CANNES, France (Reuters Life!) - For more than 60 years this sunny town on the Mediterranean in the south of France has lured glamorous stars of cinema to its annual film festival.
But it has a history dating back to 2nd Century B.C. as a fishing village and later a trade center. The British, French and Spanish have waged war to control it. Today it is a tourist town on the famed French Riviera.
It is a great, but expensive, weekend getaway of sun and sightseeing and the ideal place from which to embark on a tour of the Provence region, famous for its food and wine.
There are plenty of fine hotels, including the Carlton, Majestic and Martinez, along the famed Croisette, a boulevard and broad walkway that border the sandy beach. Many smaller hotels also offer good service at an affordable price.
6 p.m. - After unpacking, take a stroll up the Croisette, stopping for a snack or light meal at one of the numerous outdoor cafes and restaurants which are perfect for watching people, street performers, dancers and mimes.
Boats bob in the bay, and on la plage many of the restaurants and nightclubs pulsate with loud music until the early morning hours.
11:00 - The Cote d’Azur is a playground for the rich and famous who rarely rise early. After breakfast of croissants and coffee or tea, put on your swim trunks or bikini and head off for a day at the beach.
There are free public beaches, as well as many private ones where you can rent a chair, towels and an umbrella. Generally associated with a restaurant on the beach, they offer full meals. Rent chairs for the day.
1:00 - Enjoy a lunch of salad and grilled fish and a bottle local rose wine at L’Ondine for 71 euros ($99).
3:00 - Time for some shopping. The Croisette is lined with boutiques of famous designers, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci. Two blocks into the town’s maze of small streets is the Rue d’Antibes, where more moderate priced retailers like Benetton, Diesel and Missoni have set up shop, alongside art galleries, home design stores and the occasional pharmacy.
8:00 - Just as Cannes rises late, dinner also takes place well into the evening. Try the Italian restaurant La Libera, at 17 Rue de Commandant Andre for a meal of antipasto, risotto, lasagna, red wine and a light dessert and coffee for 100 euro ($140).
10:00 - Take a late-night stroll up the Croisette before heading back to the hotel.
9:00 - After breakfast, it is time to see the sights. Walk to the city’s old section, the Suquet, which dates to before the 10th Century. The streets are cobbled and wide enough only for foot traffic. Apartments with balconies and iron railings line the streets and inexpensive shops and restaurants abound.
If you’re luck you may run into an outdoor arts and crafts fair with everything on sale from paintings, jewelry and glassware to local foods and antique woodworking tools. At the top of a hill overlooking the bay is an ancient monastery that provides a glimpse into Cannes’ history.
Leaving the hilltop history, walk to the Cannes harbor pier, where for 11 Euro ($15) for adults (5.50 euro for children) you can board a ferry for a 15-minute ride past million dollar yachts to the island of Saint Marguerite.
On the island is old Fort Royal, again overlooking the bay. For a time, the infamous Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned on Sainte Marguerite, but now its many footpaths, open glades and beaches are used for daytrips by locals and tourists.
1:00 - Stop for a lunch of pizza, salad and a small bottle of rose wine at one of the two cafes. Or like many of the locals pack your own lunch and enjoy a picnic and take in the sun on the beach or craggy rocks. Stroll around the island and stop under shady pine trees to rest, relax and even take a nap.
7:00 - Dine at the Le Mesclun restaurant where you can enjoy aperitifs and a four-course meal of salads, soups, meats, dessert and coffee. The meal will cost about 300 euro ($420) but it offers a chance to sample Cannes at its best.
Editing by Patricia Reaney