Chris and I had both heard a lot about Cannes prior to our trip. And most of what we heard was negative...
“Cannes is the Las Vegas of France” or “Cannes is dirty” or even “I hated Cannes”. Fine. But we still wanted to see it for ourselves.
I will even admit that part of my curiosity was fed by a steady diet of watching Entertainment Tonight as a child and seeing movie stars strut across the red carpet at the Cannes International Film Festival. Be careful what you wish for as one of the first, and admittedly depressing, things we saw while driving through the streets was a building-sized mural of Jessica Rabbit. Ew. So while Cannes turned out to be a bit of a disappointment I can't convincingly write that I hated it.
We started our Cannes tour by walking along the famous Croisette, peering through the lattice framed balcony of the Ritz Carlton at the beautiful people drinking café au lait and eating their morning croissant. La Croissette is also home to all of the usual French designer boutiques, including Hermès. As I was disappointed yesterday at Hermès in Nice, I wanted to visit the Cannes store in hopes of finding my scarf, Quand Soudain. The store was empty except for four, impeccably groomed sales associates. Rather than tiptoe around awkwardly, I decided to risk opening my big Canadian mouth and ask for the scarf.
“Oui, Madame. We have eet."
Chris and I were escorted across the store to a glass scarf case where I was politely asked what colour scarf I would like. Before I can answer Monsieur Hermès (later I find out the correct term is "Scarf Ambassador") slide on white gloves and gently flicked the various Quand Soudain's across the top of the glass case. Mesmerizing. I could the movement of the design, the quality of the silk and the perfect way the light reflects off the rich colours. I felt unworthy of this carefully choreographed scarf ballet. While I obviously adore French luxury, particularly French luxury that I own, I live in constant fear of being found out, like a terrible fake handbag, and sent back to Le GAP where I clearly belong.
I selected a soft charcoal and Hermès orange version of Quand Soudain. (to see the various Quand Soudain colours, visit the artist's, Dimitri Rybaltchenko, web site: http://www.dimitri-r.com/2010/06/12/carre-quand-soudain/)
As I turned towards the cash register, two more white gloved Scarf Ambassadors appeared from behind the wall of Birkin bags and started tenderly refolding the rejected scarves. At the cash register…
“I want to buy this for you.”
“But you bought me the jacket yesterday…”
“But I wanted to buy you this from ages ago. I saw you looking at in online at home. It’s horses. It’s Hermes. It’s perfect.”
The scarf is perfect and I graciously retreated from the cash register. And then…
“Madame, excusez moi. Do you have theese cards? Cartes à Nouer?”
I shook my head non as he showed me the slim, playing card sized orange and brown box that contains the secrets to knotting Hermès scarfs. I racked my brain to try and remember where I had seen the box before?
“Bon. I give theem to you.”
E-Bay! That’s where I had seen the cards; always, always on E-Bay. Well Monsiuer Scarf Amabassador, I promise there is no chance in hell mine will EVER end up on there.
Chris loves a men’s French shirt store called Nodus. Located throughout Paris (and also in Cannes!) Nodus is about the size of nicely proportioned master bedroom and displays beautiful white walls of shirts in colours and patterns not available at home. Today, Chris purchased two fabulous shirts and we met Véronique who was, even for a French person, exceedingly delighted to find out we were Canadian. Even still, we anticipated the usual confusion about Canadian geography – Toronto? Montreal? – but Véronique knew Vancouver.
“I lived in Kitislano. Oui. The love of my life was a Canadian. I moved there and managed a creperie on Robson Street in the 1970’s.”
We exchanged business cards and bisous before leaving the store. It was one of those perfect moments where the world, even without the aid of technology and purely by chance, suddenly feels a lot smaller and friendlier.
"I was a translator for JFK."
For lunch Chris and I found a side-street-off-a-side-street, across from a flower market that I had wanted to visit but was closed, and perched precariously on tippy stainless steel stools. The sun was out, we were well walked and well shopped and looked forward to some food heavy with carbs and coated in olive oil And then along came Mr. Dallas Texas.
I first saw him from a distance, tanned, all in white, with his diamonds flashing. He was carrying one of those typical mesh shopping bags stuffed with vegetables and baguettes. He approached our table with a huge smile and complimented me on how I looked like a famous Swedish model.
Mr. Dallas Texas spoke perfect French and English. Chris complimented him on his glasses; they were Cartier, gold and the sides were encrusted with diamonds. Mr. Dallas Texas spoke to us about love, about finally finding his love and living in Cannes. He told us, almost more of a warning, about how important love is. I was charmed and I could tell Chris was as well. Chris asked what he did before coming to live in Cannes.
“I was a translator for JFK."
I couldn't’t help but to be impressed. Done with his CV, Mr. Dallas Texas returned to talking about love.
“Love each other. It’s beautiful.”
When he left, he kissed both of us, loudly and fondly, French style, on each one of our cheeks.
Perhaps you can now understand why we were starting to think Cannes was a bit of its own kind of wonderful. Chris and I walked the long way back to our car, stopping near a carousel to watch old men play boules on la Croisette. Cannes punctuated by my Cartes à Nouer, Véronique and Mr. Dallas Texas was starting to feel a lot less ugly and disappointing.
Back in Nice we enjoyed an outdoor dinner picnic of salami and pickle baguettes, people watching at Plaza Massena, beers resting between our knees.
Now as I write this from our hotel balcony, overlooking the French Mediterranean and thinking back on our day, I am thinking about love. While Cannes may not have been our French heart’s desire, Chris and I know that love takes many forms and characters and that we are lucky to be, in this perfect moment, in the country we love almost as much as our own.