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There is nothing like the buzz on Cannes’ famed Croisette, the golden crescent stretch of promenade that at festival time is the most extraordinary place in the world, reports Louise Keller.

The sky is the kind of clear blue that artists strive for and the Mediterranean sparkles proudly, as the Riviera’s centerpiece. People are everywhere. Rushing, sauntering, queuing, swanning, preening, parading, strutting. The shop windows are gorgeous, decked out with designer couture as designer couture should be presented. The colours are bold, pretty, fresh. Baubles – most with hefty price tags – are everywhere. But that is to be expected. This is the world’s most glamorous film festival, where hundreds of films are shown to thousands of people. Glamour is always in Vogue. And nobody does it like the French.

It is easy to imagine that Cannes, the Jewel of the Cote d’Azur, has a ‘deal’ with the Gods of Cinema that supervise from above. Like a temperamental star, the weather can keep everyone guessing: cool can become hot and then cold again. But Cannes is always hot.

The films with kudos are in Competition, Un Certain Regard or in Director’s Fortnight. There is also the giant film market, where buyers from all around the world look for their next Big Hit. The thousands who congregate are a mixed bunch. Film lovers, producers, distributors, buyers, media, publicists and of course the stars with their entourage. Every night, the stars walk the red carpet to the flashes of hundreds of cameras.

Parties, receptions and lavish lunches are common place. There’s the daily television program on Canal Plus where the stars are interviewed live in full view of the public gawking on the Croisette. Security is high everywhere, but it is just part and parcel of the routine. If you are one of the 4,000 media and missed out on a press conference, never mind, chances are you will see it flashing on a large screen nearby.

In past years there have been laser beams flashing into the Cannes sky from specially constructed pyramids, belly dancing at lavish gala events including the appearance of a rather handsome camel, fly-over displays with trailing tri-color smoke, champagne soirees with gypsy bands and circus acts, elegant beach parties with royalty, celebrities galore and parties on yachts. There have been sky divers, fireworks, street performers … and the gypsy beggars with small children, or little sad faced girls selling flowers.

The restaurants do a roaring trade, and it is no wonder. What better way to converse about, sell, buy and debate films? There are star names on the back of the director’s chairs at the Café du Festival, opposite the Hilton, a great place for coffee and a croissant. Le Notre in rue d’Antibes is hard to beat for hot chocolate or a chocolate fix, and the Carlton Terrace is pretty swish for a Ricard or a coup de champagne at sunset. (That’s as in sunset your wallet…)

My favourite eating spots include the unique Le Maschou in the Old Port, with its enormous basket of world renowned crudités and crème brulee to die for, Gaston Gastounette for the best grilled Daurade and crème caramel (not served together). La Pizza is consistently excellent, and L’Auberge Provencale (the town’s oldest restaurant) serves exceptionally good fish soup and a tantalizingly good lamb Provencal with herbs. There are many good beach restaurants, where the rosé is served extra chilled, and the topless buxom starlets work hard to even out their tans not far away. You never know who you will see or run into at Cannes – although these days of high security, it is unlikely to see the A-celebrities wandering around the streets.

Ultimately, Cannes is about the whole experience. It is that intoxicating mix of the extremes in one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Flair, chic and glamour, squeezed like designer toothpaste onto a diamante studded toothbrush. If you’ve got it, flash it. If not, you can just watch…..

May 5, 2016

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