Day 13: Cannes and St. Raphael

Friday / May 11 / 2012 / 9:01 pm GMT-0700

day-13-tendersTo be honest, the only thing we really know of Cannes is that it’s in France and it’s the site of the famous Film Festival. Despite extensive piers with fabulous luxury yachts and sailboats, Cannes doesn’t seem to have a dock large enough to accommodate a cruise ship, so we had to get to shore via tender.

The Epic has a handy, though slow, system where you can use your in-cabin television to reserve a spot on a tender, or make restaurant reservations too. We spent more time than usual in the morning waiting around, packing into the small lifeboats and scooting over the water to the harbor. Once ashore, we had until early afternoon to explore Cannes on our own; we had booked an afternoon half-day tour titled "Scenic Golden Corniche and St. Raphael."

Often, the best part of our travels are those times when we are just on our own exploring. Cannes was no exception. Armed with a terrible map, we hit the streets, taking careful note of the way back to the ship. Which is silly because you just need to look out to the ocean to see the monstrous cruise ship and get your bearings.

day-13-chocolatesUsing our TEP, we checked online to see what kind of "must-see" destinations were walking distance. The beaches, the Film Festival and a promenade called La Croisette tops most lists. If we had just a tad more time, we could have taken a ferry to the beautiful Iles de Lérins, a nearby island. Instead, on this toasty day, we headed into town. The main strip along the waterfront is La Croisette, but it was too sunny, so we retreated a bit further uphill into the shade of a delightful street: Rue Meynadier. We discovered a fair sized farmer’s market and bought some currants (small red berries); I didn’t know they were so seedy.

We also made a stop at a nicely air conditioned chain store called Monoprix: the best place to pick up very reasonably priced water, soda and croissants. Plus, we love to explore ordinary stores used by locals. It’s safe to say that there were almost no other tourists in this grocery/department store, and the cashiers seemed amused to see us there.

day-13-mcdWe continued walking around Cannes, but started to feel a bit tired. Around one corner was an unusual McDonalds with three ATM-like machines. You insert a credit card into the "ordering kiosk", touch the screen to place your order and go around the side to pick it up. All without any human interaction needed. Strange.

Cannes is well-known for its luxury shopping, like Beverly Hills. True to expectations, we caught a tiny bit of the storefronts like Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and one store hawking unique cell phones that cost over 11,000 euros. I hope those come with a homing beacon.

Hungry, we hunted for a cafe or restaurant to eat lunch at. A cheery young woman enticed us with a lunch special that included salmon, rice, salad, pizza and dessert. Sold! The salmon was delicious, and we noticed everyone else getting it too.

After a leisurely walk back to the ship, we stopped to gawk at the topless sunbathers briefly before boarding our afternoon tour bus. Our friendly guide led us a lovely town called Saint-Raphaël. We had an hour to ourselves to explore the town; to be honest, we kind of got bored after just 20 minutes. The scenery was very nice, and if we were in the mood for ice cream, there was plenty to be had with open outdoor seating shaded by the trees along the main boulevard.

day-13-driveOnce we piled back into the bus, we took the long and winding scenic route back to Cannes. Some of the key stops were related to the World War II invasion of France by the Allies to re-take the country from the Germans. The breathtaking drive to Cannes is part of what’s called the Corniche d’Or, or Golden Corniche. The views are different than, but reminiscent of parts of Highway 1 in California, for example.

We returned to the ship with plenty of time to change into our swim outfits and get to the pool deck to enjoy the last rays of the day. In the evening, we enjoyed a light dinner at the noodle bar before retreating to the room to sleep off our long day, and look forward to Avignon tomorrow.