If you fancy a spot of hobnobbing with the A-list movers and shakers of the film and Formula One fraternities, then the French Riviera is the place to be over the next couple of weeks – that is if you can find an empty hotel room!
Kicking off in Cannes tomorrow (May 14th) is its annual film festival, the 67th Festival de Cannes, where the long-awaited biopic, Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as the American movie-star-turned-principality-princess, gets proceedings underway with customary flair and finesse. Expect also to see the likes of Timothy Spall (Mr Turner), Julianne Moore and John Cusack (Map to the Stars), Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep and James Spader (The Homesman) cruising the Croisette and jostling for position in the race for the prestigious Palme d’Or, unveiled on the 24th of May.
And as proceedings begin to wrap up in Cannes, so the Monaco Grand Prix launches into action just a short distance along the Côte d’Azur on the Circuit de Monte-Carlo. Will Lewis Hamilton repeat his recent win in Barcelona, his fourth of the season, and pull ahead in the driver’s championship? Or will his Mercedes team mate, Nico Rosberg, pip him to the post and jump into the top spot. All eyes will be on Monaco over the weekend of 22nd to 25th May. Read more about Monaco, the world’s smallest principality, here.
Travel to Cannes or Monaco on a short break outside these two events (perhaps avoiding high summer) and you’ll not only be rewarded by much more attractive and affordable accommodation prices, but you’ll get to enjoy these two destinations at a much more genteel pace. A former fishing village, Cannes is today one of the most glamorous resorts on the French Riviera and an exclusive social haunt of the rich and beautiful. Beyond its famous seafront Croisette, Cannes boasts a wealth of charms from the hustle and bustle of the Marché Forville and the tranquil, palm-lined Vieux Port, where sleek yachts bob alongside humble fishing boats, to the cobbled, atmospheric beauty of its lofty Old Town, Le Suquet, from where you’ll enjoy the most spectacular and unforgettable views over the Côte d’Azur.
A visit to the Îles de Lérins, two small islands situated in the bay, is also thoroughly worthwhile. Just a 15-minute boat ride from Cannes, the larger of the two islands, Île St Marguerite, saw the Man in the Iron Mask jailed here for 11 years and visitors can set foot inside his actual cell, housed in the 17th-century Fort Royal, today the Musée de la Mer. Further south meanwhile, the Île St Honorat plays host to an 11th-century Cistercian monastery, still in use to this day. Allow a full day to explore both islands to their full potential.
Back in town, beyond the film festival there’s still plenty to link Cannes with its cinematic connections, not least the large movie-themed murals scattered across a number of the town’s buildings. Just a stone’s throw from the Palais des Festivals, venue of the festival screenings (tours are available outside of May), you’ll find the Allée des Étoiles du Cinéma featuring the handprints of the great and the good of the film world, immortalised in concrete on the pavement. And of course, back on the Croisette, you’ll encounter the legendary Hotel Carlton, backdrop to Grace Kelly’s How to Catch a Thief.