A filmmaker's guide to Cannes
I'm going to tell you a very well-kept secret - the Cannes film festival isn't just for the great and good of the movie industry. Now I know it's hard to believe, but not only can you experience this glamorous homage to the silver screen, but it doesn't have to cost a fortune. There's even free stuff if you know where to look.
If you take one of the many flights to Nice and then a bus into Cannes, you will be instantly struck by the atmosphere and shameless chutzpah the town adopts for the two weeks in mid-May. If you aren't a delegate then two weeks is definitely too long, four days is more than enough to get the complete experience.
Yes you Cannes
Start as you mean to go on - that is, behaving like a total diva - so forget about an early flight. Get yourself there for late afternoon, with time to put on your glad rags and head over to the famous main artery of the event, the glamorous Croisette.
Red carpet action
The pre-red carpet buzz begins early evening so once you've finished lusting after the yachts and have got your bearings on the Croisette, get yourself a place at the iconic star-spotting location outside the Palais des Festivals. Even the most jaded traveller will get a kick out of watching perfectly polished celebs emerge from stretch limos and totter up the staircase sporting dazzling sartorial creations.
Food with a view
For dinner I'd recommend getting away to a quieter part of town, as you'll have seen by now just how crowded it can get on the Croisette. If you walk east along the Croisette and turn onto the Boulevard Jean Hibert, there's a particularly lovely restaurant called Italian Caffé that has a really relaxed vibe and overlooks the bay.
The last time I was here I ended up having a conversation with the head of Pinewood Studios, yet despite the mix of locals and high-profile diners, and there's little pretension and ample seating, along with delicious, affordable food. Almost everyone will have a glass of a delicately peach-toned wine in front of them - the Provençal rosé is the drink of the festival.
Italian Caffé, 28 Boulevard Jean Hibert, 06400 Cannes (04 93 38 32 30)
Grab a bottle of the rosé from a supermarket and head to the beautiful belle époque hotel, the Majestic Barrière, to catch a free movie. Every year the Cinema de la Plage on the hotel's private beach screens 'out of competition' films or 'Cannes Classics'; they even provide a comfy seat and a blanket.
Majestic Barriere, 10 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes (04 92 98 77 00)
To round the night off, there's nowhere better than the bar at Le Grand Hotel. A cocktail there is the perfect way to digest your meal and every year they tack on a massive outside area to accommodate all the revellers. It can, and often does, get quite messy but it's a time-honoured Cannes tradition.
Le Grand Hotel, 45 Boulevard de la Croissette, 06400 Cannes (04 93 38 15 45)
My night at the Grand saw me with possibly one of the worst hangovers I've ever experienced but the recovery was extremely fun. After a coffee and croissant, pack a beach bag and head to the best beach restaurant for the day, the Belle Plage. Spend the day rehydrating while lounging around on the most comfortable sunbeds, only moving from them for a dip in the ocean and lunch at the restaurant.
By the end of the afternoon your head will be clear, your body nourished and your tan topped up. If only all hangovers in life could be nursed in such a gorgeous way.
Belle Plage, Boulevard Jean Hibert, 06400 Cannes (04 93 38 84 39)
Other top tips
If the festival gets too much you can always spend a day sightseeing in Nice or neighbouring Juan-Les-Pins. Another tip is that although the festival takes place over two weeks at the end of May, it's best to visit at the end of the first week as you'll arrive with the party in full swing. Equally, you want to leave at least three days before the end to avoid that circus-leaving-town downer as folk pack up and leave.
Have a wonderful time, but remember, this is just between you and me...
The 2012 Cannes film festival takes place from 16 to 27 May.