The aristocrat of La Croisette.
Cannes has a handful of outrageously luxurious hotels but the Carlton is the point of reference, and has been since 1911. You can’t really go higher. When you win the film festival’s Best Actress Award, I’ll expect you to be staying here.
It exults in marble pillars, crystal, garden-sized flower arrangements, art and wrought iron finery – and that’s just the lobby and stairway.
Though it looks nothing like one really, the Carlton always reminds me of a Habsburg palace. Dominating the prom, it’s the sort of place from which arch-dukes should be issuing forth. And the recent (April 2011) take-over of the hotel by Lebanese businessman Toufic Aboukhater should add to its lustre. Previous owners, the real estate arm of bankers Morgan Stanley, had found themselves too cash-strapped to effect thorough renewal and planned extensions.
The two domes at either end are said, incidentally, to have been inspired by the breasts of La Belle Otéro, a turn-of-the-20th-century courtesan who bewitched our Edward VII, among a crowd of others. I’m puzzled. If her bosoms really were as conical as that, then she must have had a damned good seamstress.
But let us continue. Beyond the great, creamy-columned portal the opulence is laid on so thick that on my first visit - years ago, when I was young, broke and brittle – I dashed from the place, overpowered.
I have changed and so has the Carlton. It could still welcome the heirs of Croesus (and regularly does) but there’s a new lightness about the marble, chandeliers and open spaces big enough to swallow a small nation.
Renovation has given most rooms a style billed as “1950s Hollywood glamour”. And if that means a plump and graceful feminine feel throughout, then they’ve got it right.
See and be seen
Certainly, in some suites, it would be little surprise to come across Bette Davis in a silk gown, with cigarette, glass of Scotch and piercing gaze. She’d doubtless have something cutting to say about the outstanding views.
Naturally, the Carlton now has the requisite fitness and wellness paraphernalia, Cannes’ best private beach with jetty, and a most agreeable restaurant, neo-colonial within and terrace without. The splendid bar also has what’s termed as a see-and-be-seen terrace. Tragically, of course, the people who want to be seen are rarely those you want to see.
No matter. This is Cannes’ premier address. Arrive here, and you’ve arrived.