Cannes by night

Panoramic of Cannes, France at dusk

Evening reception

An evening reception at the Hôtel Le Carlton, on Promenade de la Croisette.

Living the High Life

If Nice is the capital of the French Riviera, Cannes is its center stage. In this city of stars, meager plebeians mingle with celebrities, the nouveaux-riche and old aristocracy under the haute Meditteranean sky. Whether you pronounce the city "Can" or "Cahn" it's one city you should "do" in your lifetime – if only to see how the other half excessively lives (personal views aside.)

The city is awaiting your arrival from the moment you step on the train anywhere along the Cote D'Azur. The landscape opens up like a tease – gliding along the coast, tempting you with sexy beaches and foamy waves gently lapping at the shore. 

Exit the train and become part of the glitterati set. Walk over to La Croisette, the waterfront avenue lined with palm trees. Stop at a café for a glass of bubbly, throw on your oversized sunglasses and let the people watching commence. If you're lucky, check into one of the white marbled landmark hotels. This street is the original model for other highfalutin havens of the rich. Think Beverly Hills and Palm Beach.

The city has been a jet-set hub since 1870, when some English noblemen fell in love with the climate and the food. They came and built summer villas and so began the notion of vacation homes. Today, there are more luxury boutiques and exclusive brands per square foot in Cannes than in Paris. It's no wonder then that Cannes became a festival sensation. Celebs need more than fine Frette linens in which to lay their heads, but luxe shopping and dining too.

Every June, the Cannes International Film Festival takes places at the Palais des Festival. Pose as paparazzi to get a glimpse of the red carpet regalia. If you don't have a press pass, just head to the beach, where you'll spot stars sunbathing (perhaps topless) while munching on pan bagnat (a salad nicoise on white bread.)

Want to come down from the high life? Head to Le Suquet, the old quarter in Cannes. This is the original neighborhood for Cannes fishermen and is at least 400 years old. Known for the Rue St. Antoine – its winding, cobbled lane lined with local restaurants, you'll also find a clock tower and church that overlooks the Bay of Cannes. At the bottom of the street on Rue Dr. P. Gayagnaire is the Marche Forville, the town's primary fruit, flower and vegetable market. On Monday, it's a bric-a-brac flea market where you can find a fiscally responsible souvenir to take home (read: Not Hermes or Chanel.)

Like this laid-back lifestyle? About two hours from Cannes, Marseille, while large in area, can seem like a quiet fishing village. It's been an inspiration for artists for centuries, thanks to the fresh sea air, ancient architecture and colorful atmosphere. And you can use your Eurail France Pass to get here!

This should help paint the perfect picture of the Cote d'Azur. There are the beautiful people and then there are the real people. Selling wares at market stalls, fishing for their lives, watching the world around them in awe and with slight trepidation. In essence, they are no different than you.

To learn more about preparing your trip to France, visit Atout France by clicking here if you’re a US resident or here if you’re a Canadian resident

Contributed by: Frederick, a manager at Rail Europe, born and raised in Europe and  has traveled extensively on the continent.

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