CANNES, France -- This jewel of the French Riviera was a sleepy fishing village when 19th-century English aristocrat Henry Brougham began encouraging his friends to visit.
These days the place is packed with millionaires year-round, though the famous Cannes Film Festival held each May is the designer-gowned cherry on top of that pricey sundae. But you don't have to be a movie star to enjoy this beautiful resort. Here are five ways to live like a blueblood on the Cote d'Azur without spending any green.
Get set on the Croisette
The Boulevard de la Croisette, pronounced kwah-SETT, is the curving street that stretches for just over a mile along the sea front. It is THE place to see and be seen. Joggers, mamans with strollers, young ladies with no apparent day job dressed to the nines -- you'll see a wide variety of humanity strolling or puffing along the wide pathway. Beach cafes beckon with their million-dollar view (and millionaire-friendly pricing) while handsome hotels line the other side of the street. Look for the InterContinental Carlton's distinctive domes, said to be modeled on the bosom of a World War I-era courtesan. You may also recognize the place as a locale in the Alfred Hitchcock Riviera caper "To Catch a Thief." This is where heiress Frances Stephens (Grace Kelly) and her mother stayed.
(Window) shop till you drop
High-end boutiques like Gucci and Ferragamo line the Croisette. Running parallel to the Croisette is Rue d'Antibes, a pretty street decorated with hanging flower baskets and packed with high- and low-end boutiques. Heading west, Rue d'Antibes turns into Felix Faure, which takes you to the Cannes covered market, Marche Forville (head north on Rue Louis Blanc). The market, publicmarkets.com/marche-forville-cannes-france/, features mountains of produce, flowers, cheese, olives and more and is a fun place to take photographs. Open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. On Mondays it turns into a flea market.
Reach the beach
Some beaches along the Riviera are private, and you will pay a pretty penny for the privilege of sitting under a parasol. But there are sections of free beach in Cannes, including Plage du Midi on Boulevard du Midi Jean Hibert west of the old port. Along the Croisette, Mace is a municipally managed beach, which means you can rent chairs and umbrellas for less than at the private beaches. It also has an open section where you can lounge for free on the sand. Here's a link to Cannes beaches from the local tourism office: cannes-destination.com/going-out-in-cannes-cannes/beaches-cannes.
Step into the past
Head west, past the port, and you find yourself in charming old Cannes, where there are still some vestiges of the town's medieval past. Take one of the narrow, sloping alley ways or flights of stone steps, to work your way up to the top of the hill of Le Suquet, where you'll find benches and sweeping views of Cannes and the waterfront. The Castre Museum, Musee de la Castre, is at the top of the hill, featuring weapons, ethnic artifacts and ceramics from the collection of a 19th-century baron. It costs 6 euros to enter, but is free the first Sunday of the month from November-March. Once in, be sure to climb the 109 steps of the property's 11th-century watchtower, which offers fabulous views.
Take a tranquillity break
If you need a break from the bling and hustle of Cannes, you'll find it at the church of Notre-Dame d'Esperance, which is around the corner from the Castre Museum and easily identified by its distinctive clock tower. This Gothic church has fine wood paneling and chapels along the side, decorated with statues and paintings. For 1 euro you can activate the lighting for a better view, although if you wait a moment most likely you can enjoy someone else's 1 euro worth of illumination for free. Hanging from the ceiling are carved wooden models of boats, a reminder of the days when Cannes was more fishy than flashy. Open from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 5:30 p.m. daily in summer.