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Thanks to a sunny, mild Mediterranean climate, Cannes has been attracting sophisticated sun-seekers for well over a century now as the unofficial capital of France’s famed Cote d’Azur. This week, however, the city is the site of the world’s most important annual film festival—the winner from last year, The Artist, went on to garner several Oscars including for best picture. The stars are out in Cannes even when the sun is shining.
So if you’re not in the South of France this week hobnobbing with the glitterati of Hollywood and world cinema aboard Paul Allen’s yacht we decided to feature Cannes as this week’s Destination of the Week since it’s a top-rated destination all summer and fall long…and one where you can earn and burn your points in high style.
Destination of the Week pieces are not meant to be comprehensive guides to destinations since we don’t have the time or funds to visit all these places in person and report back to you. Nor are they endorsements of all the hotels we mention. They are simply roundups of top destinations that we have specifically pinpointed for the opportunity they present to use your miles and points to get to and stay there. As always, we welcome your comments to help enrich the content here, provide opinions and first-hand experiences of these destinations.
Well, of course, if you can get tickets to the events of the Cannes Film Festival (not to mention hotel reservations, which are harder to come by than a Willy Wonka golden ticket!), you won’t find a gathering of filmmakers and stars of this caliber anywhere else. You might consider just coming into town for a day during the festival and seeing if you can score a last-minute ticket to a screening at the Cinephiesticket booth near the Palais des Festivals where most of the major events are. See what’s playing here.
But apart from the two weeks in May that the festival takes place, there’s still plenty to see and do here…as well as gorgeous beaches to relax on and take in the salubrious sea air.
If you do want to sit on the beach, the place to see and be seen is right in front of Cannes’ famous mile-long promenade, La Croisette, where you’ll find many of the city’s most famous hotels and restaurants. A spot on the beach here will cost you between 15-30 euros for the day, though, so bring some extra spending cash with you, and your most fashionable bathing suit.
You can also spend a lovely morning wandering the alleys of the Old Town, Le Suquet, and the Vieux Port (the old port) in the center of town along rue St-Antoine where the original Roman settlement was founded and where you can find small shops purveying Provençal souvenirs, as well as lots of little cafes. Up on top of one of the old city’s hills is La Castre, a medieval castle and museum overlooking the Croisette and the bay with a hodgepodge collection of antiquities and fine arts, as well as paintings of the local landscapes. The reason to come is definitely the view, though.
Wander back down to the waterfront to admire the boats moored in the Vieux Port (the Old Port) and consider catching a ferry from the Gare Maritime des Iles to the Iles de Lerins, a group of four small islands, fifteen minutes away by boat off the coast. One has a maritime museum, and another has a working monastery that you can visit. The islands also have walking trails, forests and sandy beaches.
The Malmaison is a 19th-century mansion that has been converted into an art gallery, and there are usually interesting special exhibits on display.
Cannes is located about 20 miles from Nice Côte d’Azur Airport. Delta is the only US airline that serves Nice directly from the US, and offers seasonal to service to New York-JFK. Most of the European carriers such as Lufthansa, Air France/KLM, Alitalia, Iberia, and Swiss all serve Nice as well, so if you have your miles in another alliance or on another airline, you could connect in one of their hub cities on the way.
Another option to get to Nice from the US is to first fly to London Heathrow on your preferred carrier, then use British Airways Avios points to redeem an intra-Europe award ticket to Nice. Since British Airways awards are based on distance, a flight from London to Nice would only be 4,500 Avios. American Express is currently running its 50% transfer bonus to Avios until May 31 so for 3,000 American Express Membership Rewards Points, you can get a one-way ticket from London to Nice.
Of course, there are glamorous properties all along the Cote d’Azure, but you’ll still find a few great choices where you can earn and use hotel points with the major brands.
Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso: Located at the edge of the old quarter of Cannes, known as Le Suquet, this hotel boasts 134 guest rooms and suites. The rooms offer views of the Old Harbor, the hotel gardens, or the new city. Guest rooms are decorated in classic French style but offer modern amenities such as plasma TV’s, free high speed internet access (a Radisson Blu hallmark), mini bars, and Nespresso coffee machines. The hotel is home to the Les Thermes Marins de Cannes, which is the hotel’s spa and wellness center, and has indoor and outdoor saltwater pools, a sauna, Caldarium, and a fitness center. The main restaurant is Le 360, which is located on the rooftop terrace and offers panoramic views of the Old Town and the bay of Cannes. Rates in May begin at 260 EUR a night or 50,000 Gold Points.
