Day One – Sunday May 21st
So after a late, thrice-delayed flight, and an extortionately overpriced cab from the airport (I think he was pissed about Brexit. Spoiler alert buddy – SO ARE WE!), I finally got to the villa complex where me and the gang from Take One are staying at around midnight. It seems to be some kind of haven for people who want to visit the south of France, but are deathly afraid of anyone French getting too close, so there’s about six levels of security before you even get to reach your front door.
Unfortunately for me, the chap who was going to let me in’s phone died (not his fault, I was meant to get there at least an hour earlier when more people were going to be in), and I couldn’t announce my arrival. Furthermore, I’d accidentally left my lighter in the taxi (like he hadn’t taken enough from me already!) so I was forced to wait outside the foyer, sitting on the edge of a plant-pot, with a cigarette between my teeth that was doomed to remain forever unlit. Needless to say, the security guard’s “patrols” all happened to be in places where he could keep a firm eye on me.
Eventually I got in and pretty much went straight to sleep. Waking up today, I didn’t really feel much like doing anything, and I haven’t had a holiday in ages, so I decided to take the first day just for me, and pretend that I’m just a fancy-pants kinda guy who holidays in the south of France. Alone. So alone.
I kid. Ish. Being alone wasn’t so bad. While everyone else in the apartment was off doing what they actually came here to do, I got settled in. I’d been advised last night that our little set of villas, known as the Van Gogh section, has it’s own private pool, which our balcony overlooks. Swishing the curtains open, I saw the thing and remembered being told about it. So obviously I had to go for a dip ASAP.
I say “a dip”, I actually grabbed my togs and spent a good hour or two just kind of… floating around. Like driftwood. I thought about swimming lengths, or practising my breath holding – all the usual things people do in pools – but I’m on holiday, damn it. And I had the pool to myself. There was an Italian woman lounging on a deck chair and reading a book, but she had either already swum, or wasn’t planning on it, and didn’t seem to have a problem with me doing my best impersonation of a buoy. The gentle current from the filters pushed me kinda close to her a couple of times, but luckily she had one of those handheld fans that they sell for two quid in the summer, and just kind of… wafted me away.
After I was done pretending I’m one of those paper boats you make out of newspaper… the ones that can also be pirate hats? Those. Once I was done being one of them, I headed back up to the room and dried off. The villa complex we’re in is so massive, not only does it take a good ten minutes to get from our door to the parking lot, there’s a bar and a mini-market on site. This was a good opportunity to get some food as all I’d eaten so far was chocolate and mints. Probably why I didn’t fancy swimming much.
The first time I tried to visit the shop (with my blood sugar in free fall), I learned of their weird opening times. They’ve got you covered between the hours of 8.30 and 12.30, and 5.30 and 9ish, but if you need something in those five hours in the middle there, you’re buggered. Guess what time I got there? Yeah… Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one, does it.
I went back later and was able to get some stuff, so I stocked up on the essentials – biccys, drinks and a LIGHTER – and carted it all back upstairs, overflowing in my arms because I don’t know how to ask for a bag in french. I dropped a couple bits a few times, but luckily I managed to keep hold of the bottle of sprite I’d bought. Broken digestives hath no fury like fizzy drinks scorned/dropped. I then sat in bed and watched tv on my laptop, eating biscuits until I fell asleep. Hey, this is my holiday, don’t judge. At least I managed to take this pretty picture before I passed out.
Day Two – Monday May 22nd
One overly long sleep later and the choice to laze around the villa, wondering if the clouds think they’re floating in water and I’m floating in the sky, was taken from me. The main point of me coming out to Cannes was to attend the eponymous festival, and before I could think about watching films and whatnot, I had a few meetings lined up with distribution companies, to discuss potential additions to this years Cambridge Film Festival, and other such important nonsense.
Once I made it out of the villa complex (no mean feat), I google maps’d the nearest bus stop and headed down a massive winding hill with such a sharp incline that at one point I started rolling. Hope I don’t have to walk back up that thing later on in the story… Chekov’s hill, anyone? Eh, that’s a problem for later Ben. After an awkwardly long encounter in which I utterly failed to comprehend the finer details of French public transport, I caught my first sight of the area where the festival was being held, and I was instantly struck by… how damn confusing it was.
There are three things I look for in a venue. Firstly, I like me some sign posting. Sure it may mean I have a lemming mentality, but when I’ve got meetings to get to and absolutely no clue how to get around, I dunno, maybe those little guys know what’s up. Secondly, I’m a huge fan of there being one entrance into the place. Because otherwise I might spend a large portion of time walking all the way around to the entrance on the other side, not realising that there was one much closer, albeit around a slight bend. Thirdly, and this is so important that it can scratch out the others – maps. Give me a damn map. Cannes is such a big event, with so many things going on, it’s impossible to know which way is up without a little help. That’s why every person in attendance gets a free welcome bag including, among other things, a detailed and… reliable… map.
Oops. That one’s on me then. In my defence, they bundle so much stuff into those bags, including charts of market trends and things meant for people much smarter than myself, I was never going to read it all. So of course I only discovered that I had a map much later in the week. By which point I kinda sorta knew my way around, and didn’t need the thing anymore. Typical.
Luckily, when I first took a long detour (by following people with badges like mine) I stumbled backwards into the rear entrance to the event, conveniently situated on the French Riviera (pictured) and leading to an area of the building, creatively named, the Riviera section. A further stroke of luck was that all my meetings happened to be in this zone. +1 for ignoring maps, +2 for following the crowd. Lemmings, guys, Lemmings. They know what’s up.
The meetings all went pretty smoothly, and I got to pretend I knew what I was doing a lot more than I actually did (thanks, acting background!), but more importantly I managed to get hold of everything that my editor wanted me to seek out for the upcoming festival. With my business done for the day, I thought I’d head off and find myself a film to watch, at one of the many screens dotted around the venue. So many in fact, that only an idiot could be in the same building as them, and NOT find one.
I didn’t find one.
I later found out (thanks to that ever so handy map) that the venue is shaped a little like a bow-tie. In one side, you’ve got the market, with little booths set out like just about any other type of convention. This is where I was, doing my schmoozing and whatnot. The place I wanted to be was the Palais, set in the other part of the bow-tie, the upper floors of which are filled with screens showing all kinds of wonderful films. The middle of the tie (the actual knot from which the garment derives its name) was a nifty little restaurant that acted as a go between for both sides.
On my quest to locate some screens, I actually found my way to this central knot area, but as I looked over to the Palais side, all I saw was more booths. Figuring that it was more of the same, I ventured back to look elsewhere, and wound up not seeing a single thing. Better luck tomorrow then. I found the bus station and hopped a bus back to my side of town, and it wasn’t until I got off at my stop and followed Google maps down a side road that I remembered.
The bloody hill. CURSE YOU PAST BEN!
It took a long time, and I was dripping sweat and gasping like a fish on land by the time I got to the top, and I vowed there and then: I would never climb that thing again. Somehow I would find a way to avoid it. Even if I have to hitchhike from the bottom, I would reach the top the lazy way. When I announced this to a few of the lads I was staying with, they had only one thing to say to me.
“Why didn’t you just get the free shuttle? It drops you right outside.”
I just… I can’t. Here’s another one of my “artsy” photos.