My France - Duncan Bannatyne

Serial entrepreneur and star of Dragon’s Den, DUNCAN BANNATYNE has made a second home for himself in glitzy Cannes. But it’s not the glamour that attracts him, as Ellie Fullalove discovers

Serial entrepreneur and star of Dragon’s Den, DUNCAN BANNATYNE has made a second home for himself in glitzy Cannes. But it’s not the glamour that attracts him, as Ellie Fullalove discovers What drew you to France and Cannes in particular?  We first came to France about eight years ago on a caravan holiday. We were impressed by how much there was for the children to do and the fact that it’s acceptable to take them out for dinner in the evening, which we like doing. My youngest was only a baby. There’s so much to do on the seafront of Cannes as well. There are so many small fairgrounds and the weather is phenomenal!

What type of property did you buy? I have a lovely five-bedroom villa that overlooks the Bay of Cannes with a swimming pool at the front. It’s fairly modern but in a French style.

Does it give you a good view of the Cannes Film Festival?When the festival’s on, we lock ourselves in the villa – the roads are blocked, the traffic’s terrible. If I want that, I can stay in London. I’ve done the film festival twice, it was good fun but I just want to chill out when I go to France.

Cannes is full of big yachts – were you tempted to live on a boat instead?No, not in the least! I did have a yacht, but it was near Lake Windermere and for me it was too much trouble and hassle, though I did enjoy sailing up and down with the children for a couple of years. 

How much time do you spend in Cannes?Almost every day that the children are off school. Our record is 45 nights at the villa. I would make a full-time move tomorrow, but my wife isn’t convinced.

What do you do there?We spend most of the day by the pool and then go out for dinner most nights. We go to the fair in Antibes once every two weeks, we like to go and visit Valbonne and we can walk into Mougins village from our villa. I like to wander up there in the morning and buy a newspaper. 

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Your love of ice cream is well documented, not least because it helped to make your fortune. The French have so many different flavours, which is your favourite?You can’t beat vanilla! I have dabbled a bit. Sometimes we go along the sea front, go to a caf�, then walk along and have pudding at the ice cream shop. The kids have different flavours and of course I’ll taste theirs because they’re too slow at eating!

How’s your French?Terrible! I had some lessons, but it’s just so difficult. I can say Bonjour’ and that’s about it. My wife is fairly good, she picks it up quite well and often orders in French. My children are good at French but are too shy to speak it except around the house.

Fellow Dragon James Caan also has a place in Cannes. Do you see much of him and does spending time with other expats make integrating with locals more difficult?I don’t spend too much time with James, though we do meet and have dinner. We’ve got a lot of friends who are British, our next door neighbours are American. Two people who live there permanently are Dutch, so we have a cosmopolitan mixture. We have one French friend who doesn’t speak English – an artist from Mougins. When people come to a party, they normally give you a bottle of wine, but he gives you a painting! I’ve got two or three in my house and I love them. He and his wife both paint. She speaks English.

Have you discovered any business opportunities in France?That would spoil the pleasure, I go there to get away from all of that.