July 2, 2013

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Sorry for the vanishing act, and extra apologies for the terrible French puns in the title but I avoided temptation to do any the entire week I was away, and so my self restraint is threadbare. As I mentioned I spent last week in Cannes, working at the Cannes Craft Festival which involved attending the amazing seminars (and sharing oxygen/a room with Vivienne Westwood AND Lou Reed), my first ever TED talk, workshops around the future of advertising; including making a time capsule with predictions of what the world and industry will look like in 2033 (and yes, people are STILL obsessed with flying cars. 2033 will be like the Jetsons apparently. I do really like Judy Jetson’s dress sense though…) and then there were the parties. As so much of my work is public facing, I had a very different Cannes to the rose-swilling, champagne popping week of hedonism perhaps some experience, which meant I could actually take a little time to explore when I got the odd ten minute break to shovel a sandy crepe into my mouth on the beach!

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I’m embarrassed to admit I was SO busy and health-distracted in the lead-up to leaving that when we landed in Nice airport (from which you drive or… helicopter! into Cannes) I actually had a creeping realisation that I had no idea where in France Cannes actually was. It felt quite disorientating not to even be able to imagine myself on a map or a globe. I didn’t even know if I was in North or South; probably a very accurate demonstration of why it was a good thing I quit Geography AS Level after 3 weeks. It wasn’t until I was back in England that I took a look and was shocked how close to Italy I had been. I’ve never been to Italy and it’s one of those places I feel I really should have visited by now and have even had vague plans to on various occasions that have fallen through. One day!

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I don’t know what exactly I expected from Cannes. It isn’t somewhere I’d have ever visited by choice; a real perk of having an international job is you get to lucky dip on travelling to places you haven’t pondered over and selected yourself. I thought it would be a bit Dubai-ish, vibrant colours and oozing with wealth. This may be true on La Croisette; the main “strip”. The road run right through Cannes along the seafront, and is packed with hotels, designer clothes boutiques and every beach is privately owned by hotels and inaccessible to the general public. If you want to get sandy, only the beaches at the far end each side of La Croisette are a free for all. Then there’s the yachts… I’ve never been on a yacht. I’ve never even really given yachts much thought, but when faced with rows of these immaculate creations bobbing around in the big blue, they looked so appealing and I developed a week long case of raging yacht-envy. I warmed to La Croisette, it has a kitsch feeling of a town that has slightly passed its glory days. In Las Vegas, I was far more drawn towards seedy Old Town, than spangly New Town, and Cannes had the same appeal. Everything is decadent, but feels ever so slightly dated. Ghosts of times gone by where Cannes was the ultimate in high-life still lurk  in the air. It’s a strange town as it exists so much for these international conferences, festivals and events; it would be interesting to visit at an off-season time and compare.

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There is no denying that Cannes is a ticklist of beautiful; blue sky, pristine beaches, sunshine, a horizon of mountains, palm trees and piers. Even though I spent most of it running around in a fretful sweat or deep inside a cavernous conference centre, it was lovely to take a moment each morning just to drink in the views. Mid-week I worked hosting a villa party, in the actual villa that Brad Pitt had his stag do/bachelor party. Which if you blur the lines, basically means I partied at Brad Pitt’s house. Right? I had another first here as I’ve never stepped foot in a villa before, and like with yachts am now curiously obsessed with them. I’m not sure the definition between villa and… mansion, but I think it’s the pool and the sea view. Either way, I can imagine that piling a bunch of your friends and an inflatable crocodile into one for a weekend away would be the best fun.

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No dips in the pool for me, as I’m too much of a mother hen and was clucking around ensuring there was no broken glass / bare feet scenarios and topping up my exotic “sunglasses tree”! I know I can hardly get all woe-is-me but I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder than my week in Cannes. My alarm twittered away at 6am and I staggered into bed at 4am for two nights running. On the most gruelling 20 hour day, I hadn’t eaten a single meal until 11pm and when myself and my colleagues found somewhere still serving food; the food came with a side of man playing I Will Always Love You on the electric violin at 1000 decibels! It was the sort of scenario that when you are exhausted, delirious and starving, makes or breaks you. Luckily, as we waited an excruciating 90 minutes for our COLD starters, we found the funny side and the sound levels kept us from falling asleep into our plates. I also tried my first snail! Although it had no garlic butter so tasted very gravelly and well, of dirt, to my very unrefined taste buds. I liked the special plucking tool though.

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In all honesty I don’t think I’d go to central Cannes on holiday. It’s very expensive, nigh on impossible to get around without a car (taxis are a rare beast, and very expensive, and very unpredictable about if they’ll even take you if you flag one down!) but the hills and outskirts of Cannes might be worth a re-visit. On my last night, I pottered out as far as my lead-legs would take me and found some quaint back streets of locals drinking campari, and an old lonely lighthouse flickering out at sea.

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I have to confess that on my last night in Cannes, I snuck out early from the party I was guest-listed for and after my quick neighbourhood exploration… I darted back to my hotel room, pulled on my PJs and ordered the most obscene amount of room service (YOLO!) and proceeded to watch the entire series of The Fall on my ipad before falling asleep stuffed full of Croque Madame and Tart aux Pommes. This was actually one of my highlights of the week, as I knew my work was so nearly done and that the week had been a success. I also LOVED having Gillian Anderson back in my life, with her quaint Brit accent!

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And now I am back in England, with my feet firmly on the floor. In the past 6 months I have been on an aeroplane in all but one of them. I don’t plan to jet anywhere until August now, and that’s just a nip over the sea to Belfast for a wedding.  So life should be a bit more London-normal now that I’ve stopped my gallivanting. I just want to say THANK YOU to every lovely text, comment, tweet and gesture after my last bad news post. I was really moved by just how many thoughtful folk said generous things and I’m in a much better brain-space because of it. Also, I was just catching up with season 6 of Mad Men (no spoilers, I’m 2 away from the finale) and JOAN HOLLOWAY has a cyst on her ovary! And basically I would do/have anything if it means being vaguely closer to her holyness, so that cheered me up no end. We are officially cysters.

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