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Cannes' moment of glory takes place in May, with the International Film Festival, when images of the stars descending the red-carpeted steps of the Palais des Festivals are flashed across TV screens worldwide. For many, this city on France's Côte d'Azur is synonymous with the glamour of this event. Often overlooked, however, is the fact that Cannes is France's second most important city (after Paris) for business tourism.
Tourists jostle with conference-goers, outnumbering business travellers only in the summer months. Their interests lie in the long, curvaceous, Sandy beaches of La Croisette, the luxury cruise boats of the Old Port, the palatial hotels, the designer shops lining the famous promenade and the gastronomic delights of the Côte d'Azur. This modern city grew up from a small fishing town on the south coast of Francce. In the 11th century Cannes was owned by monks whose budget, fattened by wealthy pilgrims, allowed them to expand beyond their monastery to the nearby Island of St Honorat. They built a square tower on the top of the hill as a lookout post for Saracen pirates. It still stands next to the Castre Museum, in Le Suquet, Cannes' Old Town that was built on the site of a Roman military camp.
Today, tourism has largely replaced spirituality on the Cannes mainland. It was Lord Brougham, former British Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose visit to Cannes in 1834 established the city's reputation as a health resort among the British aristocracy. The trend spread to the French establishment and the arrival of the railway increased Cannes' accessibility. Soon the international aristocracy were playing golf and enjoying the hot and dry Mediterranean climate.