You are currently browsing the daily archive for August 12, 2011.

Cannes is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, which is why my better half and I return to it with greater anticipation each time.

Cannes is more than the Croisette and the film festival.  It’s a working, living, breathing community of all types of people, and that’s not including the tourists!

Here’s an insight to the little secrets we have observed, some of which come from sitting on the terrace outside our hotel room, between La Croisette (pictured above) and Rue d’Antibes, the main shopping thoroughfare a couple of streets behind it. Times are approximate — I should have written this up in June after we got back!

4:15 a.m.: As dawn begins to break, the swallows start their early morning flight near the coastline. It’s been two years — our last trip — since we’ve seen a swallow.  They fly together in a graceful, circular formation.

4:30 a.m.: Solo seagulls join the swallows. (Be careful not to leave food out on the balcony — they will swoop in for it.)

5:00 a.m.: The city’s street cleaners begin their rounds.  Trucks lead the way, followed by men who hose down roads and pavements.  The traditional French street sweepers then appear with their brooms, cleaning the kerbside and gutters.  It’s not long before our beautiful jewel in the crown of France is ready to greet the day!

5:30 a.m.: The Nice-Matin (daily regional newspaper) seller sets up his stall at the corner of Rue des Serbes and Rue d’Antibes.  He has a withered arm but manages to drive and get his little cart with sun umbrella set up for a few hours of work.

6:15 a.m.: A Cannes police car travels westward down Rue d’Antibes.  The coppers pull over for a friendly chat with the Nice-Matin vendor.

6:30 a.m.:  The dustmen start their rounds, picking up any new rubbish bags left out from the night before.  The dustmen are busy in Cannes.  They will also pick up rubbish in the evenings as well as later at night.

6:45 a.m.: Delivery trucks start wending their way down the Rue des Serbes.  They have an easy run, as the buses and commuters haven’t yet started their journeys.

7:00 a.m.: Every so often, the palm trees need trimming.  They looked a bit worse for wear when we were there in mid-June.  But the City of Cannes has everything under control. The Friday before we left, teams of guys in hydraulic lifts sawed off the old palm growth.  Another team of men drove up afterwards in a truck with a woodchip machine in the back.  They completed everything in short order, having started pruning around 6:00 and finishing the woodchip part of the job shortly after 7:00.  The woodchip machine alleviates the need for an alarm clock!

8:00 a.m.: Small yellow vans from La Poste (Post Office) file out from Rue Notre Dame into Rue des Serbes and head north.  The main post office in Rue Notre Dame used to be a cathedral of all things postal, just as I remembered from the 1970s. Back then, every city had a Cathedral of Post. About the only place you can still find one like that in Europe is in Barcelona, near the beach.  (Well, that was the case in 2005, anyway.) Cannes’s main PO sold part of their property to developers a few years ago.  It is now a boutique hotel with just a tiny post office in the building next door.  I guess the vans are parked and loaded underground.

8:45-9:00 a.m.: The Cannois are on their way to work in cars and on buses. Rue des Serbes begins to get congested, especially when the Elis linen van double parks to exchange linens and dry cleaning from our hotel.  I don’t envy the Elis man.  He has to keep the back of his truck open, pull out several tall metal cages and take them to the hotel two at a time as well as bring them back with items to be cleaned.  It will take him at least an hour to complete his delivery.  Luckily, there’s a stoplight nearby so he can get across the street.  Larger lorries and buses compete with cars for space, and traffic jams are non-stop for the next hour or two.

9:15 a.m.: Various types of trucks and vans with comestibles double park behind the Elis vehicle. Our hotel receives its provisions of bread, produce, meat and fish.

10:00 a.m.: Traffic continues.  Shops are about to open and people want to park.  Some manage to squeeze past the Elis truck into the adjacent parking bay.  Those with Smart cars can do this easily.  Shop managers pull down awnings, providing much needed shade for passersby.

10:15 a.m.: The Nice-Matin seller packs up his cart and umbrella for the day.  He is in the parking bay near the Elis truck.  After loading his collapsible cart and things into the boot of his car, he begins moving the cages of linens with his good arm.  He gets into his car and carefully manoeuvres it behind the truck.  He then gets out, carefully pushes the carts back to where they were and drives off.  This could only happen in France, I think.

10:20 a.m.: The Elis man, looking relieved, finishes his delivery and drives off. Not before time, because shoppers and those with business in town are frantic to park.

10:45 a.m.: A saxophonist with a small music machine sits on the edge of the fountain near where the Nice-Matin seller was.  For the next 90 minutes or so, the musician plays themes from famous films as well as favourites from the 1960s and 1970s.  He’s a delight to listen to as I watch the world go by before heading to the shops.

11:00 a.m.: Rue d’Antibes is now quite busy with cars and pedestrians. When people shop here, they actually buy something!  The week we were there, Burton’s was closing down — what a crowd.

11:30 a.m.: Restaurant staff along Rue Felix-Faure are laying tables for the lunch crowd.  Cafés in Rue Hoche and other smaller streets are busy serving coffee and cold drinks to tourists and locals.  The pavements are warm underfoot.

