of glory takes place in May, with the International Film
Festival, when images of the stars descending the red-carpeted
steps of the Palais des Festivals are flashed on
television screens worldwide. For many, this city on France’s
Côte d’Azur is synonymous with the glamour of this event.
Often overlooked, however, is the fact that Cannes is France’s
second most important city, after Paris, for business tourism. The
chameleon city takes on an identity to suit the temper of each major
congress, festival or season.
conference for the music business, takes place during January and
turns Cannes into a city of young, fun, music professionals. March
brings a sober, suited crowd for MIPIM, the international
real-estate market, and October, a conservative crowd for the Tax
Free World Exhibition.
Tourists jostle with conference-goers, outnumbering business travellers
only during the summer months. Their interests lie in the long,
curvaceous, sandy beaches of La Croisette, its
expanding Old Port, which welcomes luxury cruise
boats, its palatial hotels, the designer shops lining the famous
promenade and the luminosity and gastronomy of the Côte d’Azur.
The Cannois enjoy the financial rewards that tourism and business
travellers bring, losing patience only at the height of the film
festival, when the population triples in size. Young women benefit
fully from the shops, although they may seek out bargain buys instead
of designer brands. Appearances (le paraître) are important
in this city of stars and latest purchases are flaunted in the trendy
bars and the many bistros.
A modern city, branded by critics as superficial, grew up from a
small fishing town on the south coast of France. In the 11th century,
Cannes was owned by monks, whose budget, fattened by wealthy pilgrims,
allowed them to expand beyond their monastery to the nearby Island
of St Honorat. They built a square tower on the top of
the hill, as a lookout post for Saracen pirates. It still stands,
next to the Castre Museum, in the heart of Le
Suquet, Cannes’ Old Town that was built on the site
of a Roman military camp.
The fishing tradition lives on and fish caught at the Vieux
Port, to the west of the Palais des Festivals,
are brought daily by the fishermen to the covered Forville Market,
where they are sold by their wives, who rarely fit the city’s
Today, tourism has largely replaced spirituality on the Cannes mainland,
although the monks still pray 5 hours a day on their tiny island.
It was Lord Brougham, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer,
whose visit to Cannes in 1834 established the city’s reputation
as a health resort among the British aristocracy. The trend spread
to the French establishment and the arrival of the railway increased
Cannes’ accessibility. Soon the international aristocracy
was playing golf and sunning themselves in the most coveted part
of the Côte d’Azur, favoured for its
hot and dry Mediterranean climate. This internationally famous city
of Cannes is really little more than a grandiose village that can
easily be covered by foot, although the stars of the film festival
may opt for a limousine.