City of Grasse, a world of fragrance. August 04 2017, 0 Comments
What would be the village of Grasse without its fragrance ? The town of Grasse is undoubtedly famous for its perfume industry and proudly accept the title of world's capital of perfume. Everything in Grasse breathes fragrance !
The story began five hundred years ago when farmers started to cultivate numerous species of flowers for fragrances.
Why here ?
Grasse is perfectly located. The region enjoys more than 300 days of sun a year. The natural hilly landscape gives protection from summer dryness and winter cold.
The area is also protected from strong winds such as Mistral which blows down the Rhone’s Valley region.
Since fragrance companies elected offices in Grasse, the town has benefited greatly of this international exposure. For instance, did you know that flowers collected there are used for the manufacturing of the world famous Chanel N°5 ?
Grasse offers visitors a relaxing break, contrasting with the crowded French Riviera. Locals will say that Grasse is a glimpse of the real Alpes Maritimes, is it true ? come here and reach your own conclusions !
Let me share what you should experience in Grasse: the village, the perfume industry and a little course of perfumery at the end.
Grasse is located in the Alpes-Maritimes department (departments are similar to US Counties). When you hear about French Riviera, it is the coastal portion of this department. Grasse is roughly 15 miles inland from Cannes and its famous film festival. Reaching a village in the Alpes Maritimes can be hard if you don’t have a car, but reaching Grasse is very easy. The little town has a train station which connect to many cities throughout the region as well as buses filled with tourists, locals and businessmen.
The old town
First of all, make sure to get a map of the old village at the tourist information office.
A good way to visit Grasse is by following the brass plots sealed on the pavement with a G letter engraved on it ! The first plot begins in front of the tourist information office. You can also rent an audio guided tour (numerous languages available) and you will discover Grasse with local stories and songs !
The old town of Grasse is marvelous and a typical Provençal village with its tiny narrow streets ; a labyrinthine architecture where you will discover secretive stores and restaurants throughout your visit.
Steeps stairs will help you get your daily dose of exercise. The Medieval ruins are perfectly mix with 17th and 18th century buildings.
The visit of the cathedral Notre-Dame-du-Puy will be a welcomed rest point. From there, you will admire the great views of the nearby countryside, particularly behind the cathedral in the square called Place du Cours.
For people having difficulties walking, a seasonal train (in summer) is available and will stop at all the main attractions.
For museum lovers you can visit the famous International Perfumery Museum (Musée International de la Parfumerie) and there are other little museums in town that might be of interest: Art and History of Provence museum and the Museum called “Musée Provençal du Costume et du Bijou” offers an authentic collection of Provençal jewelry and clothing that are used in events like Pastorale (See our December blog).
How long should you stay in Grasse
The best option would be to spend a full day and stay overnight in a charming bed and breakfast in the old village. It would be an occasion to combine a charming day with a romantic dinner in a local restaurant and conclude with a taste of Calisson by Gilles in the privacy of your room.
Learn more about perfume
If you curious about the process and history of perfume, Grasse is the place to be!
You can also enjoy the wonderful view of flower fields, or just some good smelling goodies. Grasse is the nose capital of the world !
You can visit a functioning perfume factory. Some manufacturers propose free guided tours, for instance Galimard, Molinard, and Fragonard.
Calisson By Gilles would advise to pick the Fragonard tour which is, according to us, the best one. The Fragonard tour offer an half hour tour throughout the day, in several languages and it is free! The end of the visit will direct you to there gift shop, of course ! Spring is the best time of the year as you can visit the gardens before harvest: roses, mimosa, jasmine, violet. A rainbow of colors!
Create Your own Perfume
Some perfumeries such as Galimard and Molinard offer creation workshop. You will be able to create up to 100ml of perfume either for men or women. You can book a half day workshop. During this workshop you will have to choose between 127 scents. Your desk is filled with these 127 scent bottles with various labels (in French) and a male or female symbol. These symbols are displayed to guide whether the scent is more masculine or feminine. You will have to choose scents for the Top ‘Peak’ Note, the Middle ‘Heart’ Note, and Base Note.
You may be lost in front of all these scents bottles, but do not worry a perfumer called “le nez” (nose) will teach you the basics and the process during this workshop. The Perfumers called “noses” are people with a PhD that have exceptional skills to identify all the scents and association! They are trained to distinguish over 2,000 kinds of scent. To avoid all that can degrade their “nose”, they must stay away from alcohol, smoking, spicy food and most of all using perfumes !
Calisson By Gilles recommend a creation workshop; it is a unique experience. Moreover you will take home a memorable souvenir!
About The Author:
Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.