Trip to Cannes and Le Suquet

Mention Cannes and one automatically thinks of the star-studded Film Festival, the fabulous Croisette, designer shops, five star hotels and all manner of glamour. However, it’s not always been that way! Like many a resort on the Cote d’Azur, Cannes has humble beginnings. It was once a fishing village, but go even further back and its history is rather more colourful than you might expect!

Ancient times

The town dates back to almost 1,000BC. Archeologists found evidence of human life in the Neolithic and Iron ages. Its first recorded settlers were probably a Ligurian tribe who inhabited Le Suquet (Cannes Old Town). An archeological dig revealed an early settlement that dated back to 6th Century BC – an acropolis, a true urban settlement with public buildings. The Romans  – those boys got everywhere! – occupied Cannes and its nearby islands for almost five centuries during the Republican period when the islands served as a large Naval Base. The period after the collapse of the Roman Empire, the so-called “Dark Era,” was characterised by attacks from all sorts including the Visigoths, Lombards and Saracens.

What then followed was a period of re-building, largely to protect the existing settlement, including Le Suquet’s castle, from the threat of Barbarian pirates. To reward the feudal lords who’d helped to expel the Saracens, the Count of Provence gave Rodoard, the head of a powerful local family, the rights to Cannes. In 1030 Rodoard’s son became a monk on the Lerins islands and subsequently, with the Pope’s blessing, donated Cannes to its Abbey.

The name “Cannes” first appeared in this deed of donation with the mention of “De Portu Canue”. The word Canue is derived from a Ligurian word meaning ’height’ or ‘peak’ – a perched settlement.

Between 13th and 16th centuries, Cannes was disrupted by the plague, and in 1520, an epidemic broke out killing over half of its population. Ownership also changed hands frequently during this period going from the monks to Catalan counts, then the Angevins, who were both Counts of Provence and Kings of Naples, the House of Savoy and finally France.

The British in Cannes

The Lord Chancellor of England, Lord Brougham came to Cannes in 1834. He was on his way to Italy via Nice but due to a recent cholera epidemic in Nice he made an unscheduled stop at the tiny fishing village of Cannes. Lord Brougham was delighted by what he found and decided to build a holiday villa there. In one of his letters back home he wrote:

….enjoying the delightful climate….the deep blue of the Mediterranean glimmers before us. The orange groves perfume the air, while the forests behind, ending in the Alps, protect us from the North winds.

In his honour the council erected a bronze statue of him which is next to the town hall in Cannes old Town. Unsurprisingly, Lord Brougham opened the flood gates for large numbers of British aristocrats and Royals to have residences in Cannes. Possibly, the first wave of Brits to have European holiday homes.

Belle Epoque

After the British came the Russians – the most famous being the incredibly wealthy Alexandra Fedorovna Tripet Skrivistkin. This established Cannes as a resort for wealthy Europeans, Russians and Indian viceroys who came in the wake of Lord Brougham and built beautiful ornate residences. Cannes was a favourite haunt of Guy de Maupassant and Stephen Liegeard who first coined the region’s French name the “Côte d’Azur”.

Further examples of ornate residences are the wonderful ‘Belle Epoque’ hotels: The Carlton, The Martinez and The Majestic  – all now popular places for brunching – which were built in order to accommodate Cannes’ growing popularity amongst the wealthy European aristocrats. Cannes’ port was built in 1838, followed by its train station in 1863 thereby dramatically shortening the journey between Paris and Cannes to 22 hours and 20 minutes. The village soon became a city and expanded westwards towards La Bocca. Its population rose dramatically from 3,000 inhabitants in 1814 to 30,000 in 1914 though WWI halted this growth and many of the hotels were converted into hospitals for the sick and wounded.

