Mr Smith and I are on the Côte d’Azur, being peeping Toms. It’s a pitch-black night, waves whisper in the distance, and below us, Tiara Yaktsa’s pool is a milky green lozenge. A couple cling together in the water, slick like seals. We watch them from our terrace, hear the soft murmur of their voices and the girl’s low laughter. We can almost feel their goose bumps on our skin. I admit it – I’m jealous – but after tonight’s feast in Tiara’s restaurant (golden discs of socca, fat scallops, butter-soft sea-bass, white chocolate mousse as light as lace) we'd sink like bricks.
Anyhow, it makes a change to be decent and on dry land; since arriving in the South of France, we've spent more time in swimwear than in civilian attire, more time naked than in bikini and beach shorts (the real mark of a good holiday). We're not alone in this Edenic state of undress; a couple checked-in five minutes after us, 10 minutes later, our new neighbour strolled out onto his patio wearing just boxers and a grin.
So we settle for sitting out on our balcony, counting the night's smells: cigarette smoke, saltwater, pine trees and, somewhat improbably, strawberries. We’re in agreement – this hotel is as sensuous as a geisha: corridors scented with rosewater, dark wood bed posts adorned with trailing tresses of diaphanous silk, tissue-wrapped fruit jellies gracing pillows at turn-down, a sea-facing pool accessorized with a Jacuzzi, bright white Balinese beds and lush green gardens, and the dazzling Med to be admired from every viewpoint.
Just a day into our Riviera retreat, we’ve already shed our city selves like snakes discarding former skins. Since leaving our taxi – manned, fittingly, given Cannes’ A-list credentials, by a driver who looks like George Clooney: tanned, clean-shaven, laced with cologne, crisp in a powder blue shirt (though his penchant for toe-curlingly filthy hip hop is less alluring) – we’ve been completely coddled and cosseted. It seems that all the holiday’s drama was spent in our mid-storm, lightning-clapped arrival (not that we got damp – a suit-clad concierge darted out as quick as a fish, marquee-sized umbrella in hand). Chilled glasses of champagne and a first-name welcome injected sunshine to our arrival; the rainbow came courtesy of manager Régis, who handed me a spray of muguet – lily of the valley – moments after our introduction. (Not an unexpected declaration of love – we arrived on May Day, when it’s customary to give ladies the fragrant flower.)
Back on our balcony, Mr Smith breaks the peace with an elephantine yawn, and I follow suit. Suddenly we’re sleepy. Our envy of the canoodling couple melts away as we head to bed. Who needs liquid lust when a silk-soft duvet, firm mattress and sexy lighting courtesy of silver filigree lamps awaits? (Did I mention the hotel’s Moroccan influence? Tiara Yaktsa has more than a whiff of the Medina about it: walls are hung with North African necklaces, and warmed with spice-rack colours.)
Sunshine wakes us; but we don’t acknowledge it, dozing and dawdling under the sheets with that luxurious idleness that holidaymakers cross continents for. We’d linger longer, but a knock at the door heralds the arrival of breakfast: sausages, bacon, grilled vegetables, slender toast, pastries, jewel-bright jams, pulpy orange juice and steaming coffee. So far, there’s no rain to be seen, just a grey-tinged sky that makes the slate-green ocean and dark hills moody and magnificent. It’s time to go yacht spotting, so Mr Smith dons his deck shoes, I check my bag for lipstick, scent and sunglasses, and we pile into our hire car, a nifty Mercedes.
The morning passes in a blur of heady nautical lust. We wander down jetties, eye up stylish starboards and polished poops, discuss boat names with the gravity of potential parents and break for moules marinière and crisp rosé. Post-lunch, I have dates with some big names on La Croisette and soon I’m pressed up against Chanel’s window. Bouclé dresses in black and white, strands of pearls longer than a mermaid’s mane, ballet pumps stamped with the iconic gold CC and a midnight-blue swimming costume have me in their clutch, powerless to resist. Thankfully, my credit card is equally powerless, and Mr Smith prises me away with the promise of a citron pressé. We’re off again; admiring the unfurling of the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the socialites sipping tea in the gardens of Hôtel Splendid, and the glamorous locals (monsieurs sporting slacks in hues of violet, rose, rouge and yellow; les dames adorned with beehives the size of poodles).
Lou Reed sang about a perfect day; here in Cannes, we’re living the perfect day. Later on, as darkness falls, we come across a singer and her set playing in the bandstand at Allées de la Liberté. Couples waltz across the pale stone like ground-bound moths; across the corner, Astoux & Brun’s neon-lit seafood restaurant buzzes: happy diners feasting; droll waiters doubling up as fishmongers, serenading fresh seafood lovingly displayed on hunks of glittering ice. People smoke cigarillos outside the bistros and tourists wander by, inhaling Cannes’ inimitable magic.
It’s hard for a hotel to compete with such seductive scenes, but it’s late, and boutique base camp beckons.‘Where’s your bikini?’ asks Mr Smith. ‘I fancy a pre-sleep dip.’ I peel back the straps of my dress to reveal a flash of emerald swimwear. Hand in hand, we stroll towards a moonlit pool, a dreamy restaurant and a room with romance.