This morning we have arrived in a new destination. Although Roisin and I have been to France many times before, we have never visited Cannes, on the French Riviera. Home to many famous artists through the ages such as Claude Monet and, in his later years, Pablo Picasso who are supposed to have been inspired by the vivid colours and clean fresh air of the region. Where Picasso is concerned I'm not too sure that it would have mattered where he got his inspiration from whether it was sitting on top of a gas works, in a cave or in an igloo, I’m sure the results would have been the same.
Nowadays Cannes is most famous for its annual film festival where it is chic for the rich and famous to be seen promoting their latest movie or advertising their availability.
Cannes was originally called 'cane harbour’ by the Romans because of the abundance of reeds in nearby marshes.
Cannes is the only tender port we visit on this trip. This means that the harbour is not built to accommodate a cruise ship or the waters of the natural harbour are too shallow. We were due to remain in port until 6pm so there was no urgency to leave the ship despite, after clearance granted, the first tender ashore was shortly after 8am.
The tender only took 10 minutes to the quay. En route we could see quite clearly the island of Sainte Marguerite lying a few miles off shore. This is where Cardinal Richelieu built a fortress in the early 1600s that was later used as a prison to incarcerate the mysterious Man in the Iron Mask who figures in the Dumas novel of the same name.
Most of the tours were heading off for Nice or Monte Carlo. Deciding to stay around Cannes, we decided that the best way to see the resort is by the Little Train or to give it its correct title, Le Petit Train! As the name suggests it is a miniature train that runs on the road around the streets of Cannes taking in all the major sights. Head phones are made available on which you can listen to a commentary in any of 6 languages.
The train took us down the main coast road Blvd de la Croisette where we passed such iconic hotels as the Carlton, the Majestic and La Malmaison. It is said that the Majestic hotel is where Grace Kelly met Prince Albert of Monaco. My question is what was the Prince doing in a hotel in Cannes anyway? He only lived about 20 miles down the road. Less than an hours drive!! If I had the choice between a hotel room and the Royal Palace I know where I’d choose. Perhaps he rented out his palace during Formula 1 weekend to some people more famous than he and had to disappear for the duration so he took a hotel in nearby Cannes. That’s how he met Grace Kelly!! Fate eh!! What’s meant to be! Just like if she had never met the Prince, it is unlikely she would be speeding around the steep mountain roads of the cote d’Azur in a sports car!!! As I said, ‘fate’, what’s meant to be!!!
During this early part of the ride, we noticed that many of the roads had diversions with traffic cops guiding vehicles away from the main streets. We learned later that the roads had been cleared to make way for the arrangements of a State Indian Wedding. From another source we were told that preparations were being made for an Arab wedding and the local authority was paid to close certain roads. I personally think that neither of these reasons are true which leaves only one other explanation as to why traffic cones littered the Cannes highways and by-ways. The same reason they litter the roads and streets of most countries in the world…to piss motorists off!!!
After rounding the small peninsula passing the Palm Beach Casino, the train doubled back taking the higher road where, the commentary stated, all top designer shops are situated. Since when have ‘Claire’s Accessories’ and Accessorize’ been top designer shops??
The final leg of the 1-hour tour took us atop Le Suquet. This is the highest part of the old town and has a great vantage point over the rest of Cannes and beyond. Le Petite train stopped here for 8 minutes in order that passengers could alight and take photos. The church by which the train came to rest is called Notre Dame de L’Esperance and has an imposing clock tower. Roisin was quick to point out that in this area of France all clock faces tend to be given names. Apparently the one we were now looking at was called Brian!!! (see photo!!)
It would have been nice to wander back to some of the places by foot but due to spending time in McDonalds to use their free wi-fi. (very slow but at least we weren’t paying for the privilege of a crap service!!) we didn’t have enough time.
We took the tender back to the ship. As we approached the Royal Princess, I could see our path was blocked by a tender already alongside so we had to wait for this one to move before we could dock.
