Just a short boat ride from Cannes (France) one discovers the Island of Sainte-Marguerite. A few fishermen live here and there are only two restaurants. The place is frequented by tourists for its natural beauty but you find here also the historic Fort Royal. Not much, right? So why are so many writers and historians trying to digg up what actually happened on Sainte-Marguerite in the 17th century? Why the attention?
Those who read the Three Musketeers series by Alexandre Dumas know the answer. The last book of the trilogy The Vicomte of Bragelonne: Ten Years Later describes the twin brother of French King Louis XIV being a prisoner who was forced to wear an iron mask so that his identity could never be revealed. He spent several years behind bars on Sainte-Marguerite and his cell still exists.
However, French King Louis XIV is only one of many theories. The French poet Voltaire describe the Man in the Iron Mask as the illegitimate half-brother of Louis XIV. Other names have been mentioned, including the father of Louis XIV and the son of Oliver Cromwell. Historians continue digging, writers and movie producers continue bringing the story to a mass audience. Remember Randall Wallace’s movie The Man in the Iron Mask from 1998 where Leonardo DiCaprio plays both King Louis XIV and his identical twin brother Philippe? It was also filmed here on the island.
In reality, nobody really knows the name of the person hidden behind the mask. Was he a nobleman who went afoul of the King, a general who failed in battle?
What can we say? It seems impossible to explain in a blog post all the history, glamour and numerous stories associated with one of the most recognized names in the business – Hotel Martinez on La Croisette in Cannes. Here enter the Sam and the dunes team earlier this summer with Sam embarrassingly barking his head off. Polite faces turn, forced smiles from the staff, “Welcome to Martinez!” Personally shown to the room, water bowl brought for our four-legged friend, impeccable, absolutely impeccable.
Martinez has the biggest private beach in Cannes; the fourth most expensive suite in the world; one of the best restaurants in France and if you really want to show off, book a sun-bed on the pier for a hefty 450 Euros per day. After some tough hours at the beach, get a treatment at L. Raphael Beauty Spa to tip off your afternoon before heading over to Bar L’Amiral. Jimmy McKissic no longer plays here (Alex knew him well and these days he is a classical pianist at Carnegie Hall in New York) but the crowd is as boisterous as always. Jazz and Blues rule and cocktails flow by the gallons.
The stories never end, who did what during this or that Film Festival, celebrities going crazy and the rich indulging in everything available. With Bentleys, Ferraris and Rolls Royces constantly parked outside (just a reminder who tends to frequent Hotel Martinez), this place is visibly a goldmine for paparazzi and tabloids.
One thing, though, some of the rooms have not been refurbished for a long time so make sure to check if yours is of the new type (the old ones are OK, but not really up to the standards of this hotel).
Will we come back? You bet! (Not you, Sam, this was the last time you stayed in a five star hotel. Period.) Hotel Martinez is a one of a kind experience that you cannot match anywhere else.
Here are some photos of us enjoying Hotel Martinez.
If you are the type who ventures into the city in the middle of the day, sweating buckets, looking for that bargain hotdog stand – stop reading now! However, if your understanding of a pleasant lunch is a glass of chilled Chablis, some exquisite food, all located a few steps from your sun-bed, then go no further, here is your ultimate guide to the best beach restaurants in Cannes.
These three places have many things in common: mouth-watering food, eye-watering prices, efficient if a bit slow service (but then again, who is in a hurry). Every summer during the fireworks festival they offer additional seating so you can view the spectacular show while chewing on a shrimp.
Miramar Plage is probably the best of the lot that caters both lunch and dinner in a pleasant setting. The food is top-end gourmet including some outstanding seafood. The wine list is extensive but avoid asking the waiter for advice, he will point you to the most exuberantly over-priced bottle and if you are as polite as Alex, you will end up buying it (poor fella). Rule of thumb: for White and Rosé pick between 30 and 60 Euros, go up slightly if you choose a Red.
Zplage Beach Restaurant, Hotel Martinez
Since we stayed at this hotel, most of the time we also ate lunch here. The food at Zplage is a concoction of traditional Mediterranean and Asian (woks are prominent on the menu). The dishes are somewhat bland, so if you are into spicy, this restaurant should not be your first choice (or ask for Tabasco, as we did). One of its claims to fame is a 54 Euro (appr. 70 USD) hamburger. We thought we found the most expensive one in Hotel La Mamounia in Marrakech, but no, this one outdoes it in price (and size). Here, Hanna recommends the shrimp wok and Alex – the Black Angus filet steak.
Carlton Beach Restaurant, Carlton Hotel
Probably the most luxurious of the three where the really glitzy crowd descends in the evening. Celebrities just can’t keep their hands and stomachs away from this place. The food, as expected, is reliably good as is the service and the ambiance. Carlton Beach Restaurant is the biggest, so during fireworks season you have a better chance of getting a table here at short notice than at the other two establishments.
Psst, between us, but keep it quiet, OK? We also went to a hotdog stand a couple of times on La Croisette. Try Le 6, top of the top. The best hotdog it town!
We haven’t published many stories about Sam recently and there is a very good reason for that. He just had surgery on his eyes. He is fine now but unfortunately he has to walk with a terribly ugly plastic collar around his neck in 40 degrees heat (in fashionable Cannes of all the places!). No wonder he irritably wanders off as soon as we pick up the camera. But there is one thing that always puts him in a good mood again – food. And he has already found his favorite restaurant, centrally located on La Croisette in Cannes. After his daily morning walks, this is the place you can be sure to find him, washing down a Sausage a la Naturelle with a bit of still water.