The Insider's Guide to Cannes: It's not who you sleep with but where

From the Cannes Trinity of the Majestic, Martinez and Carlton to the backpacker district at the railway station, there's digs to suit every pocket. Cannes connoisseur Gerry Moira checks in. Like the perma-tanned, leopardskin-clad, poodle-carrying old whore it so closely resembles, the City of Cannes offers different levels of gratification to suit every pocket. You can choose from your full-on five-star treatment to your demi-pension quickie round the backstreets. For the connoisseur there are such specialist services as villa visits and off-shore watersports but I'll come to those later. For the purposes of the Advertising Festival, Cannes is defined by La Croisette and you can measure your drunken progress down this golden mile by three hotels: The Majestic, The Carlton and The Martinez.

The Majestic has been my home from home in Cannes on and off for the past 20 years. For my money, although of course it never was my money, this is the best hotel in Cannes.

The Majestic is "old money" and the immaculate staff are dedicated to making it "their money" as seamlessly and as quickly as possible.

The Majestic has the best pool, the smallest beach but the best "ponton" in Cannes. When the serious business of creative competition became just too vexing, I would take myself to the end of this little pier and become "one" with the tranquil Mediterranean and a bottle of Domaine D'Ott. There, as the nascent Mistrale tugged playfully at my Vilebrequins, I would chew ruminatively on a small plate of olives and somehow this crazy business of ours didn't seem so crazy anymore.

This oasis of "luxe, calme et volupte" is presided over by Patric. As the head of Majestic water-sports, Patric has the best job in the world, he gets to drive all the speed boats. For 120 euros Patric will whisk you away at a bracing 20 knots from the noisome Croisette to the Iles de Lerins and possibly the best and cheapest fish lunch you'll find in the South of France.

Delegates who stay at "The Madge" tend to be battle-scarred Cannes vets.

Even the liberal sprinkling of jolly Brazilians fails to lighten the mood of serious self-indulgence. For fun you have to leave The Majestic and turn left. I know from experience that the short walk to The Carlton can be achieved on all-fours, but at dusk when Les Cannois come out to promenade, it's a pleasant enough stroll.

The "wedding cake" Carlton is the Cannes you see on the picture postcards and the place to see and be seen is on the hotel's elegant terrace. Here for a paltry 75 euros a bottle, you can sip Draino Blanc and rub shoulders, if that is the correct term, with the big swinging dicks of the international advertising circuit. The Carlton is the favoured hostel of those silver-haired giants of Madison Avenue who's main claim to fame is stuffing not one, not two, but three pop stars into one Pepsi commercial. This kind of genius demands worship and The Carlton is a fitting cathedral.

Having paid your respects and your eye-watering bill, you turn left again and head for the third hotel in the Cannes Trinity. The art-deco Martinez used to be the undisputed fun palace of La Croisette until the upstart Gutter Bar out-grossed (in behaviour and profits) its larger neighbour.

The Germans and the Scandinavians have pretty much taken over the social scene at The Martinez which puts some Brits off but for me the whole point of Cannes is "pour epater les etrangers".

Not that you'll find any French people at any of these hotels. Parisiens are far too cool for La Croisette; this trade junket town is their equivalent of Blackpool. God knows what they would make of the goings on at the Gutter Bar next door. I know it's not strictly a hotel but at least once during the week you will endeavour to spend the entire night there swigging lager with your new best mates.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, "we are all of us lying in the Gutter Bar but some of us are looking at the stars". The stars turn up in force from about Wednesday night onwards but never before midnight. Be warned. Despite their glittering proximity this is not the time to ask for a job/pay-rise/pint of Kronenbourg. Production companies are there to provide the drinks and those attractive young women who become ever more attractive as the night wears on.

I recall my own faltering quest for romance one night after a stimulating creative debate with my peers at the Gutter Bar. I was weaving my way back to The Majestic when I saw her, silhouetted against a streetlamp like the gypsy on a pack of Gitanes. Was it the bouillabesse or that boiling beast that simmers in the loins of all men that drove me to seek the comfort of this exotic stranger?

My trembling hand reached out from the half-light to touch her slender shoulder. She turned with a tempestuous toss of her raven curls.

"Alroight mate, it's bostin' 'ere, innit?" It was Trevor Beattie! Horrified, I slunk back noiselessly into the shadows of shame. Neither of us has spoken of this brief encounter since.

Trevor always adopts his crouching boxer's stance whenever we meet now and punches me on the arm quite hard. Sometimes I wonder what might have happened if ...

The real heroes of Cannes are the dossers and blaggers. Those plucky boys and girls who frolic on the Plage Sportif by day and crawl back to their cots in the backpacker district around the railway station in the wee small hours. My friend the art director John Jessup was the past-master at "foraging" at Cannes. He once spent the whole week living in the pool house of a grand villa entirely unnoticed by the elderly French owners.

There's something strangely familiar about most of the villas to rent around Cannes. You feel you've been there before somehow. It's with a creeping nausea that you realise that nearly all the interiors have featured in the adult entertainment you may have inadvertently watched on your hotel TV. I didn't get to see Garry Lace's Nero impersonation at the Grey villa last year but I did witness the spiritual re-birthing of Robert Campbell in the sumptuous surroundings of his chateau overlooking the Baie des Anges.

Accompanied by his two petite French nurses, Robert and I had set off soon after breakfast in an attempt to cross the entire width of his bathroom by lunchtime. We had just reached the shores of his Jacuzzi when the great man suddenly cried out and rent his white satin garments. "It's doin' me head in Gez. All this fuckin' luxury, I don't need it." Since that Pauline conversion, Robert annually donates a tenth of his McCann salary (that's about £250,000) to La Convent des Jeunes Filles Perdus and has renounced satin and all its works.

Lastly there's the Yacht Club. Only an account man would volunteer to spend an entire week sitting on his client's boat. But Johnny Hornby is no ordinary suit and Charles Dunstone's yacht is no ordinary boat. O&M will also be afloat, entertained by my old chums The Stevie Cook Soul Band. Sadly I will not be singing with them this year but that's the thing about this shameless old courtesan of a town. It's always au revoir, never adieu.

Topics

Become a member of Campaign from just £45 a quarter

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to campaignlive.co.uk ,plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a member

Looking for a new job?

Get the latest creative jobs in advertising, media, marketing and digital delivered directly to your inbox each day.

Create an Alert Now

Partner content

Share

1 Job description: Digital marketing executive

Digital marketing executives oversee the online marketing strategy for their organisation. They plan and execute digital (including email) marketing campaigns and design, maintain and supply content for the organisation's website(s).