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Cannes ushers in season of port-side glamour on Cote D'Azur

By George Webster for CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cannes Film Festival pours spotlight on unassailable glamour of French Riviera
  • CNN's quick reference guide looks at luxury port-towns of Cannes, Saint-Tropez and Monte-Carlo
  • People-watching tips, escape-routes and advice on where to be seen in this deluxe region
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London, England (CNN) -- The red carpets will once again unfurl in the glamorous French Riviera city of Cannes this week as the world's most famous film festival kicks off.

And while the stars launch their latest movies on the Croisette, off the coast, in the glittering waters of the Bay of Cannes, many will be spending their time on luxurious yachts.

This stretch of coastline, known as the Cote d'Azur, is wildly popular with sailing enthusiasts during the Mediterranean summer season.

It is a sailor's haven dotted with some of the world's most exclusive port towns: Cannes, Saint-Tropez and Monaco -- all within a few hours sail of each other.

Here is Mainsail's at-a-glance guide to this exclusive and beguiling region.

Cannes

The world-famous port has now become synonymous with the glamour of the film festival that bears its name. But even when the red-carpets are rolled back, Cannes remains a go-to destination for people-watching and luxury living.

Famous for: Cannes Film Festival. For around two weeks in May, some of the brightest stars in the film firmament descend on the Palais des Festivals for the glitzy film event.

People watching: Among stars expected in Cannes this year are Cate Blanchett, Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts and Carey Mulligan. Lest year, Microsoft founder Paul Allen moored his megayacht in the bay.

Be seen: Dine out at the double Michelin-stared La Palme D'Or in the impeccably tasteful dining rooms of the Hotel Martinez. Wash dinner down at chic watering hole, Le Baoli. Blow the lot at the Casino Croisette, the biggest casino in town.

Getting away from it: If the hustle and bustle of Cannes is too much, escape in 15 minutes to the small, forested island of St Marguerite. Once there, visit the fort where the mysterious 17th century nobleman known only as the "Man in the Iron Mask" was once imprisoned.

Saint-Tropez

Once a sleepy Provencal fishing village full of winding alleys and markets, Saint-Tropez today is bursting at the seams with extravagant restaurants, exclusive couturiers and private beaches.

Famous for: Brigitte Bardot. Almost overnight, Saint-Tropez shot from provincial obscurity to world renown following the 1956 release of "And God Created Woman" set in the town. It starred Bardot who gained a reputation as a "sex kitten."

People watching: Popstars Jay-Z, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez; movie legends Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise; British models Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell are among the passing fleet of megastars to tread Saint-Tropez's cobbled streets.

Be Seen: At the International Polo Cup in July -- a ten-day knock-out tournament luring enthusiasts from across the globe. Refuel after a day's cheering and schmoozing at Lei Mouscardins, a gourmet bistro with 180-degree sea views. Later on, try exclusive nightspot Les Caves du Roy, although if you're not a millionaire, model or royalty gaining entry might be tricky.

Getting away from it: Cruise to the biological preserve of Les Marines de Cogolins. This is one of the few spots in the area that is not affected by light pollution and so provides an unimpeded view of the stars. Or anchor off Sainte Maxime across the bay and allow the local pod of dolphins to come and inspect your boat.

Monaco

For some, the elite province nestled at the foot of the Alps is nothing more than a billionaire's posing ground. For others, Monte Carlo, in the miniscule city-state of Monaco is the illustrious home of the Monte Carlo rally, the Monaco grand prix, ATP tennis masters and, of course, a number of very impressive marinas.

Famous for: The Monaco Grand Prix, widely considered to be the most prestigious Formula One circuit. At the end of May, the city streets are shut off for a day as ferocious cars screech their way around its tight corners and narrow tunnels. Accommodation often needs to be booked two years in advance, so those with yachts have one more reason to be smug.

People watching: British racing-car drivers David Coulthard and Jenson Button are regularly spotted speeding about the 2.2 square kilometer mini-nation. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr, diva Shirley Bassey and "Bond" star Roger Moore have all adopted Monte Carlo as their home town.

Be seen: At the Rampoldi, Monte-Carlo's legendary and most exclusive dining establishment. Contacts in high places are almost certainly required for anyone who wishes to sample its chic blend of French and Italian cuisine, served against a backdrop of classic Art Deco design.

Getting away from it: Les Thermes Marins de Monte-Carlo is the place to be pampered in Monaco. Based around the philosophy of thalassotherapy -- which focuses on the healing properties of sea water -- the exclusive spa provides all the new-fangled treatments and esoteric beauty secrets expected in one of the world's most exclusive corners.

 
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