Darrhlings, luvvies and wannabe celeb spotters rejoice – it’s nearly time for Cannes Film Festival. If that doesn’t excite you enough, aspiring Jenson Buttons can take a quick train journey over to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix, which is on at the same time. Leave your backpack and make your base in Nice and you’re pretty much smack bang in the middle of all the action.
With the help of the many budget hostels in Nice, and the excellent bus service, Cannes and Monte Carlo don’t have to leave you bankrupt. The scenic coastal town on the Cote d’Azur is less than an hour’s bus journey from both too. Journeys are under €2 and you’ll get a beautiful tour of the South France countryside into the bargain. And to top it all, for the savvy traveller there’s plenty to do on a budget in Nice itself.
When I went to Cannes Film Festival I had no money, no invitations and didn’t have a hit album or new film to promote. I was a dirty backpacker on a five-month trip around Europe who’d planned a stop in Nice to coincide with the Cannes Film Festival.
I hadn’t done any preparation, booked any tickets and I didn’t really know what I was doing. I just wanted to spot a few celebs, soak up the atmosphere and if I could get into any parties or screenings, that would be awesome.
Unfortunately there were no screenings for me, but I did find out how to do it for next time. Despite this, I had a great time and even managed to meet Beth Ditto, kind of.
Where to stay
There’s no way you’d get into a hotel in Cannes, or be able to afford it. It’s better to stay in Nice and get the bus in every day. I stayed at a little hostel by the train station in Nice, just a ten-minute walk from the bus stop. At the time it cost 2 euro and took about an hour. The bus was pretty busy but seeing as we got on at the start I was sorted for a seat and could just sit back and enjoy watching the beautiful Cote d’Azur countryside from the window.
I wouldn’t actually recommend where we stayed in Nice – I was flea bitten by the end of the week – but there are loads of good priced accommodations in Nice to choose from.
How to get into showings
It’s free to hang out in Cannes and savour the atmosphere, but to enjoy a film it can be a little trickier. Most of the screenings are for industry professionals but it is possible to get a ticket from the Cannes Tourism Office for the Cinema de la Plage, the cinema on the beach. Films are shown on a big screen as evening falls. Get there early though, tickets sell out fast.
Otherwise, just get chatting to people in bars, people in the industry often have more tickets than they know what to do with. You’ll see members of the public dressed up in crazy outfits outside the big cinemas with signs saying what films they want to watch – every so often a kind film bigwig will make their wishes come true. I was only at the Cannes Film Festival for two days and decided we’d rather walk around and see what was going on rather than spend our time trying to get tickets in one spot.
As I went to cross the road a big black 4×4 stopped me going, Beth Ditto waved back at me from the passenger seat.
Watching the red carpet we saw Tim Burton, Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg all promoting their new films.
We also saw Cheryl Cole coming out of her hotel – the paps were going insane.
Head to the InterContinental Carlton Cannes Hotel and watch the celebs come and go. A lot of celebrities will stay on their yachts so it’s worth hanging around the harbours if you’re after a glimpse. You can watch the red carpet, although be prepared to battle your way through the crowds. Best to sit back and watch the big screen from the green knowing that Johnny Depp et al are just a few metres away.
In Cannes it’s easy to get around on foot, in fact that’s the best way if you’re hoping to spot the stars.
What to eat
I definitely did not have the money to spend on the plush restaurants in Cannes, instead I located the nearest Carrefour supermarket and had a picnic on the grass by the beach. The moules and frites that all the rich people were chomping back looked amazing and if you have the cash you should definitely splash it on them.
Unless you do the old supermarket trick, there aren’t many cheap eats to be had in Cannes, especially during festival time. If you do decide you need to eat out stay away from the promenade and head into town to La Pizza, an Italian restaurant selling at comparatively great prices.
Out of season
Cannes is a town dedicated to its film industry, when the festival isn’t on it acts as a museum to festivals gone by and it gears up towards its next one. There are exhibitions of everything to do with film and it also has hundreds of cinemas for you to enjoy. Even the phone boxes are dedicated to the cause!
The beach made for a great respite from the craziness of the streets, there were endless expensive shops to look and lust at the displays and the whole coast line was beautiful. Whether you’re near Cannes for the festival or any other time of year, it’s definitely worth a look in.