Cannes Swim

(There are no pictures yet, because the hotel Wifi is a bit slow, but I refuse to put a brake on my creative impulses.)

A cloudless blue sky, Mediterranean palm trees and a warm breeze – all that needs to be added to this list is the beach, and to the beach we go.

There’s a system to the process. Arrive before ten in the morning,  because then you’ve got more chance of grabbing a nice spot not too far from the water, stay until noon and then retreat somewhere shaded or air-conditioned during the hottest hours of the day, thus preserving both yourself and your holiday state of mind.

It’s a nice morning stroll down to the promenade above the water and sand, past the Cartier boutique (and yes, I’m the person who will immediately think of Kate Middleton’s wedding tiara the moment I see that name), bright blue metal chairs that some people are quietly sitting on and others are using as props for working out, and the immediately visible enormous potted palms and flower bushes that maintenance staff are watering with a hose.

The only trick is to find a free beach. Luckily, it doesn’t take too long, but first we do pass several generously fenced off areas where the stretches of sand ahead are practically fully covered with white lounge chairs and sun umbrellas, all available for a fee. The white hotel buildings lining the Croisette behind us and the white boats (even a cruise ship or two) in the distance do immediately transport my memory right in To Catch a Thief.

A few minutes later we find our Plage Zamenhof en Regie Municipale, go down a flight of stairs and walk to the water. The almost white sand is powder fine beneath my feet and there are no downward dips like on our (still fondly remembered) beach in Lloret de Mar. Seagull and pigeon tracks are everywhere. People are relaxed, smiling and keep a respectful distance from each other. A white blanket is neatly spread out by the water, and an hour after we’ve parked ourselves at our spot, the family who owns it arrives. No one has touched their stuff. Apparently this beach at least is still a pocket of decent human behavior. There’s no litter, shouting, loud music or obsessive selfie-taking.

Our chosen sea-bathing location („A little sea-bathing would set me up forever“) is a cove of sorts, with the boats and ships in the distance forming a final barrier beyond the bobbing yellow buoys. The water is, of course, putting all the azur in this côte. Wading in is magical, and that indescribable blue surrounds you as you start to swim, feeling like those dreams about flying when you were making breaststroke movements through the air.

Short note. I turn my head and see an older man wading right towards me with a grin, despite the fact that the there is, literally, plenty of space all around and he doesn’t have to pursue this particular direction. So the question that keeps repeating itself the world over is why does a pot-bellied, balding man with a severe case of the moobs and a gold chain getting caught in his limp grey chest hair think he can stare at and signal to a woman like he expects her to respond?

But I simply propel myself forward with a nice kick of the legs and off I go. It gets deep fairly quickly, but the water stays calm and within seconds you notice that it’s the perfect temperature for swimming, or simply floating. Within my line of vision I can see people standing with their upper bodies out of the sea. Intrigued, I keep swimming. The water is clear enough to see to the bottom and I notice an expanse of what looks like rock underneath. I carefully reach down with my feet and touch a hard, slippery surface. That’s enough for one try and I swim back.

Next time I bring along my swimming shoes, something I’ve never worn before. It’s a little strange at first, feeling the water seeping in and still being able to swim, but once I get to the rock, I stand and can indeed find stable footing. Surprise, one part is rock, and despite the footwear, the slippery part is still slippery. The other part bends in as I step on it, feeling like some kind of rubber platform. It turns out we can swim over this underwater floor, as it’s still a safe distance away from our knees, but beyond that the occasional waves coming from the boats are more noticeable.

The beach showers are very bracing, but I seem to be toughening up on my second and third session – no squealing. „The cold never bothered me anyway.“ The water is also very clean, so whatever stamina might have gotten sucked out of me during the last few months in the (home) city, I will hopefully get some of it back here. Of course it helps to run back into the warm sunlight after the aforementioned shower.

Time to go. Not only is it quite hot, we’re also out of baguette. Cannes not have that.

 

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Cannes Do

Nice Airport isn’t unfamiliar to me. Aside from that long ago trip to Cannes that started by landing in the aforementioned location, I’d also flown here for an entirely different event last year, then set off to a village about half an hour away which was one of the many picturesque examples of rural southern France. At the time I had exited Terminal 1 at the airport, feeling nervous about locating my bus stop, which was intensified by ongoing construction all around me and no shade in the hot July sunshine.

Fast forward a little over a year later, and I stride out, to be pleasantly surprised by a sleek, finished square, with an immediately visible cafe, relaxed travelers, clearly labeled stops with seats and roofs, and a smoothly running train shuttle that takes me to Terminal 2, where I pick up the rest of my group. Go, Nice!

