Yesterday, I spent the day in Cannes. My day started with the usual mission: find a map. Navigate your away around the foreign city, spending maximum time exposing yourself to culture, history, language…find sun (wear sunblock)…don’t die. My problem was that I couldn’t find a map. There wasn’t a tourism office at the Cannes train station. Instead, I had to travel across town to the tourism office…which wasn’t too difficult considering there were lots of signs and I followed an old couple who looked like they were the tourism office kind of people.
I found it easily enough, considering there was a giant crowd of people and a huge red carpet. The tourism office was held in the same building as the famous Cannes film festival, which is an international annual event. It brings some of the biggest stars in the film industry together for a few days. In fact, the 2013 festival starts May 15, just a few days away! The city was busy in preparation. There were tents being put up all over the city, gates were being assembled…the red carpet was being vacuumed. Similar to Hollywood, Cannes has the handprints of famous people on the sidewalk. I looked at some of the squares, but I’ll be honest. I know nothing about pop culture. If you know me, you know that this is true. I had no idea who any of the people were. I did recognize two names though.
After the star gazing and glamour fest, I went about my mission to absorb knowledge. I went to the Musée de la Castre, which holds ancient artifacts. I was super impressed by the collection of musical instruments, including several kalimbas (which I based my senior physics project on in high school). I also got a chance to see the Notre Dame in this city, although it was undergoing renovations so there wasn’t too much to see.
Next mission: find sun. I went to the beach and let me tell you. I was so happy. Sandy beaches! Finally! I took my shoes off and buried my feet in the sand like a four year old. I went into the ocean a bit and it was glorious. I also applied copious amounts of sunblock, which somehow ended up spilling on my skirt. [Random question (probably for my grandmother or my parents): The skirt is cotton – what should I do to get the sunblock stain out of the skirt? Can I just throw it in the wash?] I ate lunch and then headed to the Île Sainte-Marguerite, which is a fifteen minute boat ride from the Cannes shore (and I got a student discount again, so…why not?).
The island was really amazing. I found an island within an island! I saw forests and a German blockhouse from the occupation during World War II, birds, lizards…it was a very different side of Cannes. It wasn’t glitzy…it was natural, raw. I loved it. On a rock, on some random part of the island, with my toes dipped in crystal clear water, is where I finished the first Harry Potter book in French. For those of you who know me, you know I adore Harry Potter. When the Harry Potter series ended (and the final film was released), I assumed our journey was over. Harry and I had grown up together…and now we were to grow apart, our narratives split at the very seams. But this isn’t the case. I get to reimagine, re-explore (I think I made this word up), rediscover the world that I love so dearly. Because it’s not the same. Hogwarts is Poudlard and Snape is Rogue and…it’s the same story, but different because it’s another language, another cultural lens. I’ve reread the Harry Potter series probably thousands of times and I know it almost by heart and I am constantly finding new things about it. There are a million interpretations, depending on what mood I’m in and how old I am. I’m so happy that I get to read the series in French because it improves my reading skills (I pretty much have the series memorized – I’m not even kidding – so when I stumble across something unfamiliar, I just have to think about the English version). I’m so happy that I get to read the series in French because it allows me to live the experience all over again. I know that Harry and I have many years ahead of us, especially since I plan on reading the magical series to my children (maybe even in French too).
After finishing the book, I went into the Fort (which was free for students). Let me tell you…Île Sainte-Marguerite is not like the Frioul islands. This fort was actually intact, thank goodness (nothing creepy about it…and no blood-thirsty seagulls). Here, I got to see a great panoramic view, some Roman ruins (because the Romans were the first to inhabit the island which has been used forever as a trading port due to its location), and a museum that had Roman artifacts from the site (and the shipwreck discovered just off the island). However, I also spent time in prison…again. Seriously, this is becoming a habit for me. I go to an island, I end up in prison. I guess I just live a life of crime here in France.
This prison actually housed the famous Man in the Iron Mask, whose identity is still a mystery today. His presence inspired many stories and theories about who he was and why his identity was hidden.
At last, I headed back to the mainland just in time to have dinner on the beach. I grabbed an ice cream to go (because you always have time for ice cream) and raced towards the train station, relying on my memory to get me back in time for the train. I was a little worried that I was going to miss it, but I had to get the ice cream (which was chocolate and so good). Honestly, what better excuse would you have to miss a train? But I made it to the train station with plenty of time to spare.