WWII and beyond

The inaugural Cannes Film Festival was scheduled for 1939 but was cancelled due to the outbreak of WWII, during which Cannes was occupied firstly by the Italians and then the Germans. In August 1944 it experienced its final attack from the sea during which an American actor, Douglas Fairbanks Jr, the captain of a US Naval ship helped Cannes defeat its enemies. The Film Festival was reinstated and the town’s popularity increased beyond its wildest expectations.

We regularly visit the town either riding through it on our bikes, for Sunday brunch or just for a pleasant stroll around its streets, shops, markets and to admire its architecture. I particularly like the views afforded from the Old Town of Le Suquet. What do you like best about Cannes?

Lunchtime date: Sunday brunch

My beloved and I enjoy going out for Sunday brunch, particularly during the winter months. We’d spotted that the weather this past week-end was going to be wet and chilly, so had decided to go out for brunch in nearby Cannes. We’ve tried brunch at the Marriott and Martinez, but our favourite is the Carlton. It’s one of those over the top, fin de siècle, overblown wedding-type buildings and quite iconic on the Croisette.

In the summer, we like to dally in the Carlton’s terrace gardens over a pot of tea or a cocktail but in the hotel’s low season we can be found, from time to time, enjoying Sunday brunch or its Friday night lobster and champagne menu.

Of course, while my beloved can and will eat anything and everything on offer, I have to be more cautious. There’s lots that I can’t eat, but equally there’s plenty that I can. Of course, tackling any buffet requires pacing. We’ve found the trick is to book a table, arrive early at 12:30 and tarry for at least three hours.

I like to start with the oysters and a selection of other seafood, typically smoked salmon, octopus salad, sushi, marinated salmon and prawns. Then I’ll eat some of the various salads which don’t contain meat before tackling a bowl of vegetable soup. I like to take a bit of a rest between each course and I find elasticated or loose-waisted attire essential.

For my main course, I’ll have a plate of cooked mixed vegetables with some potatoes, or maybe the pasta. There’s always a large selection of hot dishes, most of which I have to ignore. I’ll naturally skip the cheese course before moving swiftly to a conclusion with a fresh fruit salad. The dessert buffet is a refined form of torture, groaning with small servings of delicious hot and cold desserts – the French like to have a bit of everything.

We’ve found the brunch clientele to be largely French. Lots of tiny French people with huge appetites and hollow legs. We’ve always done the buffet justice but we never manage to eat as much as the French who eat loads of small plates of food. I’m tempted to ask whether they’ve starved themselves all week? But I know the answer will be a surprised no!

Aside from the Carlton in Cannes we can highly recommend Terre Blanche (in Tourrettes, Cannois hinterland) and Four Seasons Grand Hotel du Cap, Cap Ferrat. The latter is a favoured spot once the weather improves allowing us to dine out on the terrace.

Indulgence necessitates a long leisurely walk, despite the weather, before returning home for a relaxing evening, no dinner!

Images of the Carlton Hotel courtesy of their website

 

Not enough points

After a few days back in the UK, I was literally chomping at the bit to get back on my bike. Not long after I’d landed on Saturday morning, I rode for a couple of hours with my beloved. It felt so joyous to be riding along in the fresh air and sunshine. I was glad to be home.

Having gotten up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, I needed a lie in on Sunday morning. My beloved departed to ride with the club and I left home an hour later. It was chillier than I’d anticipated so revised my plans. The pointage was being held in my home town so, after marking my points for the club, and wishing a happy new year to numerous riders, I set off along the coast road.

I wasn’t the only rider with the same thought, there was plenty of two-wheeled traffic in both directions. I rode to Cannes and back by way of Cap d’Antibes, wanting to get home early in order to prepare lunch for my beloved. On the way back I tagged onto a couple of groups but, having spied a lady rider in difficulty, I stopped to assist. She’d lost her chain and I had it back in place in no time. She complained that none of the male riders had stopped to help. I think this was largely because she’d halted behind a car and wasn’t all that visible.

