The French Riviera is full of opulence all over the place. There is very conspicuous consumption in whatever direction you take. Magnificent villas and gardens, Bentleys and Ferraris, every fancy shop you can imagine and megayachts that are packed into marinas. Lots of all of them.
Today, we toured, via train, two seaside towns to the west of Nice, Cannes and Antibes.
Nice’s harbor has numerous large yachts; Monaco even more.
But Antibes, to Nice’s west, takes the prize with 2,000 yacht slips in Europe’s biggest marina. As yacht purchases have been growing worldwide, space is at a premium, so Antibes is full of mega yachts. Today, we identified the owners of five of the hundreds of yachts there, one belonging to a Swedish energy tycoon; another owned by a Russian oligarch; and then there were the ones owned by a prince, another by a sultan and still another by a sheikh.
We saw our first Russian license plate, ever. It was on a Bentley convertible parked in front of the Carlton Hotel, where all the celebrities stay during the Cannes film festival. (Google maps says you can drive from Moscow to Cannes in 32 hours about the same distance as Bar Harbor to Tampa).
Two years ago, some diamond thieves made off with $57M worth of jewels that they took from a display in this same hotel. Grand Duke Michael of Russia helped finance the facility in the early 1900’s and built tennis courts that featured famous matches in the 1920’s. The hotel was featured in the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock classes It Takes a Thief. More recently, President Obama stayed there during a G20 summit.
On Monday, a giant billboard in front of the hotel congratulating a wedding couple who partied there, was being signed, with the help of ladders, by guests as they departed on a large private coach. Sort of a giant postcard/guestbook from what appeared to be an international guest list from Russia to the US. All a part of the Cannes grandiosity.
Cannes is best known for its annual film festival in May, and there are film icons everywhere. The side of one building is painted with fake balconies, each representing a piece of movie history.
There is an old town, this one a typical one atop a hill with castle walls, but it had only a few visitors. Most tourists stick to a large waterfront esplanade. To the west, a line of mountains provides a beautiful backdrop to the curving coastline. The Esterel mountains are usually snow-capped in stark contrast to the palm trees and sub-tropical splendor of Cannes.
Antibes has a larger and busier old town, adjacent to its huge marina. Most of the yacht owners live in other places, but the commercial area is full of companies serving yacht owners and crew. There are brokers, boat builders, insurance companies, personnel and employee training agencies and uniform outlets that all specialize in the yacht industry. A few had a second office in Fort Lauderdale.
One major difference between Cannes and Antibes are restaurant prices. A hamburger for example can cost $16-$22 in snobbier Cannes and only $5-8 in Antibes.