Quote From « The Olive Season » by Carol Drinkwater.

Posted by admin in The South of France | December 12th 2004

The south of France predominately Cannes, promotes itself as the California of Europe, the multilingual film centre of the world, at least for the fortnight when this, the most famous film festival in the world, unveils its latest package of stars and stars-in-the-ascendant. In the hills above Cannes, a kilometer or two away from our crumbling farm there is a residential quarter called La Californie, twinned with Hollywood which boasts some of the most expensive real estate in France, much of which is hidden behind tall, thickly fronded palm trees and equally tall, electrified iron gates. To rent a villa on that strip during the film festival can set one back something in the region of 5000 sterling a day.

Aside from this film festival, there are two television festivals held in Cannes, one in the spring, the other in autumn. There is a music festival in January, as well as festivals for the worlds of multiactive media, young aspiring actors, short films, advertising, television commercials, antiquary, clairvoyance, yachting, parlour games, real estate and, for the town of Cannes, the most lucrative festival of all, the Duty Free Festival, which is held in the late autumn. Yes, festivals are big business here. International companies fly in chairmen, presidents, vice-presidents, any and all executives by the plane load, and they are all on generous expense accounts.

“A duty free festival?” I asked incredulously when I first heard mention of this one. Particularly since Europe is now a united body whose duty free boarders have been dismantled and across which travel no longer offers this perk. But that has made little if any difference, it seems, to the thriving duty free market elsewhere. This festival is heavy weight money for the town. Prices escalate during that autumn week. For anyone who is not a card carrying duty free merchant, a hotel room is an impossibility at any price. These traders are the guys who call the shots. So much so that Cannes has been warned that if it does not build two new 5 star hotels, providing every amenity required and desired by these visiting sales people, the organizers will move the whole shebang to Barcelona.

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