As I remounted I became absorbed into  a bunch of riders from my local club which gave me an opportunity to enquire about their President who’d recently had a rather serious mishap with a circular saw. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to pick up his severed fingers before heading to the hospital. They’ve sewn them back on and he’ll have to wait and see, but he’s going to be off his bike for a few months.

The results of the pointage came through that evening. My club had held previously both the departmental and regional championships for ten consecutive years, but we’d lost both titles last year to my home town club. It’s no coincidence that the clubs winning the titles have the largest number of veterans, and ladies over 50, in their membership ranks. They score the most points. We just can’t compete.

In total, over 670 riders turned up and nearly 10% of those were ladies. Over 65% of those taking part were over 50 and just THREE were juniors. That’s a really sad number. The club was 5th overall with just 50% of our membership turning out. No trophies for us.

This time of year the various associations, of which the club’s a member, hand out trophies and gongs. One of our members regularly features as having ridden the most kilometres in certain events. Having already made a clean sweep of our club awards, he’s set to do the same locally. I too have been honoured, I’m being awarded a diploma. I’m not sure what it’s for but no doubt all will be explained in due course. It might just be for the best catering at a pointage or for my undoubted organisational skills at our club events or, and more worryingly, the association is hoping to curry favour and persuade me to accept a position on it’s management board. Well guys, it’ll take more than a piece of paper to win me over. I’m not that easy.

Making the best of it

Technology is a wonderful thing allowing us to do more with less, or in less time. However, when it doesn’t work or doesn’t work well, it’s a bit like that little girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. You get my drift. I now, at long last, have a functioning internet connection and  have managed to get the printer to print, although not to fax or scan. A number of the bells and whistles which were put in place by our own engineer have gone by the wayside and will have to be reintroduced next week, along with sorting out my beloved’s laptop and notepad. But, for now at least, I’m back on line.

As a consequence, over the past few busy days of month end, everything has taken much longer than usual. In addition, I have been keen to profit from the last few dry days and have been out conscientiously logging the kilometres. I am facing almost a week riding the home trainer, jogging along the sea front and working out in the gym in lieu of my usual rides. Now, of course, you can ride in the rain; particularly once the rain has washed away the surface diesel. However, I don’t enjoy it and am not keen to catch another cold so soon after dispatching the last one.

My cycling coach has suggested attending one of his bootcamps, led by the gorgeous Greg, in Nice on Monday. I may just do that if the rain persists as forecast for the next six days. Working out on my own in the gym tends to get boring, as does the home trainer, after an hour or so. I also have the additional challenge of my beloved who will be home all next week and, after a long business trip, will be anxious to get out on the bikes. We may just default to the mountain bikes.

The last couple of days have had a Tour-like air about them: rolling road closures, police outriders, helicopters buzzing overhead and policemen stationed on every motorway entrance, exit and bridge. Of course, it’s not the Tour. The extra 12,000 plods are here to protect the G20 leaders and their not inconsiderable entourages. If you want to know where they are staying, and how they’ll be spending their days, the local newspaper has thoughtfully provided all of the vital details. Of course, this could be one huge smokescreen to thwart any potential troublemakers. Here, I’m thinking of Greeks rather than members of Al Khaida.

The Obama’s allegedly wanted to set up camp in the Eden Roc Hotel at Cap d’Antibes. Who wouldn’t? But sadly for them the hotel gets mothballed from the end of October until the beginning of April. So they’ve had to make do with just a 5* luxury hotel. As you might imagine, none of the countries Heads of State are staying anywhere other than the big named, luxury hotels in Cannes. Mind you, if the Greeks were here, they might have been expected to book into one of the budget hotels: an Ibis or Kyriad. Just like the Tour riders.

Friday postscript: According to the Nice Matin the American delegation numbers 800, including 150 secret service agents and 6 doctors. Wouldn’t like to be picking up that hotel bill.

