No Sign of Austerity for Cannes 2012

CANNES, France ( MainStreet) -- The gigayachts are queued in the harbor, the stars have already checked in and the red carpet has that deep luster again as the Cannes International Film Festival begins Wednesday. If anyone is expecting less sparkle this year, given a European debt crisis that's still mid-script, an explosion of new hotels and late-night party line-up seems to suggest otherwise. This year's star-studded jury includes fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier, Diane Kruger and Ewan McGregor presiding over an inventory of film openings and premieres by headliners such as Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard to rising names that include Zac Efron and Twilight star Kristen Stewart.

The round of new hotel names include Five Hotel & Spa, which offers the city's best luxury design boutique and is next to the Croisette and Palais des Festivals. Designed by architects Marc Hertrich and Nicolas Adnet, the property hopes to create the sense of a journey for guests via objects, furnishings and artwork throughout but the hotel -- a "voyage immobile." It has one of the prettiest lobbies in town, with oriental silk screens juxtaposed with floor-to-ceiling windows and furnishings that nod toward midcentury French design.
Five Hotel & Spa is Cannes' best luxury design boutique and has one of the city's hottest new eateries in Seas Sens.

On the fifth floor of Five Hotel comes one of the city's hottest new eateries: The culinary triumph of Seas Sens, led by brother chefs Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, who mix traditional French gastronomy and Southeast Asian twists followed up with a dessert menu by Jerome de Oliveir -- a winner of the World Pastry Cup. After dinner, guests find rooms with cocoon-style canopy beds by towering windows concealed behind linen drapery with a fashionably lazy pleat. Private dressing rooms evoke the grand era of steamer travel, complete with saddle-stitched leather detailing fit for a Hollywood stylist.

Cannes hasn't had a shortage of luxury hotel addresses in more than a century, but for those looking for something a notch short of five stars the options were grim. This year, however, comes three properties geared toward midrange travelers, those who don't need 24-hour room service or a private beach club. Hotel Montaigne & Spa is the best option, but remains an admirable escape with cool Art Deco design, Turkish baths and a well-equipped gym with indoor pool opening in June. A longer walk from the Palais des Festival and you find La Villa, a 30-room boutique hotel that gets its inspiration from late-1940s Hollywood, with a lounge bar featuring Champagne from the owner's own vineyard.

And then there's the remodeled Hotel Colette, a well-curated boutique property that debuted last year in a city often cited for its lack of character hotels. Named after the famous writer and eldest daughter of the owner, the 45-room Colette mixes compact twin-bedded standard rooms or more spacious junior suites, all with handpicked artwork and bathrooms trimmed in L'Occitane toiletries. Its communal breakfast room with pitched farmhouse ceiling is one of the prettiest and most charming in town, perfect for a rising starlet unafraid of direct sunlight.

Festival dining gets a few new headliners too. Those in the mood for a bit of La Dolce Vita can tuck into Casa Mia, just off the Croisette. Its staircase arrival brings visitors to a cozy maisonette concealing a truly glamorous two-level eatery from the same designers as Paris' L'Arc and London's Maddox Club. A grand dining room is lined in blush striped walls and holds a central staircase leading to an upstairs lounge with onyx bar and leather club chairs oozing an Italian Deco vibe. In the kitchen you'll find alum from Harry's Bar in Venice cooking up calamari sauteed with tomatoes and olives, Casa Mia tagliolini with Alba truffles and grilled langoustines.

Equally high-wattage Felix continues to lure supper club diners looking for Cote d'Azur glamour in a dining institution that's been famous since the 1950s. Felix does a showstopper French menu of duck liver terrine, roasted rabbit and Brittany lobster -- not for those trying to squeeze into any tight tuxes or gowns. The festival is also a busy time for the town's numerous Michelin star restaurants, like the showy La Palme d'Or at the Martinez, a popular rendezvous for the biz elite that recently featured its own playful Tim Burton-inspired tasting menu. Other gastronomic standouts include Le Park 45 at the Grand Hotel, making up for the unexpected loss of Mon Reve de Gosses due to a change of ownership this year.

In terms of festival nightlife, look for Baoli to continue its favored status with Cannes regulars while summertime clubs such as Palais and the newer Gotha Club open for festival installments and private events. Nikki Beach returns for its Cannes pop-up with a combination daytime beach club at Grand Hotel's La Plage and evening terrace club atop the Palais Stephanie. Le Baron and VIP Room also return to Cannes this year, with the latter headlining superstars such as Mary J. Blige, Flo Rida and Rick Ross and hosting by London's Cirque du Soir. Additionally, VIP Room will host the premiere of Karl Lagerfeld's annual Chanel movie premiere and rare performance by '80s rock group Duran Duran, one of the hottest tickets of the festival.
Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.

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