JW Marriott Cannes: This five-star hotel is located on the former site of the Palais des Festivals. It is the only luxury hotel on the Croisette in Cannes that has a rooftop terrace with a swimming pool. The hotel has 261 rooms located on 6 floors and most of the rooms offer beach or sea views. The rooms are equipped with LCD TV’s with premium cable, high-speed internet access, large work desks and plentiful natural lighting. In addition to the rooftop pool and whirlpool, there is a full-service fitness center. The JW Grill Cannes is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant specializing in American steak as well as seafood. There is also a casino onsite. Rates in May begin at 359 EUR. This is a Marriott Category 8 property, and requires 40,000 Marriott Rewards Points (35,000 with PointSavers) for a free-night redemption.
Hotel Ambassadeur: Located in the heart of tony Juan-les-Pins, a 5-mile drive from Cannes, this hotel offers 221 renovated guest rooms including 25 suites. The rooms have a contemporary aesthetic with teak-wood décor, private balconies and flatscreen TV’s. This five-star hotel has an indoor heated pool and outdoor pool (open seasonally), as well as a fitness room, sauna and a business center. The dining outlets include Bar Le Lautrec, Le Cezanne and Terrace, and the Les Palmiers Grill. This hotel is currently finishing the last of its renovations and will be completely done on May 31, 2012. Rates in May begin at 299 EUR. The hotel does not list a Marriott Rewards property and we tried booking rooms out to October to find how many points it would take, but the option does not seem to be available here. Has anyone booked a room here using points?
InterContinental Carlton Cannes: Built in 1911, this landmark hotel is located right on the famous La Croisette across from the beach and near the Cannes Palais des Festivals and shopping district. This hotel has 343 guest rooms including 39 suites. However, the hotel will be under going a complete renovation and will be closed from August 30, 2012 through February 28, 2014, so if you want to stay there, you’d better get your reservation in for this summer, otherwise you’ll be in for a wait! The expected completion is supposed to be in October 2014. Rates in May start at 252 EUR or 50,000 Priority Club points.
Le Meridien Nice: Located on the Mediterranean Sea in Nice, this hotel’s 318 guest rooms were recently refurbished in 2010 in a more contemporary style. The rooms have plush pillows and duvets, white shutters on the windows, 32-inch flatscreen TV’s, and high-speed internet access. The hotel has a rooftop swimming pool, a business center, fitness center and access to one of the 15 private beaches located along the Promenade des Anglais. All day dining is served in the hotel’s Mediterranean restaurant, Le Colonial Café. While this hotel is located about 20 miles outside of Cannes, for those wanting to redeem Starpoints it is a good option. Rates in May start at 199 EUR a night, 12,000 Starpoints or 4,800 Starpoints + $90 since this is a Category 5 property.
Hotel Martinez: Built in 1929, this five-star property is situated right on La Crosiette and has 409 guestrooms and suites. The Art Deco-style guest rooms have free WiFi, flatscreen televisions, and feature marble bathrooms. The hotel’s restaurant is the two-Michelin-star Palme d’Or restaurant, while it also has an L. Raphael Spa, a 24-hour fitness center, pool and private beach. Rates in May begin at 225 EUR a night. While there are no point-redeeming options here, this hotel is part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card members, where cardholders are eligible for a room upgrade, inclusive continental breakfast, 4pm late check out and a 85 EUR resort credit.
Majestic Barriere: Also located on La Crosiette facing the Mediterranean, this hotel offers 265 rooms, 84 suites and two penthouses. This hotel just completed an extensive renovation, and in addition to the hotel’s U SPA Barrière, there is an outdoor heated pool, fitness center, and a private white sand beach. The hotel has several restaurants and bars including Fouquet’s Cannes and La Petite Maison de Nicole. Rates in May begin at 240 EUR a night for a classic room. This hotel is also part of the Fine Hotels and Resorts exclusive for American Express Platinum Card holders, where you can get a room upgrade, daily breakfast, 4pm late check out and a complimentary lunch or dinner for two.
Of course, the real movers and shakers at Cannes have their harried assistants reserve rooms and suites at the Hotel du Cap Eden Roc, a landmark property in the exclusive seaside hamlet of Cap d’Antibes ,which has been welcoming A-list clients for 140 years now. Of course, you might end up paying a fortune for a room the size of a broom closet, but you might run into Brangelina hanging by the pool, so never say never!