12:00 p.m.: Marché Forville (pictured at right) echoes with voices. Food purveyors and customers converse with each other, jovial banter.  Meanwhile, at the other end of the hall, the sellers of second hand merchandise talk with each other, their dogs sleeping quietly on the cool tile floor.  Now and then a gentle breeze sweeps through.

On the other side of town near the railway station, Marché Gambetta hums along, too. The vegetable market is busy. Instead of second-hand estate goods, they sell inexpensive clothing — not my cuppa — but if you don’t care for crowds, this scene is one to avoid.

12:15 p.m.: On Tuesdays, Cannes’s auction house is open for business. It’s located between Marché Gambetta and the railway station near some cafés which I can describe only as ptomaine kitchens.  On summer days, the auctioneer is pouring with perspiration. He doesn’t auction things as rapidly as his English-speaking counterparts do. Perhaps it’s the heat, perhaps it’s the people sitting in front of him — a modest, lower-middle class crowd, some of whom are not quite sure what to do with their plaquettes!  ‘Are you bidding or fanning yourself, madam?’ our man enquires wearily. The woman shakes her head — no bids.

1:00 p.m.:  It’s madness at Monoprix.  Most of the tills are closed as staff are at lunch.  Only two are open on the ground level.  Office workers on their own lunch break queue patiently.  Some will end up waiting at least 20 minutes to pay for their merchandise.

2:00 p.m.: In the Rue des Serbes parking bay across from our hotel, spaces are at a premium.  As such, drivers are forced to be considerate.  Two cars pull up almost simultaneously.  One man in Car A and two men in Car B.  Car A pulls in first and grandly takes up the two remaining spaces.  Car B noses in front. Its passenger gets out and walks up to Car A’s driver who pulls the key out of the ignition and opens his door.  ‘Are you just going to leave it like that?’ Car B’s passenger asks of this stranger. ‘Yeah, why not?’ ‘Because we want to get in here, too.  Look how you’ve parked! Get in and back up.’  Car A’s driver does as he is told, although he does hesitate for a minute.  Car B’s passenger then proceeds to direct him with impatient hand gestures.  Car B then backs in to the available space.

3:00 p.m.: Along the Croisette, grandmothers take their grandchildren for a ride on the carousel and let them float boats in a little manmade lagoon.  A number of people take the heat off the day by enjoying an ice cream cone.  Most ice cream here is made locally.  Lots of people are at the beaches, public and private.  Others sit in chairs provided along the Croisette, facing the sea.  It’s a relaxing time of day, for those able to take advantage of it.

4:30 p.m.: Rush hour starts.  Traffic along the Croisette becomes denser.  The shops get an influx of  customers, particularly mother-and-daughter duos looking for beauty products in discount pharmacies and Galéries Lafayette.

6:00 p.m.: Café tables are occupied en masse.  The French rehash the day.  Tourists compare notes on where they’ve been and what they’ve purchased.

7:00 p.m.: Restaurants begin serving dinner.  The aromas of freshly cooked seafood along Rue Félix Faure tease the senses.  Passersby eagerly read menus posted in front — so much choice!

7:30 p.m.: The dustmen drive by, collecting rubbish bags from restaurants.  They work efficiently and leave as quickly as they arrived.

9:00 p.m.: Street vendors ply their wares — stuffed toys that light up.  Street entertainers make their rounds either with exotic song or traditional accordion music.  Most of these folks are from Africa or the gypsy community.

10:00 p.m.:  Couples walk along the Croisette holding hands.  A few children play on the public beach.  Families take a stroll together, enjoying the cooler evening temperatures.  Everyone stays up late here.

11:00 p.m.:  The casino at the Palais des Festivals does brisk business, particularly with the slot machines.  Some Italian women make a day of it. ‘We come every couple of weeks or so. French casinos are much better than ours. We arrive early for our favourite machines — they bring us luck.’  Male university students on holiday,– tourists — in groups of two or three, also play the slots.  ‘Man, this is great!  Hey, save my place — I just need to get more change.’

12:00 a.m.:  Local kids park near Rue des Frères Pradignac, where the bars are.  The street also boasts the popular bar-restaurant-club, Le Sparkling (at left).  Many cars seem to have two girls and one boy.  Conversation is animated.  Everyone laughs.  Girls look feminine in skirts.  Boys wear polo shirts and nice trousers.

1:00 a.m.: A police car races up Rue des Serbes towards the railway station.  If it’s anything significant, it will show up in Nice-Matin, but that rarely happens.

1:30 a.m.: Kids come back from the bars, still giggling and conversing happily.  They drive off home, to the residential areas north and west of the city.

2:30 a.m.: The streets are deserted now.  Occasionally, a lone man or woman walks by, returning home, perhaps after a restaurant shift or a visit with friends.  This has to be one of the safest places in the world for women alone on the streets late at night.  Long may it remain so.

Cannes now catches a couple hours of beauty rest before she sees the start of a brand new day.  Bonne nuit, chérie!

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