I am not one of the world’s experts on the environment and sustainability. Nevertheless, my father – who was a devoted apiarist – taught me one important lesson about Mother Nature. It is this: bees are A Very Good Thing. My delight was therefore unbounded when, standing at the reception desk of the Hotel Gray d’Albion in Cannes, I became aware that the television screen upon the wall was showing a hive of bees. Why was this? It was because the hotel keeps its own small colony (four hives) of our buzzing friends on the roof and a camera transmits to the receiver downstairs live pictures of their comings and goings. Indeed, when I arrived in my room, I found waiting for me a pot of the honey made by those very bees. For this alone, I became a fan of this particular hostelry. But, of course, there is more.
Close to the port of the Old Town of Cannes is the Church of Notre Dame de Bon Voyage. It is a large and handsome pile. On the outside of its northern aisle is a large plaque, which records the fact that Napoleon Bonaparte landed nearby in February, 1815, when he had escaped from Elba and was about to begin his march on Paris. Indeed, he is said to have spent a night in the church before he set off. If you are not too startled by this intelligence – and, I must suppose, many an Englishman has been taken aback by it – you will notice, on the other side of the street, the imposing modern façade of a grand hostelry. This is the Five Seas Hotel, and on its 5th floor is a dining room sought out by every serious gourmet who visits Cannes – the Restaurant Sea Sens.
The rue St-Antoine is one of the prettiest streets in Cannes. It runs up a steep hill in the Old Town. It is full of eating establishments, many of which have employees stationed outside to try to persuade passers-by to spend their euros within. But the Restaurant Mantel does not stoop to such blandishments. It has no need for vulgarities, for it is known to be one of the best restaurants in town. Indeed, its entrance, down a couple of steps at a corner, is so discreet that you need your wits about you to locate it. But, once inside, there is no doubt: this is a serious, proper restaurant.
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