The engines were cut on our vessel and the tender started to drift. It turned so it was crossing the tide side on. The wake started to gently rock the tender. The rocking didn’t stop. It got worse and worse. The rocking became more violent. There is room on these tenders for about 20 people to sit outside on the top deck. We were 2 of the 20 people sitting outside!! The vessel must have been pitching at east 30 degrees. A few people started screaming. Roisin’s whole body became rigid as she grabbed hold of a hand rail with one stretched out arm and part of the hatch with the other. There was a distinct look of terror in her eyes. After what seemed an age, the boat gradually regained its composure and settled back to a gentle bobbing motion. This probably felt a lot worse than it was but using other ‘tender’ experiences as a benchmark, our experience on this occasion was anything but tender!!!
Tonight on the Royal was 70s night. Not sure we would be up for the music bit as last time we attended a 70s night aboard the Island Princes, somebody forgot to tell the organisers that the 70s began before 1976!!! However, the evening started with a 70s trivia name that acoustic tune. This comprised of David playing an intro on his Ovation acoustic guitar and Dan, the Deputy Cruise Director acted as compare and quiz master. Dan is a naturally funny guy and reminds me of a young Eric Morecambe in his mannerisms and timing. None of our day time chums attended this so it was Roisin and I against the world…the World won!!! It was a lot of fun. Each team was given a number, answers were then written on the slips of paper provided then running down to the front of the theatre to hand the answer in. I got a special mention when I wrote that the artist who sang Tears in Heaven was that relatively unknown half-wit brother to ‘Slow Hand’: Eric Clampton. We mightn’t have won but it was the best workout I’d had in years!!!
It was turning out to be a good night. The show in the Princess theatre was also very entertaining. Jimmy Tamley, a ventriloquist act, was extremely funny and original with his Granddad puppet and then followed by a full length puppet, the boxer. Half way through the boxer routine, a string snapped that enabled the boxer to throw punches. I suspect that this was part of the act but impeccable timing and script made it sound like ad libbiing.
Jimmy Tamley was then followed by West End Singer Paul Barker. Her proceeded to sing some classics from various musicals. A truly talented singer, even his ‘I dreamed a dream’ from hit musical ‘Les Miserables was enough to give even SuBo a run for her money!!!
The theatre was packed to the rafters. This was the 10:30pm performance making my previous comments regarding the half empty seats at the same time performance for the comedian several days before pretty redundant. It must have had nothing to do with the time and more to do with entertainment!!
Back in our cabin approaching midnight, Roisin had just clambered in to bed to read and I had just opened my net book to record notes of the day’s events when ‘click’ all the lights went out!! My first thought was that we had forgotten to put our key card in the slot by the door. This is a similar process that many hotels have adopted to conserve energy. Electricity in the cabin is shut down unless the key card is inserted completing the electrical circuit. OK, science lesson over, I check the slot and key card was intact. I headed back to my netbook and typed ‘Lidgrs piyf h]d’ thus demonstrating that I can’t type without looking!! It should have read ‘Lights went out’. I got the ‘L right’ and the space bar!!
I heard Roisin say, ‘I can’t hear the engines and the air con’ has also stopped’. I fumbled my way to the cabin door and opened it. I popped by head out. The passage way was brightly lit so the power outage seemed to be contained to the cabins. I notices Cletus, the slack jawed yokel from the cabin next door had also popped his head out confirming that the blackout wasn’t just contained within our cabin.
As I came back in Roisin was already half way dressed. (I think she was, It was pitch black!!
‘‘Let’s go to Horizon court. I’m surprised the captain hasn’t made an announcement.’
‘Perhaps he’s waiting until he’s safely in the lifeboat,’ I quipped.
Roisin didn’t see the funny side!
As we headed for the cabin door, the lights and power seemed to return to normal.
I still can’t hear or feel the engines’, said Roisin as we headed up to deck 16.
The crew we encountered en route to Horizon Court were going about their normal duties so whatever happened couldn’t have been serious. Since this incident I have asked Davide, the head waiter if he could find out. So far he hasn’t or if he has, he is not telling us. He says that perhaps it is testing before we head out across the Atlantic. My theory is that someone in the engine room (probably the Grease Monkey) has been on night shift, got bored, and thought to himself, ‘Ooh, I wonder what this button does!!!’