Saturday morning in Cannes and we were up early to give Lyra a bit of a wash and brush up before setting out to find the market. It was all that our American friend had claimed. We recognized friends of our vegetable course from last night, fresher and set out on an even bigger scale. We bought luscious fruit, a denser more spreading version of the restaurant’ oily dips and a carton of the ‘special’ salt mix. There was a central meat counter, which looked magnificent, but not a place for the novice. There was no bread stall, but we found a small shop in the arcade outside and after shopping there we realized why not. The shop was run by a haughty looking lady embellished with a line of red lipstick. She bagged the bread and stood by the young girl who worked the till, muttering instructions. When it came to our turn I asked for un boule and deux rolls pointing appropriately, she bagged the boule and turned to the pile of rolls saying ‘Un’, ‘Deux’ I repeated. She turned round with un, having rearranged a few that had tumbled and bagged it. ‘Deux’ said John behind me. She looked down her nose at him as if he had asked her to pass him a dog turd, turned and picked up another roll and was short with the girl on the till. Her bread was good, but we would not go back. The market traders had all been most charming and I do not think a rival bread stall could have stood up to Madame. I would have backed the greengrocer lady from Bormes against her though. We wandered round the arcade and sat outside a café with the least fearsome looking proprietress for coffee. As we sat the traders began to pack up their unsold wares and the local seagulls skulked around to scavenge anything that hit the floor.
After taking our shopping back and successfully negotiating the security gate we decided to save our bread for tea and eat lunch out. England was playing their opening match that evening and we reasoned that if the French restaurants would not cover their own debut, they would hardly endure ours. We would eat on board and then go out and find a bar. John just happened to have spotted a likely looking Irish bar. He had also spotted The Pizza Cresci, established in 1956 serving huge semi circles of pizza cooked in a huge wood burning oven. It was on the road just across the quay, immediately before the climb up to the citadel. The semi circles are a magnificent idea; you are given a serving the size of a normal pizza, but it has been made as a huge pizza, with a correspondingly generous amount of topping. I saw the chef piling handfuls of grated cheese onto a dough base and his were not small hands. I assume he then applied the toppings over half each side, cooked them and sliced them in two. It is definitely a method we aim to copy, making it easier to serve multiple customers with piping hot pizza. As we sat eating under the covered awning the little white tourist train went by. It claimed to show you the whole of Cannes in less than an hour, so after our meal we set out to find where it left from.
The train left at the point where the older port of Cannes meets the Croissant, a curving boulevard following the curve of the bay along which the big hotels and casinos set their facades. We took the Cinema tour, chose English for our headsets and listened as a gentlemanly voice identifyed the passing sights and in a gossipy commentary. Here was the Belle Époque hotel favoured by Liz Taylor and Princess Di, there the Arte Noveau edifice where Jude Law and Marion Cotillard chose to stay, at which point the voice of Edith Piaf serenaded us. Here was the famous Palm Beach casino, there the petanque courts sometimes graced by visiting film stars. Here Pierce Brosnan as James Bond had filmed sequences for Golden Eye, cue a long extract from Tina Turner. Then it was down the main shopping street to the strains of Madonna. It was a bit like being on a ride at Disney, though I’m not sure they had paid for all the music. We rattled back to the familiar harbour front, our driver fearless in the face of buses and pedestrians alike. John and I were amazed when he started up the climb to the citadel, little kiddie train turned funicular.
Up and up we climbed winding up the narrow streets passing parked cars with inches to spare, then with the carriages half way round a corner, the front end came to a halt. In front of the little white engine was a big white car, bedecked in ribbon. A wedding party, coming the other way, a man in full dress regalia came sauntering down the street, gesturing behind him. He seemed to think the train should reverse. Our driver turned his engine off, slowly he climbed out and stood. His shoulders relaxed down, his wrists rose, he shrugged the most Gallic of shrugs and turned to survey his string of tiny carriages arced round the corner, where the cars were double parked. Minutes passed. More men in dress suits came to have a look. Our driver in his jeans and T- shirt silently held his ground with the fatalistic look of a man who knew he had all three Fates aboard his train. The other men disappeared and the nose of the wedding car slowly backed away. Our man came back on board and started his engine; the commentary resumed as off we chugged up between the lines of parked cars into which wedding cars had been skewed at ungainly angles. As we passed the groom was walking downhill, waving cheerfully to us all. Further up the bride was cowering from him in another small car, she also waved at the train. It was all very cheerful. At the top the train swung round the yard and came to a halt in front of the church, pink confetti blowing across the entrance. The driver called down the line that we had ten minutes. He went to have a drink at the water fountain and other men hanging around there were clearly teasing him about the stand off, for he briefly grinned and struck a muscle man pose.
We had a brief look in the church before the recovered wedding party started to arrive and park up in front of the train. A group of young men were lifting long oars from the roof of an estate car and carrying them into the church. As a train full of folk ducked in and out of the church and climbed about the ramparts opposite it snapping the panoramic views more wedding guests assembled on foot. Our ten minutes were up before the bride arrived. I expect she was now waiting in the big wedding car for the train to pass back down the same narrow street of closely parked residents. At least some sort of one way system operated in the immediate surroundings of the church and we were able to resume our circuit and rejoin the madness of the two way, double parked street. The trains run up and down it every half hour and judging by the confetti, weddings are also pretty regular on a Saturday. The rest of our tour passed without incident, we trundled along the marina front, past the Hotel Splendide, which didn’t even merit a mention and were bid a fond farewell by our commentator as we came to a halt. John and I wandered back past the front of the main cinema, where the paving stones carry the handprints of stars.