Getting to Cannes is Half the Fun
Preparing for Cannes begins back in March: the train tickets, the apartment rental, the interview scheduling, not to mention the full-time work of dashing in every store in Paris to find the right chic “maille” (a sliver of a sweater, at 345 euros) and the right stockings as well as batteries for the camera.
The biggest challenge : the bike: I use my bike at Cannes, but trains in France are un-bike friendly. One Cannes, I even had to seduce a passing bartender for his bungee-cord ability, to get that bike on the train (another story).
But this year, it all seemed set. Ticket purchased for the bike, months in advance. Bags packed. A leisurely two hour swim and sauna planned before the train the next day….
Until I checked my ticket.
June 16th? I checked my calendar. It’s May. The Cannes festival is in May, not June.
The woman at the SNCF had sold me the wrong ticket.
The problem was not the nonrefundable ticket. Every train, bus and plane to Cannes was booked solid for the next two weeks.
The only option was to bike to Cannes from Paris, with all my luggage. But I would get there by the time the festival was over. Miss my interview with Wes Anderson at four pm.
And Eugene would be waiting!
Eugene was the American producer I was sharing the apartment with this year. We didn’t know each other. Eugene would be waiting on the quai for the key to the apartment, expecting me to arrive with the night train.
There goes Cannes. And poor Eugene!
The panic, I admit, led to major heart palpitations, but at the end of the day, it was not cancer, I thought: just a loss of professional opportunities, a few thousand euros, and my home (my own apartment was rented out).
Before the sun rose, I called my lawyer friend Caroline. The kindest direct woman in the world. Nobody cannot not love Caroline. Not even the SNCF train employees could not be taken by her sincere goodwill.
“Will you deal with SNCF for me?” I whispered, as she was waking up.
An hour later she had convinced the train company to sell me the last available ticket ever existing to Cannes.
“Leaving in two hours,” Caroline said. “Can you make it?”
“No problem,” I said, cancelling my leisurely swim
But the train did not take bikes.
I would make it take bikes. I zipped over to Gare St Lazare and begged a hapless supervisor to write a little note with a “stamp” on it to ask the train conductor to take my bike.
I knew how important that little “stamp” was in France.
There, stamped! My friend Riccardo came, running his fastest down the street, and he lugged the heavy luggage to the metro, while I biked across Paris to Gare de Lyon..
Just in time!
The conductor looked at the Stamp. “Sure,” she said with a smile. “Take the bike! Just don’t get it in the way!’
I luckily had two chains and locks, and locked it lengthwise ‘out of the way’ to the ceiling….
All was well, or so it seemed. Time for champagne, and to make friends with a little four year old French boy next to me who excitedly told me how many toys his grandmother had at her house, and how he liked building with Leggos. “You cannot make airplanes with leggos!” he waved his head forcefully as he got off the train. “But you can, Madame, make cars!”
Next stop Cannes!
Now to meet Eugene on the Quai. How kind of him! He would help me with my luggage.
But no Eugene.
Let’s call Eugene!
But no cell phone. I had lost it on the train.
I was stuck on the Quai. Not really, as I found two British boys to carry my bike and luggage up the stairs, then found Eugene, a slight grinning elderly gentleman standing outside overwhelmed with his luggage. He stood fixed in place with incredible patience as I rushed around dealing with my lost phone, and finding a taxi that would take him to the apartment, but not me, because I had the bike.
“See you soon!” I said. He taxied, and I biked.
The ride through Cannes was familiar: the rue d’Antibes, the women in long dresses, the girls laughing, the men with big cameras, the turn at the Pizza place, and then the long sweep of road along the sea, smelling of jasmine, that took me to the adjoining town five miles away….where I slipped down the ramp easily.
I had made it! Now just to meet Eugene and get the keys.
“Where could he be?” I asked the security agent at the residence. I could not call him as I lost my phone.
“Perhaps he is at the wrong address?” the Moroccan said kindly.
I found the slight 65 year old Eugene ably carrying all seven pieces of our collective luggage wandering in the dark in an alleyway,
“The taxi driver dropped me in some parking lot far from here,”: he said. “:The wrong place. Damn! Taxi drivers. You can never trust taxi drivers!”
“But wait till I show you our apartment. I rent the same kind every year. View on the sea! Look!” I shook the keys. “We’re just about there!”
Were we? We lugged all the luggage up the sixth floor for miles and miles of corridors to find Door 632.
“It seems very far,” says Eugene.
“I’ve never walked so far in my life,” I said.
“I just wish it wasn’t so dark! Those lights keep going off!”
I pressed a light switch with my hand. “Almost there!” I said. “But am a little curious which key it would be.”
Curious why there were 17 different keys, each different, with various numbers like 23 and 1801.
I tried every one of those keys. “No key works,” I said to Eugene.
Eugene shrugged. “Let me try,” he said.
I sat on the stairs, as he tried the 17 keys.
“Do you mind if I investigate?” I said.
Eugene waited in the dark while I went to check out the security guard, and every combination of keys and doors.
“We can sleep on the floor, I guess,” I said. “Although the rental agency is closed for two days, so it might be we are sleeping on the floor for a while.”
I wondered how I could wear my Cannes dresses while sleeping on the floor.
“It is a bit of a bummer,” Eugene ably said. “I did have meetings scheduled all day tomorrow beginning at 8…”
He ably lugged down all the luggage back to store it with the very kind security guard.
“But where is that lobby?” he said, as he strolled the mountain of luggage down yet another corridor.
“Hmm,” I said.
He smiled cheerily. “It’s good you know this place so well!”
“Oh yes, that’s good!” I said, as I led him down another wrong corridor. “:You do see the bright side of things!”
He pushed that luggage another winding corridor and another and another, and then we were stopped by stairs.
“I guess we made a mistake,” I said. “Let’s take the elevator back up, then down.”
We did it again, but all the luggage fell off, and then I finally led him through a door to the courtyard.
And another mile of paths to the lobby.
I ran to the lobby ahead of him, leaving cheerful Eugene pushing the ton of suitcases around the gardens.
“Back soon!” I said.
The security guard, with a pitying look, gave us some sheets.
“Don’t worry, we will be discreet, ” I told him. “I found a couple nice hallways to sleep in. All is good if we can leave the luggage with you in the lobby.”
I ran back to find Eugene winding around the garden, stooped as he pushed the bags.
“Oh great!” he said. “You found the lobby!”
“Oh yes,” I said. “Sorry to have made you walk so far…”
“It’s okay!” he said, as he rounded the suitcase trolly around a cactus. “Lots to discover here. I even found a pool!”
I tucked in Eugene on two chairs in the parking lot, feeling a little guilty for my hospitality, and then found a stairwell myself, where I made myself a little blanket with a washcloth (it was quite cold).
The next day we were installed in a penthouse with two balconies over a glittering sea. Then off to have a cocktail at the Yacht Club, with the pretty young woman who found my phone.
And that afternoon: the press conference with Wes.