Sun Cure in the Côte d’Azur.
 

All beach towns are alike; each non-beach town is non-beachy in its own way.  That’s our overall impression anyway after spending a week in the Côte d’Azur.  It is also an unabashed homage to a great Russian writer whose fellow countrymen-aristocrats and their European peers used to prance around this part of France in search of a “sun cure.”  We, ourselves, were not in need of any kind of cure, really; isn’t living in Paris a cure-all?  We simply had a week off in-between classes and we wanted to go to a warm destination where we could pass lazy days on the beach. 

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 The sand in Cannes.
 

1 July 2008.  In the 19th century, the European gentry class came to this part of France in the winter for what they called a “sun cure.”  In fact, the oft repeated story is that Cannes’s transformative moment, from a sleepy fishing port to a destination for the glamour set, came when the English aristocrat, Lord Brougham, made an emergency stopover in 1834, either because his daughter was sick or because he was turned away on his journey to Nice due to an outbreak of cholera there.  In any event, he fell in love with the town, proceeded to build a home in Cannes, and returned every winter thereafter.  This started a trend of doing the same among his peers back home in England and their counterparts across Europe.  Fast-forward to 1946, to the creation of the Cannes Film Festival, officially the Festival de Cannes, which quickly gained international fame and firmly secured the city’s place in the spotlight.

In the 21st century, having been sold on the place sight unseen, our main Côte d’Azur decision was whether to take the TGV to Cannes or Nice from Paris.  It took all of one minute to decide:

Nez:     Should we take the TGV to Cannes or Nice?
Riot:   Which one is closer?
Nez:     It’s about the same amount of time to both from Paris.
Riot:   Which one is cheaper?
Nez:    It’s the same price to go to either.
Riot:   I don’t know.  Doesn’t matter to me.
Nez:    Me too.  Read me something about their beaches.
Riot:   [Reading from a random website]  “Nice’s public beaches are free, but you have to lie on the pebbles as you tan.  If you want a sandy beach in France, you need to go to Cannes …”
Nez:    Sand!  Cannes!  Let’s go to Cannes.

Once we had settled on a train destination we somehow put off securing a hotel reservation until 3:30 AM this morning even when our TGV were set to leave at 8:04 AM for Cannes.  We got to the Gare de Lyon with enough time to spare, we thought, until we realized that the credit card with which we purchased the tickets did not have a chip to allow us to retrieve them from an automated kiosk.  That meant standing in the long line and watching the clock tick away and wondering whether we would make the train.  But as always, we did, and after a few hours of restless sleep in the not-too-comfortable seats, our train pulled into the Cannes station.  (TGV note:   Don’t select the carré seats — two sets of seats facing each other over a small table — because you can’t stretch your legs without touching your neighbor in front.)

 
 
 
  Budget lunch options were few along the waterfront but this one comes with a great view.
  Seeking shelter on La Croisette from the same sun we came in search of.
 

A rush of dry heat hit us as the train door opened.  Nez beamed a delightful smile and Riot quietly wondered how long were seven days in this weather.  Fortunately, our hotel, Hôtel Little Palace, was just across the street from the station.  At the narrow reception area, the proprietor chuckled at our last-minute booking.  Though the elevator was downright tiny, the size of a phone booth back home, our room was of a decent size and very clean.  We were very pleased at how it turned out, especially at its bargain price of 69.50€ a night.  Riot was additionally excited about the powerful air conditioning unit.

After a short rest, we decided to brave the midday heat and explore the town.  Most of the town people had taken the wiser approach and opted for a siesta.  We walked in the general direction of the beach, down rue du Vingt-quatre Août, up and down the main shopping stretch of rue d’Antibes, and then through the little rue des Belges to the famous La Croisette, the famous beachfront artery of Cannes that serves as the backdrop to every news story during the annual Film Festival.  At No. 5, incidentally, was the Chanel boutique; other famous names dotted this seaside causeway.

We took mental notes of the multitude of sale signs on rue d’Antibes and the glistening water.  But first we needed to quench our hunger.  This being Cannes, most of the available food options were expectedly expensive and we were quickly reminded that everything was a bit out of our league at the moment.  So, for today, we thought, we would settle for something quick and cheap.  Nez headed for the perenially-packed McDonald’s on the Allées de la Liberté, bargain price food at a premium location, and Riot joined her there with some rather average Chinese take-out from Délices Yang.

 


|   The simple pleasures of life:  Nez wasted
no time in dipping her foot in the glistening water
of the Mediterranean Sea.

 
 

After lunch, we headed for the beach, the reason, after all, for coming all the way to the Côte d’Azur.  At the light, we stood next to an impatient, over-tanned sixtysomething woman tailed by two young female attendants with walkie-talkies stuffed into their back pockets.  The woman couldn’t bear the wait and so she simply charged to the other side, leaving behind her staff and a wail of blaring horns.  We followed the three of them a bit further into the harbor where a handsome dinghy awaited along with her husband and his own attendant.  “That’s how the other half lives,” we thought to ourselves as we scanned the harbor and its luxurious occupants.  Looking at the outsized floating palaces sitting idly by the dock, we tried to imagine their owners and the kind of wealth needed to own these playthings.

 
 
 
  Mid-afternoon revelers on La Croisette.
  People watching can be done in or out of the sun.
 

Such thoughts baffled the mind and no matter what the actual amount was we knew we didn’t have it.  For at that very moment, we were looking for a free beach.  Nez did not waste any time dipping her feet into the Mediterranean and whatever little envy we had had for the unattainable display of wealth quickly vanished.  Before us stretched the blue-green ocean and a sea of sunbathers.  We spotted sunbathers of all stripes: the different states and shades of tanning, artificial or otherwise, and the varied interpretations of swimwear.  All seemed very comfortable in their surrounding.  But it was still too hot, even for Nez, so we moved on to get out of the open.  We tried ice cream from a beachside stand but it was not an effective thirst quencher and it was definitely not the incomparable gelato we had grown accustomed to in the capital.  Needing to get out of the heat for a while, we went home and napped in the comfort of our air-conditioned room.  We slept through dinner and all the way until noon the next day.

 
DAYS   
 
Day 2
 
Day 3
 
Day 4
 
Day 5
 
Day 6
 
Day 7
 
Day 8
 
 
Dine Cote dAzur
 
Sleep Cote dAzur
 
A Matter of Numbers
 
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