The Insider's Guide to Cannes: The top ten ways to Detox

From Picasso to poolside pampering, classic cars to unspoiled islands, Lindsay McMurdo reveals there's plenty on the Cote d'Azur to soothe the spirits of even the most jaded festival-goer.

There comes a time in every Cannes week when even the most hardened delegate loses the will to live. You've spent one too many hours squinting at the best in Bolivian san-pro advertising, had some late-night run-ins with your worldwide creative director and downed far too many Kronenbourgs while swaying outside the Gutter Bar. Your head is saying "take me home". Your liver is saying "kill me now". Something's got to give.

Relax. It doesn't have to be this way. Beyond the shimmering heat of the Croisette, far from the ad-ing crowd, lies a world of shady Provencal retreats, culture, pampering, real life.


Less than an hour's gentle motoring west down the A9 in your rented cabriolet (anything but French, please) brings you to the rather unremarkable little town of Les Arcs. However, drive through Les Arcs to the ancient Chateau Sainte Roseline and it's a different story. Once a monastery, the chateau, which is set in beautiful grounds, now produces the finest rose wine you'll ever taste. Forget the over-rated Domaine D'Ott, this is the real deal. Granted, wine-tasting does not really qualify as detoxing, but treat it as some kind of aversion therapy or simply ship some bottles home. On no account miss the perfect chapel in the grounds.


Old money, and plenty of it. Head east through Villefranche sur Mer, on to Cap Ferrat and the signs to the Rothschild lair are hard to miss. It's a big pink confection of a building - you almost expect to bump into Elton John - constructed at the whim of an Edwardian Rothschild wife and housing all kinds of artefacts from the Belle Epoque. It's not to everyone's taste but gives you a flavour of the Cote d'Azur before the likes of us could afford to go there. The setting is fantastic, with stunning views across the Cap and out into the Med. The villa also has extensive semi-tropical and shady gardens, perfect for a bit of communion with nature while clearing the head. It also has a great terrace cafe that will rustle up a nice plain quiche and salad if you've overdosed on the foie gras. The glass of rose is, of course, optional.


The Roc is many things but cheap it ain't. A day ticket for non-residents will set you back about £50 (just to get in, food and drink non compris) but that buys you access to some of the finest pampering imaginable, including all kinds of massage and other therapies, sun loungers by the private beach and pool, plus hot and cold running waiters. If you're too depleted even to raise a glass to your lips, they will do it for you. Be warned, however. Like its close rival, the Grand Hotel du Cap Ferrat, the Roc only takes hard cash - good news for the Russian Mafiosi that appear to be its principal clientele. If you turn up without cash, I can personally vouch for the fact the staff will be happy to hold on to your watch until you return with some. How civilised is that?


Ladies, look away now. This is principally an option for the boy racers among the delegates (so not more than 99 per cent of attendees, then). The Motor Museum is just about ten minutes out of Cannes towards Nice, with direct access from the motorway. The building itself is a stunner, an angular modernist temple to all things automotive. Models from the early 20th century form the bulk of the collection, which includes old Bugattis, Tuckers, Packards and some of the first offerings from French manufacturers such as Citroen and Peugeot. If memory serves, no alcohol is served on the premises. That would hardly be appropriate for a car museum, would it?


What better escape than a soothing boat ride across the bay to these unspoiled islands, owned by Cistercian monks, a mere 20 minutes away from the quay just beyond the Palais? The trip alone is worth the effort, with lovely views. Most visitors disembark at the Ile Sainte Marguerite, where you can wander up a narrow path to the deserted fort at the top of the hill, or walk right round the island in an hour or so. It is a peaceful spot, with vistas of wild lavender and caper bushes. It's also a great place to take a dip without being stung for two square millimetres of your own sand.


It's a cliche, but if you've never been, you've just gotta see it. You go expecting another of the built-up and ruined tourist traps that have spoiled so much of the Cote d'Azur but what you actually find is a charming, laid-back fishing village with loads of character, great beaches, fab shopping and lovely restaurants. What's not to like? St Tropez is as un-Cannes as can be. The only drawback is the distance. It can take a couple of hours to drive there around the peninsula. Best advice is to rent a (speed)boat and whizz down in half the time.


Or Mougins old town to the English speaker. Much overlooked in the guidebooks and by festival-goers, the original heart of Mougins is just 15 minutes from downtown Cannes and is a haven of peace and quiet. It is in stark contrast to the much over-hyped and horribly crowded St Paul de Vence, famous for the equally over-rated Colombe d'Or restaurant/hotel with its Monets and Picassos on the wall (as in that old Stella Artois ad). Who cares? In Mougins you can go around the house where Pablo Picasso actually lived for a while, and then climb on to the old church roof for the best view in the area. There is also a delightful town square with some of the best value bistro-style eateries around.


Yacht lovers, step this way. And, indeed, art lovers. Antibes essentially means the marina and the Musee Picasso, the former an absolute mecca for anyone who yearns for a life on the ocean wave (preferably with staff), the latter home to the finest collection of Pablo's daubs outside his native Spain. That's it, really. There's no other reason to go there, but plenty if big boats and angular women are your bag.


"He must be joking," I hear you cry. Monaco? The vulgarity, the conspicuous consumption, the sheer Euro-trashiness of it all. And your point is? Monaco is Disneyland for very rich folk and, taken on its own terms, an absolute joy. You can burst out laughing just walking down the street. Go for the shopping, the gambling, the star spotting ("Look, David Coulthard! Ten points!") and the plain ridiculousness of the place. But, of course, tell no-one you went.


And finally ... I'm sorry, but I'm just not telling you where this is. However, I will give you some clues: it is a private beach club, 20 minutes from Cannes by fast boat, run by the same people who run the superb Hotel Juana and offers perfect sand, Provencal-coloured beach huts, alfresco dining, paragliding, beach volleyball, did I mention the beach? It's a little piece of paradise.