to walk behind the staff. The room itself, decor-wise compared to the room in Paris initially felt disappointing. The furniture was a bit of a mix-match and it felt white and clinical. The bathroom contained a small sit in bath but wasn't too bad and at least compared to the paper thin walls of the Paris hotel, this was a thick-walled sturdy hotel with double-glazed sound proofed windows.

I realised that you really do get what you pay for in Cannes.
Gare de Lyon railway station in the south of Paris
I was able to let the disappointment go because the room did have air con, very good air con. It was so close to the sea and in spitting distance of the Palais de Festival, right next to the ultra-world-exclusive Upstairs Club and direct access to Boulevard de Croisette which would become more and more beneficial as the week went on. I looked around the room, text my Mum and Dad and opened the window. I pushed the wooden outside shutters open, the street below painted itself brightly and light flooded the room. It was transformed. The difference was incredible. All they really need are a few vibrant paintings to really make the room. Below the cafes leading up to the high street and to the right the short lay of tarmac to the sea that glistened the late afternoon sun. I looked back at the room.
The side streets of Cannes
It was going to be fine. My holiday would be good. It was time to grab a quick shower and get out there.

I'd visited Cannes before on a day trip from Nice, twice if I remember rightly. But a day in Cannes just leaves you with the impression of a small town in the exclusive sea front and the rest to the east that off a residential sprawl; and so I was interested to see how the rest of the week here would feel. I took a wander along the promenade and quickly spotted one of the main exclusive hotels along the front that attracts so much attention; usually by the tell-tale collection of super cars outside. The small drop off point that is completely blocked by parked Ferrari's and a Lamborghini. I crouch behind the F430, pulled my mobile out and took a photo of myself and posted it to FaceBook for the family to see, "I've decided to hire a car".
A free beach in Cannes by the Palais de Festival in the evening

The first day in Cannes was busy. The French were nearly all on holiday at this time of year and many had come to Cannes. It wasn't unpleasantly jammed packed like a Majorcan beach full of Brits. The French are chilled. As you may have read in my early blogs before leaving for France I'd planned to go to a few places. On my list included Monaco, Saint Tropez, Nice for the Jazz festival and may be the small village of Beaulieu-sur-Mer, but after taking my first walk about the town I realised how tense I still was. I find my job quite intense and so to bring myself down would take some relaxation and I had to be prepared to drop these day trips. Firstly, getting to Saint Tropez is a nightmare.
Boulevard de Croissette, Cannes
The train doesn't go all the way and so the rest of the trip is by bus. I'd not hired a car this year and didn't fancy a hot bus ride stuck in the well-known traffic jams that are always along the bay going into Saint Tropez. In July it would be at it's busiest and to top it off, the sea front would likely be packed and would spoil any chance of getting some sketches on Canvas which was the main reason for going back there. Saint Tropez was the first to be scrubbed off the list.

It took a day or two to decide about going to Nice and walking to the Jazz festival. It would be a bit of a trek from the station and with the sun really beating down, it was hard to justify. The first couple of days I was suffering from head aches, tiredness and dizzy spells. It was only when my Mum had spoken to me on the phone and asked if I'd worn a cap that I realised I'd forgotten the damn thing and had been suffering a little heat-stroke.
Me on the rocks in Cannes. Breakfast time.
I purchased a nice 'Cannes' cap in one of the alleys for a couple of large euro notes and whole afternoons in the sun without having to go back to the room for a hour were now possible. But what really made me cancel my Jazz Festival trip was firstly, breakfast. I didn't buy breakfast at the hotel. Instead I walked down to the west side of the main town centre and found and excellent tiny corner patisserie selling croissants and pain au chocolate freshly baked out of the oven. I would become a regular here over the week. Combining a bag of pastries with fresh fruits like white peaches, bananas and blue berries from the covered market and an orange juice, I would sit on the rock at the waters edge around the back of the Palais de Festival. It was... awesome. The light breeze and now my sun refracting hat, I could sit for hours just taking it all in, and to my surprise, I did.
A quick look out of the window on the way to Cannes in first class on the quiet and fast TGV train.
Secondly the decision for the Jazz trip was when I sketched a sea scene with a fisherman. I sat there after lunch with a pencil and drew. Soon enough I realised I'd been there for hours on end sketching. My heart rate was down. My work life was some distance memory and my skin was taking an orange tan that I'd not need since I'd been to Florida when I was five.

Another fisherman came down. He wasn't like the professional-amature in the sketch, he was a French family man with his young boy, probably on holiday. He asked me if I was an artist. I smiled, Cannes really does harbour the interested and curious and it makes you feel like you could be anyone you want to be. I had to admit to my amature status though and describing that only a small part of me was artist. We had a short conversation, I asked about his fishing and watched as he hooked up half a loaf of bread on his line that ploop-sploshed as he chucked it in the lightly choppy water.
A very short clip of the view out of the TGV train while passing near Saint Tropez.
It was almost comical, I even noticed the semi-pro guy slowly shake his head. I asked him if he was crabbing as it seemed an odd choice of bait, at least it does when it's brick sized.

My French didn't hold long enough to keep the conversation going which was a shame. The semi-pro guy was eventually deterred from his peaceful afternoon when a man walking his large fat Labrador turned up at the waters edge. The dog ran and bomb-dived into the sea, yards from his fishing line. He was upset. He waved his hand until the anger built enough to say a few French words of complaint. The dog owner just smiled, with embarrassment I expect, and called his dog out, eventually, and walked off without as much of an apology. Eventually I made the decision at some misty-memory point of the afternoon to go back to the room for a drink, so afraid of a good day on that rock being spoilt by something.

