Thursday, December 29, 2011

Un séjour à Cannes

(To add from yesterday: There's a waterfall at the top of the chateau hill too! It's man-made, cascading over the remains of buildings, and has rainbows!)

Still tired. But today I saw dolphins! I think. I didn't have my glasses on...

My day started with breakfast with a Turkish girl at the hostel, where we attempted a conversation en français (or rather, I attempted and she succeeded). I shied away from the pâté for my French bread, but realised when my friend slathered it over hers that it was not meat pâté but CHOCOLATE pâte. Must try tomorrow.

I wandered down the main shopping street and looked through le FNAC, which sells entertainment - movies and books and computers and televisions. They were selling a mini arcade game housing which turned your iPad into an old arcade machine, so I had to try it out with Pacman. On the top floor I found a huge range of bandes dessinées (comics) and manga, taking up as much floor space as the children's section. I was looking for a good YA book set in France that I can add to my round-the-world-in-80-books collection, but many of the books I picked up were translated from the German or Italian or English. The best was set in China, written in German and translated into French, which I would attempt to read as an English speaker.

After a quick look in the cathedral (beautiful gothic arches and a mix of stained glass windows ranging from ancient to bold modernist), I took a train to Cannes, about half an hour down the coast. This was when I saw dolphins: two fins slicing through the water beside the train. By the time I retrieved my glasses and camera they were gone.

Cannes is full of rather expensive shops, palm trees and apartments. There were lots of tourists taking photos of the red carpet at the Festival theatre (Cannes has a little-known, not very important film festival, fyi), so I joined them, and then took pictures of Whoopi Goldberg and Julie Andrew's pavement handprints.

I walked around the waterfront and found a marina filled with extremely shiny luxury yachts. Behind them on the hill I spied what looked to be a castle. Castle? I thought. I'm there!

Well, not quite. I had to get lost first, wandering around to the next bay (which, by the way, afforded me an excellent view of the mountains coming down to the sea) and up some pretty streets.

I realised I'd forgotten my phone, so could not even rely on Googlemaps to lead me to my destination. Instead I followed a sign promising 'Panorama', and ended up at the summit of the hill right by the site of the old castle, which is now a museum.

Some of the buildings, including an eleventh century 22m tower, are still standing, and house things like an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus, bits of Greek and Roman statues, Inuit hunting weapons, Polynesian fishing hooks and paintings of the French Riviera. The former great hall, with huge vaulted ceiling, contains hundreds of musical instruments from around the world. It was strange to be in this great, silent space, surrounded by so many things meant to make music and yet hear nothing but the sound of your own breath.

The tower was definitely worth the climb. You could see the remains of the former staircase/climbing wall running round the inside of the tower, much steeper than the current stairs (and those are pretty steep themselves). Windows at intervals let you gaze out at the vistas as you climb. It is true about the light of Provence - there's something different about it. Everything seems a bit misty and golden, softening the landscape and making you feel like you're in an impressionist painting. I tried to take photos to capture this light, but my camera doesn't understand and won't comply. As I reached the top, the nearby clock tower chimed three. I was a bit disappointed - I'd wanted to hear it chime while I was at the top of the tower - but then it chimed three again! Slightly confused clock...

There's a church at the top of the hill that looks very beautiful, but unfortunately it's closed for renovations until at least 2013. I had to make do with taking pictures of the outside, then made my way back down the hill via several tiny alleys between shuttered buildings.

There was a market here too, and I wandered the stalls before deciding the time was right for my first proper French crepe. Unfortunately the crepe was not up to the standards I've come to expect from crepes (the Wellington crepe shop really is very good), and I think I would only give it a 4/10. I shall have to try again when I go to Paris, or even Brittany (this is where crepes come from originally).

Before I left Cannes, I had to buy a can of tomatoes (my inner punner made me do it).
The can from Cannes

The can of tomatoes ended up in my dinner, which was much improved.

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