HOTEL MAJESTIC BARRIERE, CANNES, FRANCE
By Dwight Brown
Dwight, an executive at a major media company located in New York, is also a passionate travel writer who specializes in the Caribbean Islands and Brazil, writing about upscale hotels, resorts, dining venues, sports and cultural tours. He is a frequent contributor to NBC 17 Travel - Great Getaways.
Every May, the city of Cannes, on the chic southern shores of France's famed Côte d'Azur, hosts the world-renowned Cannes Film Festival where actors, directors and world-premiere movies take center stage. The most glamorous people stay in Cannes' most glamorous hotel, the Cannes Majestic Barrière. I know, because I saw them when I roomed at the Majestic; and from my experience I can definitely say that this grand dame is the place to stay in Cannes year-round, festival or not.
Location, Location, Location
The address is 10, la Croisette (qwa-set).
Forget the number, the key word is Croisette, that's the name of the swank avenue that runs along Cannes' beach. On the shore side, locals and tourists take the sun, lay on the sand, eat at the beachside restaurants and enjoy people-watching. Topless sunbathing is legendary on the shores of Cannes. On the other side of the Croisette, hotels, condominiums and tony shops (Chanel, Van Cleef & Arpels, Louis Vuitton) line the sidewalk.
The Majestic, with its 305 well-appointed rooms and 23 suites (you can see the ocean from 80% of the rooms) sits directly across the street from the Palais des Festivals, the performance art center that hosts the Cannes Film Festival. From some of the Majestic's windows you can watch as stars make their entrances along the red carpet, pass the paparazzi, up the stairs to the Palais and its glitzy world premieres.
The Majestic Lobby
Built in 1926 on the foundation of a hotel that dates back to 1860, this classic, traditional-looking egg shell-colored hotel, pays homage to the past with its regal architecture but also embraces the present, providing contemporary conveniences, with a modern business center, 17 meeting rooms (which accommodate as many as 900 people) and all the luxuries and amenities today's fussy travelers desire. In fact, a new wing was built in 1999 and its rooms have some of the best views of the Palais des Festivals.
After registering in the lush lobby, with its marble floors, exquisite chandeliers and statues, I was ushered to my fourth floor room over-looking the outdoor heated swimming pool lined with Murano enamels. The soft, rust-colored carpeting was like walking on firm pillows, several sets of perfectly coordinated drapes framed the window and classic French furniture was perfectly placed around the room. The bathroom was so big, I could almost park a car in it. Well, maybe a Mini-Cooper!
Out and About
There are only a few gyms in Cannes, and only one on the Croisette worth a damn, the Majestic's Health & Beauty Center (hotel guests pay approximately $20 per visit). Dark wood floors and a view of the pool make this sunny gym a joy to work out in. Stairmasters, stationary bikes, treadmills, and just enough equipment to do-close-to-my-normal gym routine made me feel at home. Stretching, Step and Yoga classes are available upon request. The men and women's locker rooms each have a sauna and a steam room. The adjoining beauty center offers massage, facials, seaweed paste packs and other spa services. Lounging by the pool under the pink parasols on a pink chaise lounge can be an all morning endeavor if you work your day that way. If a seaside view is more to your liking, across the Croisette the hotel has a private beach and a sunning pier that extends out into the water.
For the more active traveler, water skiing and parasailing are offered or the hotel can arrange 18-holes of golf. I preferred the red-clay courts of the Gallia Barrière Tennis Club, a 10-minute cab ride away. After a few fun matches under the ever-present sun, a dunk in the club's pool was quite refreshing. Planet Body Fitness (8, Rue Montagne) is a full service gym which offers a great chance to mingle with the locals.
The Sunning Pier
Besides the shops along the Croisette, you can also hunt for treasures on Rue Antibes, two blocks behind the hotel. Rue Antibes is lined with chic perfume stores, expensive clothing shops, bargain department stores and shoes stores, the kind you'll see on Paris's Champs Elysée.
Take some time to experience the area surrounding Cannes on inexpensive day trips. For a mere $3, I took a boat to the Iles de Lérins (Sainte Marguerite and Saint Honorat islands), just off the Cannes coast. The short, tranquil trip on the placid Mediterranean is one I won't soon forget. Visit the sea museum or the fortress on Ste. Marguerite Island, where legend has it that the illegitimate brother of Louis XIV, known as the man in the iron mask, was once imprisoned. Or, explore the monastery at St. Honorat, built in 1073 to protect monks from the Saracen pirates. Both islands are decorated with nature's own umbrella pines and giant eucalyptus trees and are just 15 and 30 minutes away from Cannes. An average tour lasts about half a day.
Train south, and you can be in St. Tropez, a trendy resort town famous for its beaches. Take a 50-minute train ride north to Nice and you can browse through intriguing museums, including two devoted entirely to the work of Marc Chagall and Henri Matisse. Monaco is only 30 minutes away, by car, and the casinos of Monte Carlo, the town that takes up most of the tiny principality, are world famous.
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