And so I was down to my last trip to decide upon. Monaco. The town of Monte-Carlo in the world famous micro-nation. I would hold that card for a few days and decide on Thursday. I could stop off at Beaulieu along the way. I would find it hard to cancel the trip. Monaco is awesome. The train ride is as much a part of experience.

The sun set on the first few nights. Cannes was everything I remembered and so much more. The nights were warm, the seafront buzzing with holiday makers and the super rich circuiting the Boulevard and the back alleys in their sports cars. Teenagers would sit under the few palm trees on the free beaches under the dim glow of the street lighting. It is such a good place to relax even with so much going on. Few places can achieve that.

More to come..
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I really am bad when it comes to my travel blogs. It's now October, and I am writing about my trip back in July. Fear not the possibility of a fading memory though because I rarely travel, certainly nowhere near as much as ninety nine percent of the population of Travbuddy, and my travels usually stamp an indelible impression on my life. Only last week was I thinking about my trip to Italy and how special Firenze is. It's unlike anywhere else I've been and seems to have land-locked in an unbelievable amount of religion and rustic qualities in raw over contrast colours, certainly in my memories. Anyway, this is about France and the continued blog about my trip. So to pick up where I left off.

My last blog was sent from the hotel computer in Paris. Donned with a European AZERTY keyboard which was an interesting challenge. I woke on Monday morning, opened the shutters of the fifth floor window my bohemian hotel room on a side street north of Bastille. The sun had risen but the light was that incredible silvery gold and the air just slightly crisp enough to remind you that you're up out of bed earlier that you're used to. I heaved my suit case down the darkened spiralling stair case to the lobby, checked out paying my 'city tax', covered by a few small cent coins and I was out onto the street positively pulling on my M&S cabin case through the quiet main roads of Paris, just a few cafe owners cleaning outside the shop front and the odd car. Even the winos weren't out of bed yet, in fact winos in Paris are unlike those Cider guzzling  drunks of London, in Paris they really do glug the vin de table.

Destination, Gard de Lyon, the station housing the TGV train that heads to the south. This was one of the main events I'd planned in my trip. When I plan a trip, there has to be at least one highlight that is a new experience. In Italy it was to see an Italian opera, in Italy, which was a "Seven Wonder" for me. In France it was to ride the fast electric TGV all the way through France, get to see the whole of the country in the hours it took and then spend my holiday touring a few place along the coast, revisiting a few places I'd been before.

I arrived at Gard de Lyon in plenty of time to grab a coffee and fresh pastry, but surprisingly my train was running 10 minutes late. Not bad considering the distances they travel. When it was time to board, it appeared the platform was showing two train numbers, one for my train, one for another. Eventually I twigged, two TGV trains connected together. My trusty case whirred quietly down the platform right to the other end of the train, which wasn't far off the length of the Eurostar, a train that feels long enough to actually walk from Paris to London without the train actually moving. I climbed the stair to second floor, yes, second floor, into the first class section where wide seats reside next to large windows with air conditioning outlets and masses of feet space including a pull-down foot rest. After a short wait the scenery through the window started to move with no noise. We were moving. If you didn't look, you'd probably not realise. Passing through the inner city, running along other TGV trains we were smoothly whisked on our way.

The train ride is something else. Soon you're out into country side and doing a hundred and eighty miles per hour plus in near complete silence, both from the train and the other travellers. Fence-less fields turn to valleys and wide long river ways after the first hour. The second hour sees the horizon painted water colour with alpine mountains in the distance and the sudden realisation that the clouds of Paris are long gone and the sky endlessly blue. The land becomes slightly less green with a hint of barrenness but still well watered and the indication of the climate which you're kept from with the comfortable air conditioning. A little of half way through the trip you realise that you've reached the coast, the Mediterranean Sea when palm trees blur past and deep blue meets the land like a photoshop'd postcard. In my head its been etched that when you go somewhere hot, you go by plane, so to arrive at the Cote d'Azur by train is a strange experience.

The last two hours of the trip felt like they dragged a little because the train slows for the last stretch, but the scenery is enough to keep you entertained. Arriving at Cannes you're blasted with the hot air and little of the Cannes wild life style. The station is set right at the back behind all the back streets and the local market, but you don't have to walk far before getting out of the way of a Ferrari trickling up narrow lane ways. Suddenly I've been dropped into another part of France that differs so much from Paris.

More to come...
A hotel room in a Bohemian setting…
A hotel room in a Bohemian settin…
Getting on the TGV train at Gare D…
Getting on the TGV train at Gare …
Gare de Lyon railway station in th…
Gare de Lyon railway station in t…
The side streets of Cannes
The side streets of Cannes
A free beach in Cannes by the Pala…
A free beach in Cannes by the Pal…
Boulevard de Croissette, Cannes
Boulevard de Croissette, Cannes
Me on the rocks in Cannes. Breakfa…
Me on the rocks in Cannes. Breakf…
A quick look out of the window on…
A very short clip of the view out…
Cannes Hotels & Accommodations review
Very cheap for top hot spot location. Bare basics.
Basic rooms but plenty for your money. Good value, you get air conditioning and it's set in the heart of the life of Cannes. Just yards from the sea. … read entire review
photo by: Vikram