French Riviera – The other Gloucester

October 8th, 2006

While staying in Nice, France, I took a train to Cannes for a day trip, just because, you know, I could; even though Nice is nice. Actually, Nice is not all that nice. A large chunk of the city is dug up and under construction, and it has some grungy-looking areas and people. It does have a pretty-looking park way up high on a hill that I never got around to checking out. Nice has a certain feel that seems to be common to all warm-weather seaside beach towns, like Miami Beach. The pink sidewalks packed with souvenir shops and bathing-suit displays and cafe tables. The crowds of pale tourists just arriving. The straggles of pink tourists just leaving. The smell of sunscreen (in the case of Nice, mixed with the stink of stale urine – this is France, after all). It has the same mix of scumminess and elegance that Miami Beach has, though maybe farther towards the scummy side.

French "sand"The beach at Nice is gravel. Not pebbles, as I've seen it described, but big fist-sized rocks. And yet people go sit on it, flock to it even. I don't get it. Having lived in Miami, with its beautiful beaches and beautiful people, and Cape Ann, MA, which makes up for the lack of glamorous people with an even more gorgeous beach, it's hard to be impressed with this "French Riviera." I was hoping Cannes would correct this opinion.

Cannes is a slight improvement, in that it at least has a sandy beach. That's pretty much all it has of interest to me, though. It's a very chi-chi place, and is infested with fancy boutiques and five-star hotels. And of course it's the home of the famous film festival, so it has all the acoutrements of that: celebrity hand-prints, movie posters, and so on. The festival wasn't happening when I was there, but there was a car show, which was kind of interesting. Mostly Cannes was filled with overweight middle-aged men with their shirts unbuttoned halfway.

Smart car