A French Adventure

After two weeks of radio silence, I’m back on the microphone to get a little French with you all. In the time I spent off the air, I’ve packed and unpacked moving boxes, settled into a new home, worked 70-hour-weeks and still managed to get outside long enough to get the most gruesome sunburn my olive skin’s experienced since Stingray Swim Camp, 1997.

It’s been a wild ride, but I’m ready to recount the Wonderful.

I’ll start by acknowledging my employer, Rosetta, for shipping me off to the South of France to attend the 60th Annual Cannes Lions of Creativity Festival. It was an enormous honor and opportunity, and I think I’ll always have a mild case of the pinch-me’s about this experience. Astounding presentations, calm coastal waters, Creatives walking around in their loafers and oversized Tortoise frames —  it was just what I expected: surreal.

To set the stage, here’s what  happened while I was detained in a floating cylinder above the Atlantic:

  • Despite being a lowly coach riding scrub in sneakers and yoga pants, Air France rewarded me with glasses full of champagne, personal merlots, and a fudgesicle. All. for. free.
  • Thanks to in-flight silent farter bandits mysteriously dispersed throughout the cabin, the air was in a constant state of perma-stink. Oh, the eleven-hour linger.
  • I shared an arm rest with a really nice woman from Sonoma, and supplemented our intermittent chats with music and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Winter Dreams.”
  • Some people just didn’t give a damn. Like the seven I saw walk into the lavatory barefooted, or the 12 I caught slippin in just wearing socks.

Once I landed, I made it to my hotel, showered and had no more than 15 minutes before I was off to meet the Rosetta crew for our first dinner in Cannes. I was over dressed.

And now, Mesdames et Messieurs, I give you Cannes — land of extravagant people and possessions.

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Our group spent between 6 and 8 hours a day nerding out to keynote speeches, interviews, and presentations. Thought leaders, CEOs, innovators, risk-takers and game changers were welcomed to the stage –– I’ll let you place Martha Stewart, Mel B and Nick Cannon into whichever category you see fit.

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Highlight: Gloria Steinem. “Violence against females normalizes all forms of violence.” Check out this project, Makers, she’s been working on with AOL.

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Highlight: Not seeing Zach Galifianakis but seeing the other fat, funny guy instead.  Jack Black, everybody.

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The Cannes Connect rooftop bar — the place to go mingle with little and bigwigs from all over the world. Free Rosé and Riviera views.

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The Google Beach parties, equipped with real You Tube sensations. I was significantly upset that no one invited this corgi or this hamster to perform. As you can see, when you’re a Cannes Lion, mingling is the name of the game and the word of the week.

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Highlight: An intimate setting to stare at and listen to the infallible Lianne La Havas. A voice like a rabbit foot, that’s what she’s got.

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Eye contact, a thing of the past.

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Highlight: Meeting Arianna Huffington after her talk on finding a healthy balance between worklife and lifelife. We bonded over being Greek and are slated to vacation together next month.

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Only in Cannes is an open bar Dj’ed beach party just, you know… casual.

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And now, I put to practice what I learned from BBDO’s presentation titled Hemingway, Dickens and Michelangelo: The Best Agency Ever?

They said: All you have to do is write one true sentence.

Cannes was all-inspiring and sleep depriving.

And when it was over, I went to Paris and stayed in an art curator’s Montemartre flat. Les swoon.

Paris, France flat

And I lost myself down narrow streets that serpentined around buildings older than America.

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Highlight: Visiting the Musée d’Orsay. Impressionist art makes my heart beat like rollerblades in the dryer, and when I saw Degas, Rousseau, Renoir, Tolouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, Manet, I was besides myself with joy and disbelief.

Each painting brought me further into an unworldly dimension, and I stopped often to marvel at the way these artists immortalized culture. I felt connected. The brushstrokes revealed backstories that were previously inaccessible to me, and I felt myself  melting into the warped realities of their time.

Below on the right is a self portrait of Degas. He was 19.

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To top off an already unforgettable day in Paris, I managed to be there for France’s Music Festival — a day dedicated to celebrating the summer solstice. Pop-up performances littered the streets and unsuspecting venues and little old me caught as many as I could.

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I gave George a Seine River view.

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As I walked home from the subway station, I stumbled upon a little Montemartre theater about to open its doors to play-going-patrons. I paid my way and enjoyed a show I couldn’t understand. It was perfect.

And after a particularly French encore, I exited the theater just in time for the Music Festival to hit the streets of Montemartre. Everyone had wine in one hand and someone in the other. DJs spun an all-night-soundtrack to a street party dance affair, and under my breath I wished a Happy Summer Soltice to the hip kids lining historic streets.

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