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Travel: Film-star chic and glamour in Cannes’ oasis of calm

© ROMERO_Jean-FrancoisThe beach club-style restaurant at Barrière Le Majestic.
The beach club-style restaurant at Barrière Le Majestic.

We arrived on the stroke of midnight. Outside, the chilly air gently moved the towering palm trees but inside the Barrière Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes, the welcome was as warm as a Mediterranean summer.

Half way between Nice and Saint-Tropez in the shimmering French Riviera, Cannes is the glittering jewel in the crown. Barrière Le Majestic’s glamorous lobby, like the famous town itself, was lit by the “stars”, in the hotel’s case huge sparkling displays of gold and white star-shaped lights suspended from the ceiling.

First impressions are that the hotel has elegance, luxurious charm, and is a tranquil oasis of calm amidst the bustle of Cannes.

Barrière Le Majestic is a chic hotel built in 1926 with an art deco style on the famous Boulevard de la Croisette, a two kilometre-long promenade lined with palm trees that runs along the golden Mediterranean sands.

La Croisette, one of France’s most famous streets, is known for the Palais de Festivals, the celebrated venue of the Cannes Film Festival, just metres from the hotel, and is lined with designer stores: Gucci, Armani, Valentino, Hermès and many more.

The hotel, which celebrates its centenary in two years’ time, has 305 rooms, including 23 individually designed luxury suites – the most expensive costing €40,000 per night.

The long-standing union between Le Majestic and the film industry is reflected in the Mélodie Suite, where photographs of the celebrated French movie Mélodie en Sous Sol are displayed and where the movie was filmed. The two-bedroomed suite has a living area and a unique arched window with views of the Mediterranean.

The grand Barrière Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes.
The grand Barrière Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes.

Barrière Le Majestic has been a trusted partner of the Cannes Film Festival since 1946 and the hotel has hundreds of photographs of celebrities, royalty and filmmakers on display around the hotel, all of whom have stayed. During the festival, the population of Cannes (usually around 77,000) swells to more than 150,000, and Barrière Le Majestic, the closest hotel to the festival venue, prepares for full capacity. Celebrities, film stars, producers and filmmakers flock to the hotel to prepare for their red carpet moment. Palm trees lit up and La Croisette lined with paparazzi, film enthusiasts and fans waiting to catch a glimpse of their idols, the festival begins.

Can you imagine? Beautiful suites with spectacular views of the sparkling Mediterranean and the Palais de Festivals, bustling with glam teams of make-up artists and stylists preparing their celebrity clients for one of the most important film industry events of the year. The atmosphere electric with anticipation, champagne flowing, nerves on edge and a unique opportunity for fashion designers to show their creations to millions of viewers worldwide. All under the eye of the experienced and attentive hotel staff.

In contrast, every day in the hotel feels calm and welcoming, with “bonjour” and a smile from every staff member. Everyone seems to enjoy their work and no request is too much. The guests are diverse; holidaying families with young children (there’s a kids club and a heated outdoor pool), ladies with little dogs, couples on romantic date nights, family celebrations, and discreet businessmen and women meeting in the foyer. There is a constant ebb and flow of guests who the reception staff are happy to talk to and greet with a warm smile.

The hotel has many facilities, among them the renowned Fouquet’s brasserie, the Paradiso Restaurant, with menus featuring dishes from Italian specialities. BFire La Plage restaurant on the beach, and Mademoiselle Gray Plage Barrière, my favourite.

The latter is a chic beach club-style restaurant, a pebble’s throw from the hotel, where we enjoyed a sunny brunch overlooking the blue sea and golden sand dunes, and chose from a huge menu of produce straight from the market and the sea. With a glass of chilled rosé in hand from the extensive Champagne and wine list, we tucked into Labneh with asparagus and zaatar, chef’s own soda bread, and the freshest seabream in tahini sauce, beans, citrus fruit and pine nuts – absolutely delicious. One of the most mouth-watering meals we sampled during our stay.

There’s also a luxurious cinema room for private screenings and 16 convention and meeting rooms.

The highlight of many wonderful experiences on our trip was meeting Nicolas Maugard, head pastry chef of the hotel. He is originally from Normandy and a keen gardener in his time off. We walked in the warmth of the spring sunshine to the local market in the bustling old town region of Le Suquet, surrounded by elegant balconied apartments, coffee drinkers enjoying the sun in the many cafes, and only a few minutes from the hotel.

There we saw on display an amazing variety of local fruit and vegetables all grown within 5km of the town. We sampled freshly made deep-fried courgette flowers from a market vendor, then headed back to the hotel pastry kitchen to enjoy a masterclass, with Chef Nicolas making mango panna cotta topped with fresh strawberries from the market.

It’s hard to believe that this tiny pastry kitchen is where all the sweet delicacies are prepared for the hotel’s restaurants, beach restaurants and room service, and also often catering for up to 2,000 guests at events. We parted with personalised aprons, a lovely souvenir of our culinary adventure and a memory to cherish.

Private pool at one of the hotel's high-end suites. © Fabrice Rambert
Private pool at one of the hotel’s high-end suites.

Next on to the roof. Yes, the hotel has a wonderful roof garden where Emanuele Balestra, the hotel’s bars director, passionately grows and tends his beehives, insect hotels and botanicals, such as basil, lavender, verbena, rhubarb and rose geranium, plants collected from the four corners of the world.

Early in the morning he delicately collects each leaf and flower which, behind the scenes in his laboratory, he transforms into gels, ice cubes and edible scent sprays, the perfect essences for creating cocktails. Emanuele’s passion for nature is palpable and his energy infectious. We sampled some of his delicious cocktails in The Bar Galerie du Fouquet’s, served in uniquely shaped glasses designed by him, a world-renowned mixologist.

Still a magnet for the rich and famous, Cannes attracts over three million visitors every year. It has a much more relaxed way of life than the northern French cities and boasts 150 days of sunshine.

The sea seems more blue, the sun brighter, the food tastier, the Champagne more bubbly and the people happier than any other place on earth. Barrière de la Majestic, this magical hotel, reflects all of this in its people, services and attitude.

P.S. In 1939, the government decided to create an International Film Festival and Cannes was chosen as the venue thanks to its sunny skies and delightful location. The first festival was held here in 1946 when, after years of war, the atmosphere was relaxed and movie stars flocked to the resort.


For more information on Barrière Le Majestic Hotel in Cannes, call 033 4 92 98 77 00 or email: