Whether you have two hours or a full day, these trips will restore sanity
If you have two hours
Foot traffic can make the Cannes streets worse than the 405 on a Monday morning. Renting a chic scooter, however, will buy you a couple of hours to explore some of the seaside city’s more charming and out-of-the-way sights. At AutoEurope, scooters run about $90 per day (insurance included); call 1-888-223-5555. If a mountain bike sounds less perilous, check out Cycles Daniel (rentals about $20 per day; + 33 (04) 93-99-90-30).
Now, where to go? Perhaps a tour of some centuries-old churches and cathedrals will offer redemption from last night’s bacchanal. The Gothic Notre Dame de l’Esperance in the place de la Castre (+33 (04) 93-99-55-07) dates back to between 1521 and 1627 and features a regal clock tower with stained glass panels that offers stunning views. Just in front of the Palais des Festivals, the 19th century Notre Dame de Bon Voyage (+33 (04) 93-39-16-22) once hosted Napoleon after his escape from Elba. Famed ceramist Roger Capron designed the church’s elaborate front door. The Eglise Orthodoxe Russe Saint-Michel Archangel (+33 (04) 93-43-00-28) on the Impasse des Deux Eglises can be spotted from afar by its cerulean-blue onion-shaped dome. Built in 1894 by a Russian exile, the church and its gilded interior is open only on the weekends.
If you have half a day
After consuming an estuary of Champagne and a mountain of frites, you need a serious detox. Not to forget a respite from mingling ad nauseum. Head to the spa at the Four Seasons at Terre Blanche (fourseasons.com/provence; +33 (04) 94-39-90-00), less than 45 minutes from the center of Cannes. Here, amid the rolling hills of Provence, is a 35,000-foot villa with 14 treatment rooms, sauna and steam room. The “Provencal Escape” (about $360 for almost two hours) starts with an exfoliation using all local ingredients like Camargue sea salts and Provencal olive oil. A full-body massage includes products infused with lavender and rosemary grown on the property. You’re then enveloped in a blend of clay, aloe vera and white heather honey before a final rubdown with rose geranium balm. More straightforward massages, facials and body treatments are also available. The spa’s own Infusion Cafe offers the perfect gastronomical antidote to rich Cannes fare with dishes like steamed young turbot with olive-tree leaves, lavender-marinated salmon and iced strawberry soup accented with vanilla-flavored pink grapefruit.
If you have all day
The 16th century medieval village of St. Paul-de-Vence was picturesque enough for artists like Matisse, Chagall and Renoir. About 45 minutes from Cannes, the fortressed hilltop St. Paul has it all: museums, vineyards and esteemed restaurants. (Caveat: It can be touristy, though the week of the film festival is the best time to visit, as everyone floods la Croisette.) Hit the tourist office at the contemporary museum the Fondation Maeght (fondation-maeght.com; +33 (04) 93-32-81-63), which sponsors delightfully themed one-hour walking tours (about $7) like “In the Footsteps of Marc Chagall,” which includes a saunter to vistas that inspired the artist, a look at one of his most impressive mosaics and a visit to his grave. The tres modern foundation also houses an amazing 9,000-piece collection of Calder, Leger, Giacometti and Braque. Bypass the commercial galleries on Rue Grande for the quaint ateliers of working artists — access a list at saint-pauldevence.com. Next, it’s essential that you devote a couple of hours to a languorous lunch at the famed restaurant at La colombe d’Or (la-colombe-dor.com; +33 (04) 93-32-80-02). Dine on loup baked with fennel or rack of lamb from Sisteron amid original Picassos, Miros and Klees. Reservations are a must; request a table on the terrace and finish with the souffle de Grand Marnier. (Expect to spend at least $160 for a complete lunch for two with wine.)
If you’re inclined to bring local varietals back to Cannes or ship them home, confer with the sommelier at the 14th-century cellar La Petite Cave de Saint-Paul (7 rue de l’Etoile; +33 (04) 93-32-59-54). Finally, hop back in the car and drive three miles to the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (468 Avenue Henri Matisse; +33 (04) 93-58-03 -26), a.k.a the Matisse Chapel. At 77, the artist spent more than four years working on its architecture, stained glass windows and interiors.