The reason for our trip was simple: my sister's boyfriend (I'll call him MSBF for anonymity's sake) had recently moved there, and his father had invited us to meet with him. Needless to say, I was hesitant at first to come along, due to the fear of being a third wheel. In the end, my sister convinced me it would be fine... I'm glad I did.
And I have to state, for the record, that MSBF is the perfect guy for her. He's funny, super sweet, incredibly respectful, and a blast to be around (even a the third wheeler). He's one of those "out of the friendzone" success stories. All he needed to ask was to be a little more, and they've been together ever since. I would call it romantic, but they're so awkward in public it's more in the adorable side. But that's another point entirely.
Cannes is a stunning city. Think Nice, but smaller. Antibes, but with more tourists... and so, so many tourists. When I went to visit in May for the film festival, the place was packed with tourists from far and wide. I assumed they were all there for the festival... but it turns out, there seems to be the same amount even when the event is over.
The beach was packed - no wonder, most of it is privately owned - so we walked along the shore, pretending we were allowed to be there. We discovered that there was such a thing as "illegal beach massages" and I ran into my former biology teacher in a speedo. That would have been fine, except for the fact that he's a 60' some french man - now my eyes burn.
MSBF told us a funny story. A few days earlier, he went onto one of the private beaches to do some homework, wanting to take advantage of the sun. Unfortunately, he was caught by a lifeguard/security officer, who, instead of turning him away, handed him a snorkel and a mask, and asked him to find a couple's lost ring... he never found it, but after spending two hours searching for it, the guard told him he was a "good kid" and he could "come back whenever."
So... that's that.
We walked along the port in time to see the end of the Royal Regate, a boat race and show for antique yachts. They were stunning - all polished wood, perfectly curved and fitting to create beautiful vessels. One of the ships had its own violinist, who stood and played them a tune as they docked. Another sported a union jack surrounded by red: when asked what it meant, the crew told us it was to signal that the captain was on land and not onboard the ship.
I was amazed by the fact that most of the people on the ships were young people - in their 20s, young - and not like the sailors I was used to seeing (barrel chested older french men with beards the length of their vessel). I don't know what the prizes were for the competition but they were having a blast, laughing as they folded up their sails or swabbed the decks. It almost made me want to join them. But a sailing life is not for me - I prefer the cosmic ocean to the nautical one.
Cannes is a city that tries to be a place on the map. The film festival may last only a few weeks, but to the tourists, it goes all year round. A living statue of a silvery cameraman posed for photographs, as we followed the small walk of fame around the exterior of the screening building, the prints doing from Whoopi Goldberg's in tile to Silverster Stalone's in silver. His hands were at least three times the size of mine. All the while, we heard the snap snap snap of cameras as people posed on a red carpet. The festival building I shot in may (to the right) was now entirely white, ready for the next year. That didn't stop tourists from posing there too!
But once you got past the boardwalk, you reached the heart of Cannes itself. It's a tight city, much like Aix, with winding streets, tiny shops, and incredible artwork on the walls. You've also got the "normal" people, the jeans-and-a-t-shit type, unlike the fashionably dressed out in front, with their small dogs (so many small dogs!) and impossibly high heels. It's a city French at its core, pretending to be the American image so as to bring in tourism, like so many lately.
For the most part, it annoys me when I see these cities trying to be more appealing to the US. It goes agains what so many of my french friends stand for. Today, I see Aix turning into some large super mall, a shopping center for tourists. The mom & pop businesses I loved get shut down for chains. And yet, it is the way of globalization. Identity is lost, giving room to some larger entity, one which engrosses people like me, third culture kids, and everyone around us.
I am lucky: I am a TCK, I was raised to adapt. But what about the people who are Frecnh to their core? How to they feel with this Americanization of France? A re-westernization?
I love my home. I really do. Even if there are loads of tourists, even as a Mac store is built on the foundations of our former office of tourism, I will still love this town.
I just hope it won't change too much while I'm away.
Here's some music, for your eardrums: