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Cannes Diary

Being the Account of the Adventures of a Film Nerd set loose in the French Riviera during the Cannes Film Festival with no grasp of the French Language and a Grim Acceptance of playing the role of the Stupid American.

Entry One: Monday, May 13, 2002

Iím scribbling notes in my journal from my last few days in London when our plane touches down in Nice. My quick first impression says it all: "Beautiful. Absolutely gorgeous view of the sea." Everywhere I look is another postcard. Itís my first time in France and so far itís living up to its reputation. I maneuver my way through the airport, grab my bags, and make my first of many trips to the Money Exchange. Itís here where Iím relieved to discover that the exchange rate is much more forgiving with the euro than with the pound in London, where you automatically lose half of your money just entering the country (and then have the pleasure of discovering that everything is almost exactly the same price as it would be in America, or more). I head out to the bus station and, for the first of far too many times, take a running dive into the Language Barrier. Iím not totally positive on how to reach Cannes from here, but I head to talk to the attendant at the station, who has very little idea of what Iím talking about. Eventually, the words "Cannes" and "student" are made clear enough that he tells me a number (which I donít understand) and I hand him an amount which I just hope will cover it. I get my ticket and board the bus to Cannes.

The bus ride takes us through the picturesque French countryside. Itís almost too much to take in because thereís something gorgeous all around. Nothing like living up to its vaunted reputation. We enter Cannes and make some stops around the city before reaching Port Viaux (my guess on the spelling and itís very likely wrong). I get off the bus and it hits me very quickly that I havenít the slightest idea where I am going. I have my address and the phone number of the family Iím living with, but at this point it could be twenty minutes away or it could be right across the street--I just donít know. After fruitlessly staring at a city map at the station for a few minutes trying to pick out a familiar name, I decide to take another stab at the Language Barrier and head to the nearby cab stand. Allow me to make it very clear here that I speak no French whatsoever. I can count to ten (a fact of which I am very proud) and I can say "Where is the library?" (seriously). Needless to say, that is not getting me to my apartment (though it may allow me to check out a copy of The Stranger while Iím here).

I walk to the nearest cab and simply show him the piece of paper and point at the address I want to go to--luckily, he responds readily and weíre off. I soon find out that, indeed, the house is about three blocks away from this bus stop. He drops me off at 8 rue de Pre and I go up and ring the doorbell...nothing. I ring again...and again...and again. And no one is answering. Yeah, so Iím a little confused at this point. I have no idea where I am in the city, I donít speak French at all, and the family Iím supposed to be staying with isnít at home (and no, the door wasnít open). After waiting around a little bit, I decide to walk down the street a little bit. The house is attached to a school, so I wander over to the gate (and I am carrying two heavy bags and a backpack with me all of this time...important for making your mental picture accurate, and for generating some pity, of course). I get someoneís attention, someone who, naturally, speaks no English at all. After pointing out the address again, she called over another woman who motioned for me to follow her. I did so and we walked back around the block and back to the exact same door I had just stood at for 20 minutes. She rang the doorbell and, of course, no one answered. Confused, she just shrugged and told me to wait there. I sat down and started following her directions.

The street was in a really pretty and quaint area of the city (though pretty much all of Cannes may be described that way). Across the street were a few small restaurants and a crepe restaurant, all with mostly outdoor seating to enjoy the remarkably comfortable weather. The roads were small and seemed barely capable of supporting a single car (but then again, but thatís what small European cars are for). After another 20 minutes or so of staring at my watch and trying to decide at which point I need to actually do something, the son of the family Iím staying with arrives and opens the door for me. I would later learn from Shreevar (my roommate) that I was literally less than 15 minutes later than he was arriving here and, in that time, everyone had left the house so no one was there to receive me. The house was very nice, with a good-sized room given for the three of us to stay in, featuring a bunk bed and a large wardrobe. I dropped off my bags and decided to head out into the city to explore the surroundings.

I was amazed at how surreal this whole experience was to me. I mean, just a few days ago I was piddling around in the middle of Illinois and now Iím walking around the French Riviera right before the start of the Cannes Film Festival. All of could think of was that this was like the big miniseries in the sitcom that is my life. It was like "íMarc Berzenskií--this week Marc goes to the Cannes Film Festival!" Special two-week series finale--remember, May is Sweeps Month. Time to pull out all of the stops. It was a nice way to punctuate everything before going into reruns for the summer. But, not to worry, "Marc Berzenski: In London!" would be coming up in September. This time, a whole few months of the season set overseas. Exciting stuff and this is only the preview.
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Down the street near our houses

Cannes
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