Good choice

I was feeling in particularly fine fettle this morning as I set off to meet my trainer (no laughing please) for our first ride together in the great outdoors. He very kindly rode in front of me while we were riding into a headwind. Laughable really as, while he’s tall, he’s easily half my width and with a single digit BMI. So, not much protection from the wind at all, but I appreciated the gesture. He too must have realised it was futile as we quickly switched to doing relays.

Today’s ride included some sprint intervals where sadly I was able to amply demonstrate my lack of explosivity. Still, I persevered. My trainer politely enquired whether my legs were aching. No, not a bit. Like Lance, I don’t readily build up lactic acid. In fact, I suspect I use it as a source of energy rather like other people use their fat stores. On the subject of fat, I’m happy to report that last week’s tummy troubles have melted off a couple of kilos.  Of course, this could account for why I’ve been feeling so spritely or maybe it’s just the return of Spring. 

After the training, I rode into Cannes to meet up with an old friend who was at MIPIM, the annual property fest. The place was buzzing. So clearly the property market is picking up, though it’s still a long way off from the heady early noughties. I first met my friend when he bid to act for my previous employer in a professional category on a major property project. Only two firms answered all the questions in our brief and the decision as to which one to pick was delegated to me by the rest of the team. I sought advice from a colleague with more experience in these matters. She gave me some wise counsel. “You’re going to be working closely with these guys for a number of years so pick the one you like the best”. So I did. It’s a decision, I’ve never regretted.

I’m now making plans for Saturday and Milan-San Remo. I had such a blast last year, I’ve simply got to go again this year. I’m hoping to meet up with a girlfriend whom I first met when we were both volunteers in Varese 2008. However, rather than go alone, I’m going with one of my girlfriends. We’ll be able to catch up with all our respective news, over a cup of excellent Italian coffee (the best) while we await the start of the live transmission. I’m hoping that Boonen’s first win on Italian soil (last week in Tirreno Adriatico) may presage his second on Saturday. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Hotch potch

Yesterday, I had a very special, overnight visitor, my neighbour’s daughter. She is a truly delightful child, a credit to her parents and teachers. She came for dinner which we prepared and ate together, before settling down to watch the football match.

We’d already had a lively discussion over dinner about rugby. She’d seen her first match this summer, Toulouse v Brive. So she was more than happy to

Ireland v France
I rest my case

watch the Ireland v France match with me. After Anelka scored in the 72nd minute from a Gourcuff assist, she  promptly fell asleep on the sofa, secure in the knowledge that France were now much more likely to be South Africa bound.

It was a tight match which, frankly, could have gone either way. Tellingly, the man of the match was the French goalkeeper, and ex-OGCN player, Hugo Lloris. Though I should add that the  French scored more heavily in a couple of departments by comparison with the Irish: cooler kit (Adidas) and better looks (IMHO).

Earlier, I had watched an understrength England be dazzled by the Brazilians in Doha, Qatar. Ex-Villan, Gareth Barry was easily England’s best player in their 1-0 defeat.

My overnight guest was collected early this morning to allow me to leave for the pointage in Cannes. As I cycled past the hippodrome, I joined up with a group of cyclists, including a guy I rode with last week. To my surprise I managed to stay with them all the way to the pointage. I had anticipated that at some point I would be joined, and overtaken, by riders from my club. But they hadn’t arrived by the time I departed the pointage, returning home via Mouans Sartoux and Mougins.

I then had a quick turn around as I was meeting a friend for lunch. We were celebrating her new job in New York where, among  other things, she’s going to be looking after shipments of Chanel into the East Coast. I’m truly pleased for her. She’s worked really hard to build the up the company’s operation in Nice and needed another challenge. I will miss her, but have already signaled my intention to visit her next year in the Big Apple.

I’m now in my nightwear contemplating either an evening curled up on the sofa watching the TV or an early night with Jens Voigt’s biography. Reading in bed is another of my guilty pleasures and one which I can indulge only when my beloved is away, and he’s away until Thursday.