Arriving into France on Bastille Day or “le Quatorze Juillet” – was perfect timing for us to celebrate with the locals in Cannes. Each year on July 14th, the glamorous city on the French Rivera transforms into a vibrant hub of celebration as it commemorates “le fête nationale” (National Day). This day, one of the most important national holidays in France, marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, which led to the French Revolution and the establishment of the modern French nation.Le Fête Nationale is one of the few days of the year where a sea of bleu, blanc et rouge (the colors of the flag) can be viewed in mass around the city. This bears mentioning because the French don’t typically show overt patriotism, except on top of government buildings, official settings or if France happens to win a world cup! However today, ‘drapeaux’ cover the streets and the atmosphere was charged with excitement.
We checked into a small boutique hotel on a day pass, then headed out to explore. Upmarket shops line the Boulevard de La Croisette, which is the most famous of shopping districts in Cannes. Rue d’Antibes and Rue Meynadier are also close by – and all of them offer a wonderful selection of trendy fashion brands, perfumes and cosmetics, just waiting to be purchased.
We also walked to the Palais des Festivals, which is home to the Cannes Film Festival. The event is held annually in Cannes and is one of the most prestigious and celebrated film festivals worldwide. Founded in 1946, the festival attracts filmmakers, industry professionals, actors and film enthusiasts from around the globe. Known for showcasing a diverse selection of cutting-edge films, it serves as a platform to present new works to a discerning audience. Its glamorous red-carpet events and star-studded premieres capture the attention of the international media. We didn’t go in, but enjoyed seeing the famous red carpet and viewing the handprints on the outside walkway of many famous personalities from the world of cinema.
The opulent Ritz Carlton is on the same Boulevard de La Croisette, so we stopped by for a snack. Bar 58, inside the hotel, was inspired by the hotel’s iconic address. It is the soul of the Carlton Cannes, with wines and champagnes from around the globe served alongside incredible bites.
The bar offers sophistication and an elegant interior, featuring a bar top with inlaid raku ceramic and handcrafted Venini chandeliers. The staff was professional and served us nuts, chips and olives to have with our drinks. We finished with espresso, which was a much needed pick-me-up for the day.
Our dinner reservations had been arranged at Vilabrequin La Plage at L’Ondine, which is a new private beach club right on the sandy shore. Vilabrequin is a world-renown, luxury swimwear brand, famed for its bold statement prints – so it was natural to bring the brand into dining, right to the most famous beach in Cannes, beneath the Croisette.
The restaurant featured a set menu for le fête, which included 3 courses and a complimentary glass of champagne when the fireworks started. They set out long tables vertically down the beach, toward the water with colorful chairs. We were lucky enough to be seated at the very end of the table closest to the ocean – perfect for watching the fireworks display later.
As we waited for the fireworks to begin, it was surreal to be in this place, at this time. There was a feeling in the air of energy and anticipation, and it was palatable. The weather was perfect with gentle breezes and a clear sky that promised an unobstructed view of the show to come.
The fireworks event in Cannes Bay is actually part of a worldwide competition running from 14th July to 24th August, with 6 different countries battling during the summer season. Festival D’Art Pyrotechnique began in 1967 and puts together the most famous pyrotechnicians of the age.
As expected, the fireworks show was completely over the top. With fireworks set off from barges anchored in the bay, the rockets were orchestrated to the rhythm of a musical track and choreographed along with a nationalistic theme. The pyrotechnics in Cannes Bay have the reputation as the most prestigious fireworks event in the world.
We can honestly say that this was the best fireworks extravaganza that we have ever seen. It brought emotions that overwhelmed and an awesome appreciation that we were here to experience it all.
We were fortunate to be on the French coast for le 14 Juliette, and it will be a cherished memory for us. What a magical start to our time in France!
**We have used VIATOR all over the world and they do a great job with excursions. Our time was short in Cannes, but we can recommend the following side trips if your travels lead you to this area.