I love the look of our hotel, especially its lush, green front lawn, and inside we’re firmly told to „Have a seat“ before we can say much, a phrase which is repeated to another woman as well, only she responds in an English accent, „I’ll stand, if you don’t mind.“ I really like hearing that, but we’ve all been on the road for a while, so we do settle regally in the armchairs nearby.

Soon after we’re greeted by a visibly nervous manager, who shows us two rooms to choose from for those error-induced first three nights, though both are still not anything like the apartment we originally booked. Still, we pick a comfortable option, considering the circumstances, and negotiate a fair deal on the price as well. Kudos!

After that’s done everything is a little easier and we set out to remember our bearings and get some late lunch. The local architecture is beautiful, with white, beige, cream and pastel tones dominating. Balconies and shutters are everywhere, numerous varieties of palm trees, both potted and not, dot the occasionally hilly streets. White summer dresses, striped jumpsuits and fedoras regularly pop up among the relaxed streams of people flowing outside – most of them speaking French, plenty Spanish, some Italian and yes, the immediately noticeable mother tongue is also there (though not as loud as I expected). Throw in a sprinkle of various English accents, including confident American, Dutch, a bit of German, and you’ve got yourself a European melting pot.

What I’m floored by is the sheer amount of large hotels that have been built, or even are being built since I was here last. Of course, nine years is a long time, but I remember more space between buildings. It’s a little unnerving. We emerge from the Rue Meynadier, a lovely pedestrian street full of cafes, shops and artisan businesses, and, just like everyone else, inevitably find ourselves on the very fancy Boulevard de la Croisette (there hast to be a boulevard! This is France!), which (never) satisfies all my Valentino and Cartier needs. The Croisette is, however, one of the easiest ways to cut across to the beach, if you are already walking around the city center.

We stop by a large supermarket located near the hotel and soon have what I would say is a French enough shopping basket, with a baguette (mais oui!) among some local vegetables, ham and cheese, as well as some (discounted, but still freshly made) strawberry tart.

I have already automatically replied in French to some very short sentences I understood, to my breathless excitement, so despite French class being out for the summer, it’s not really ever far from my day, because that’s just what I do now. And what I Cannes do, I do.

Off to Cannes

My 2019 summer vacation takes me to Cannes, a city I’ve been to once, but that was nine years ago, and before all those involved had a smartphone or, indeed, Instagram. Ah, how times have changed. I’m fervently hoping that this lovely place (so much more than „just“ the film festival it’s known for all over the world) on the French Riviera will not be overrun with people trying to take the perfect selfie. I certainly won’t be part of that crowd.

As always a multitude of impressions descends on me the minute I walk out the door, backpack snugly positioned, suitcase leisurely rolling along, glasses in place to pick things out and remember them for this blog post.

On the way to the airport express a woman passes me, wearing exactly the same gold sparkling sandals I have at home. It’s both strange and interesting to recognize the exact item I own and know it came from one of the mainstream shops we all go to on a person I will probably never run into again. Her feet are very tanned. Mine are still my trusty classic redhead fair. Fair feet. Sure, why not.

At the airport I spot a stylishly dressed little girl. She’s wearing a denim jacket, black and white striped pants and, again, glittering gold sandals, as well as effortless confidence. Her younger sister is hanging on her hand, enthusiastically bubbling over with important news in my native language. „I saw a big unicorn! I really did, honest, a big unicorn, such a big unicorn!“ Hey, I believe her, I see them too.

The couple ahead of me in the line for the security check look like (wannabe) influencers, at least if their serious swiping through artfully staged couple snaps (yes, I could see the pictures) is anything to go by. „This one? Should we post this one? Maybe the other one?“ But they are cute and earnest, plus also polite to the staff.

The flight is made doubly pleasant not just because of the sunny universe outside, but because no one else occupies my row and I can joyfully scoot from my aisle seat to the window. The nice-looking family in front of me with two small children reminds me both of our travels when my siblings and I were young and the little people who made me an aunt. As soon as they sat down, the kids are methodically listing what their mother may give them: headphones, iPad, book, crayons – multimedia consumption in action right before my eyes.

So this is basically stage one. Stage two is meeting up in Nice airport with the rest of the party. Stage three is arriving at our accommodation in Cannes and seeing what happens next. Shortly before our departure we were notified that due to some nebulous error/ glitch/ mistake/ pick your own word, we would be spending the first three nights not in our orignally booked apartment, but a smaller one with bunk beds. Stay tuned…