La Croisette in Cannes. Photo: Franck Michel/Flickr

Cannes evokes visions of glimmering azure waters, swaying palm trees, fine beaches, and the glitz and glamour of the playground of the rich and famous. In line with this image, the main coastal boulevard, the emblematic Croisette, embodies all that is sybaritic and luxurious, an anchor for the most prestigious addresses in the French Riviera.

But the origin of this splendid avenue is diametrically opposed to its current hedonistic identity. La Croisette, in its humble beginnings, was once a very spiritual place. And the clue is in the name.

‘Croisette’ comes from the Provençal word crouseto, which means ‘small cross’. The word came to be used to designate this spot because the glitzy boulevard was once a humble dirt path used by pilgrims on their way to the abbey on the island of Saint-Honorat. Today a steel cross on La Croisette commemorates those who made this pilgrimage.

In 1853, Mayor Barbe asked to be granted the coastal strip, then abandoned, to build a public promenade. Initially reluctant, residents agreed to pay most of the construction costs for a five-metre-wide road. La Croisette in its modern incarnation was born, and the village metamorphosed into a seaside resort loved by those who flock to its sun-kissed shores in an entirely different kind of pilgrimage.

Read other installments in our “Read the Signs” series:
Read the Signs: Boulevard Haussmann in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue du Chat qui Pêche in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue des Mauvais Garçons in Paris
Read the Signs: Avenue de Champagne
Read the Signs: Rue du Temple in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue Guy-Môquet in Paris
Read the Signs: Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in Paris
Read the Signs: Boulevard Diderot in Paris

From France Today magazine