Cannes proudly wears a deep affinity with cinema on its sleeves and visual references were seen everywhere in the city. There was a black and white portrait of French actress Catherine Deneuve plastered on the side of a local bus. I noticed a row of tiny director's chairs etched on the glass that wrapped around a bus shelter next to a portrait of American actor Gregory Peck on Boulevard de la Croisette. On the grounds of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, I found several hand prints from famous European and American actors and directors located along the Esplanade Georges de Pompediou. On top of the bus station close to Hotel De Ville, a trompe l'oeil fresco entitled Cinema Cannes featured 34 faces from the city's cinematic heritage. Inside a restaurant, a photo mural of George Clooney and Brad Pitt wearing black ties was used as a themed backdrop for a special event.
On Rue des Frères Pradignac, located between Le Croisette and Rue de Antibes, I stumbled upon Ciné-Folie, a comprehensive bookstore on cinema that also sold movie memorabilia from the festival. Framed Posters hung on the walls while several boxes of postcards covered the top of the glass shelf directly across the front door. I randomly chose a box to browse and Wong Kar Wai's "In the Mood for Love" instantly appeared from the stack. I bought it out of nostalgia for the movie. I found a bench on the same street, wrote the postcard to a friend about the lucky find and dropped it in the mail.
A gentle breeze blew from the ocean as we neared Boulevard dela Croisette- the main artery for tourist activity in Cannes. The light sweater I wore was just right for the stroll. The branches swayed from the palm trees that lined the boulevard while the sun held itself at a perfect angle casting a warm glow on the fine sandy beaches and the luxury hotels, boutique shops, restaurants and apartments facing the ocean. Jaguars and Ferraris sat on traffic along side buses, bikes, motorcycles and pedestrian. A number of large trucks were parked near the beach. Crews rolled out dollies shuttling audio and lighting equipment from the truck to the tents that were temporarily erected for special events tied to the convention while caterers wheeled carts filled with trays of hors d ouevres. Blue chairs dot the walkway, most where empty but a few were occupied by men and women huddled together in conversation and a sprinkle of locals and tourists basking in the afternoon sun.We saw dogs playfully sniffing each other as they crossed paths while conventioneers sat on the ledges while typing on their Blackberries. Instead of tanned bodies and parasols covering every square inch of the beach, a few boys played soccer on the sand, a juggler threw wooden shaped bottles in the air and a few romantic couples sat near the ocean.
Cannes also boasts of having over 700 name brand stores mostly concentrated on the boulevard and on Rue d' Antibes which runs parallel behind it. The boutique shops such as Dior, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton faced the ocean. People carrying shopping bags still abound inspite of the sagging global economy. Women wore high heeled boots and carried designer handbags while strolling with their friends and their perfectly groomed dogs. Gentlemen in dark suits were transfixed at the titanium cell phones at Vertu's window display. As we approached the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the same red carpet where celebrities and directors stood during the Film festival were replaced by a sea of men wearing dark suits and convention badges around their necks. Beside the convention center was an empty parking lot situated in front of Vieux Port where luxury yachts were docked. We walked further down the harbor until the sun dipped in the horizon and the sky turned purple and pink.
At Marche Forville the following morning, I bought fruits from an elderly lady. She smiled from a far and pointed at the plate of sliced clementine oranges in her stall. I walked over, took a small bite and the sweet juice poured down my fingers. "Trois, madame." I said.
I grabbed a packet of tissue from my back pack and wiped my hand while she added one more orange in the bag to round the total to one euro. I wandered around the open air market mentally reading the french signs and trying to guess the english translation of the locally grown produce or fruit on the table spreads.
A few blocks over, I headed to Rue Meynadier- a pedestrian street where the best selection of specialty foods were found. This turned out to be my favorite place in Cannes. It was a feast for the eyes and for the stomach. I went to Ernest and bought a slice of chocolate mousse, tried a pan au chocolait at Paul's and sat in an outdoor cafe sipping a cafe mocha while observing the locals and tourist go about their way. I marveled at the food packaging designs of specialty cheeses, chocolates, cakes and olive oil bottles sold in the local stores along the street. Late afternoon, I stopped by a boulangerie and bought a cheese and spinach quiche and another piece of pan au chocolat for dessert. My last stop was at a grocery store to pick up a liter of bottled water before heading back to the hotel.