It’s the epicenter of European summer glamour, where the fashionable and thirsty gather for an extended happy hour. The storied and oh-so-chic Bar and Lounge of the InterContinental Carlton hotel in Cannes, France leads beautiful and supremely tanned people outside to the bustling yet comfortable Carlton Terrasse, where space is at a premium. You may find yourself rubbing shoulders with what is surely the United Nations of holiday merrymakers: international fat cats puffing on even fatter cigars, along with business travelers and meeting attendees. This is the spot to unwind after a stressful day of beachcombing or touring the French Riviera, over an exceptionally crisp glass of regional Chardonnay or perhaps the always-appropriate Negroni, while eye-popping people-watching ensues. Just gazing at the sparkling Cote d’Azur across the street, beyond an unimaginable sea of Bentleys, Ferraris and Rolls Royces, makes one feel a world away from reality.
I was lucky enough to arrive at this landmark hotel one evening in June just as the Mediterranean sun was setting through the French doors of our balcony overlooking the sea. It had been a frustrating and long travel day that included a 10-hour layover in Paris, thanks to air traffic controllers on strike. Upon entering room 425, we were surprised with a lovely gift of Champagne chilling in a bucket with a warm note of welcome from Public Relations officer Malya Zaim. Remnants of the day were quickly left behind with each sip of Champagne and endless gazes into the sky, with its spotty wisps of clouds and twinkling lights on the water from a deluge of mega-yachts mooring overnight below.
This year, 2013, marks the 100th birthday of this iconic palace-like hotel situated on Cannes’ famous La Croisette Boulevard. It was here in 1954 that Grace Kelly and Cary Grant filmed much of Alfred Hitchcock’s romantic thriller, “To Catch a Thief.” Many scenes in one of my favorite Meg Ryan movies, “French Kiss,” were also filmed here in the ‘90s. I can still see Meg scurrying around the lounge on her hands and knees, hiding behind the large pillars, spying on her cheating fiancé before tipping over an entire pastry cart. Such great history exists within these walls. The InterContinental Carlton Cannes has also served as the hub of activity during the world-famous Cannes Film Festival every spring since 1946. This luxury hotel was acquired by InterContinental Hotels Corporation in 1982 and is surely one of the true treasures of its expansive and impressive portfolio collection worldwide.
The most perfect beach day imaginable is absolutely possible here, with the private Carlton Beach just across the street from the hotel. An amiable French cabana boy assisted us through a canopy of beige and white umbrellas, and we happily planted ourselves for an afternoon of relaxation by the sea, toes in the sand. Lunch is served daily at the Beach Restaurant during the warmer months of April through October.
We found the ideal table for two in the shade with that amazing view once again … sunshine sparkling on the water and a hopelessly blue summer sky. We began lunch with two glasses of Vin Blancs de Bourgogne and, in an attempt to be healthy, I indulged in a traditional French salmon tartare that was quite spicy and seasoned with strong mustard. My best dining partner, Don, ordered his usual favorite anywhere he happens to be: iced gazpacho with Andalusian garnishes. I could have lingered for hours at lunch with the superbly hospitable and attentive wait staff who, by the way, were most gracious in allowing me to practice my broken French and gingerly correcting me at every turn. But soon we were back at our beach chairs. The remainder of our beach time was spent taking leisurely walks on the beach (with the paparazzi), reading, napping and perusing their most brilliant beach bar menu that included everything from freshly-squeezed juices, inspired alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails and smoothies, to beer, French wines and the ever-present Champagne. There is never a shortage of remarkably tasty French Champagnes to choose from everywhere you turn in this part of the world and I love it.
Three nights flew by much too hurriedly, which is always the case when you’re enjoying yourself to the fullest. Virtually every aspect of our time at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes was seamless, starting with a cordial greeting upon check-in, our luxurious sea view room with the most comfortable bed linens conceivable, to some of the most impressive and creative Food and Beverage presentations we’ve experienced to date, from a genuinely caring staff who tended to our needs even when the hotel was bursting at the seams with activity – all the while making it look effortless.