Jun 28, 2007

Chaotic weather weekend

The clouds over Buda turned charcoal Friday night and in a matter of moments both sides of the Danube were soaked and scorched. Licks of lightning split trees left and right and most of Hungary felt the drenching.

Fortunately, nobody died, unlike last August 20 when revelers filled the streets of Budapest to celebrate St. Stephen's day -- the Hungarian national holiday. A similar summer storm broke in the middle of the festivities. The winds were so strong that a stack of glassware atop the Marriott Hotel blew into a panicky crowd below... Ouch!

The latest thunderstorms have led to brisk breezes and cooler weather, though, and it was pretty cool to see those clouds come in. It was kind of like Ghostbusters when the Keymaster found the gatekeeper.

Jun 22, 2007

Cannes on the cheap -- the pros and Cannes

It is possible, with a little elbow grease and some Mary Poppins style packing, to attend the Cannes film festival like a star without maxing out credit cards or taking out a second mortgage. There are a few tricks worth revealing, from camping to rush ticket line waiting, that will keep your total budget below $50 a day without sacrificing the glamor of the celebrity-filled festival.

Parc Bellevue Campsite is wonderful. If you bring a tent, then you've got a secure spot with a swimming pool, showers and bathrooms for under $20 a day -- don't forget your own toilet paper. There are also nice mobile units available for around $60 a night. They have beds and other necessities as well as private patios for a little chill out space.

Be warned! The Web site promises that La Croisette is only a "few minutes" away. Perhaps, if you're testing one of the Monaco Gran Prix cars in the middle of the night you can get there in four minutes. Otherwise, plebes must take the bus, which is only about a half an hour, but totally inconvenient. Taxis run you about 25 euros, depending on the night -- Ouch!

This is pretty cheesy, but it works. Stand outside the entrance into the Palais (the center of the festival) and hold a sign in French or English that you need tickets into, for example, the premier of "Ocean's 13." Somebody with credentials, and something better to do that night, will probably dump their invitation on someone who looks desperate enough. Otherwise, you'll need your own credentials, and unless you're in the film business that's not going to happen.

Cons -- Besides having to look desperate, you also have to look dapper. Men need to be in tuxedos and women just have to look pretty -- high heels instead of flip flops. If not, a polite yet firm Frenchman will tell you in so many words that you have no chance in hell of walking the red carpet. The French are sticklers for dressing up.

Solution -- Bring a tuxedo. Even a second-hand black suit will work. They actually have bow ties there for you to borrow (aren't they considerate). Women have it easy for once. A simple dress works.

There are hundreds of parties every day during the Festival de Cannes, so getting into a couple isn't too difficult. Along the Croisette, there are several beach parties throughout the day and night. If they're not busy, you just talk to the doormen for a while and pretend like you're going to buy tons of drinks, but do not, I repeat, do not buy a ton of drinks. They'll most likely let you in if it's slow.

The secret is to make sure the doorman remembers you. Kiss him on the cheek, shake his hand, do anything you think will cast a favorable impression on him -- pull your pants down if you want. If he remembers you, he might just let you in when the party is actually happening later on. You can also hang out in the hotel lobbies and whenever you see a lesser-known celebrity heading into a party, just follow nonchalantly behind. You might be mistaken as one of the entourage and be let in.

Cons -- Some who wait to get into parties can spend hours outside looking in, so be aggressive and if it doesn't work, move on. Life is too short to wait in long lines. Also, one drink can cost between 15 and 30 euros in the club, so have a bottle of wine somewhere else or go sober. There's enough to do and you never know who will offer you a little Dom Perignon.

Au Revoir Cannes