Traveling to Grasse with my cousins was an amazing adventure I highly recommend, even if you don’t have amazing cousins to share it with.
Grasse is where perfume was invented and about 20 minutes north of Cannes. The original town made leather goods in medieval times. This apparently is a very smelly process. They made gloves for the queen of France, Cathrine de Medici, and in order to reduce the smell of the leather they went into the neighboring flower fields and created an oil to put on the gloves. The queen was very impressed and voila, perfume was born.
The trip to Grasse started the best way: by getting lost at the airport. The airport in Marseille is small and little did I know there are two separate entrances. Luckily the terminals are close enough to walk from one to the other.
This is where our trip started. My cousin and I decided to meet here since we were coming from different parts of Europe.I had rented a car and from here we drove across the bottom of the country. It’s about a two hour drive. We stopped at a rest stop for a snack which was very different then the rest stops here on the east coast of the USA. Our choices included sandwiches as well as cheese plates, beef tartar and steak. We were surprised to see such regular food on the menu. On the east coast of the US it’s basically all fast food.
Grasse is filled with winding streets and roundabouts. So of course we got lost and made it to our Airbnb late. Luckily we were able to keep in touch with our hosts and let them know when we hoped to arrive. There are not many hotels but Grasse makes up for that with airbnbs and bed and breakfasts.
The first thing we noticed about Grasse is that it is on the side of a mountain. We had no idea how hilly the town would be. It can be handicap accessible but there are a lot of stairs.
After having coffee overlooking the town we headed to the ‘Petit Train’. The train had headphones and eight languages to choose from.There are so many hills and twists and turns that I’m not sure I could find some of the places they showed us again, but it was a great tour. We definitely wouldn’t have seen most of the area without that train tour.
We learned about perfume siestas and the old fish market. A perfume siesta is when there is a mist of perfumed water over an area to rest. The town still mists perfumed water over lounge chairs in a grassy square.
The square where the old fish market was held is now filled with restaurants and cafes. It has an artistic representation of fish hanging from a covered pavilion in the center of the square.
Since it was Monday morning the town was slow and late with waking up. After our tour the town was becoming more lively and we headed to a square to meet my other cousin for lunch.
This town square was covered in tables and tourists gathering for lunch. The other tourists seemed to be from all over Europe, not many Americans, if any.
There was a summer art installation of pink umbrellas. These umbrellas hung all over town and created a nice bit of shade.
After lunch and a walk around town we headed to our perfume making class at Galimard. Galimard is one of the original three perfume houses (the others are Fragonard and Molinard) and was established in 1747. We would be making 100mg of our own perfume.
They set us up at our own stations and explained the three parts of perfume. The base note, the heart note and the headnote. The head note is what you smell right away. When that fades it’s replaced by the heart note. The base note is the strongest and is what stays with you after the other 2 notes fade.
They gave us 9 bottles to smell and we had to pick our favorite and put them in the order we liked. This was to get an idea of our scent preferences. The teachers were walking around to help a few groups at a time. The one we worked with recommended which base scents we should start smelling based on those original 9 bottles.
From here we picked our 4 favorite and the instructor came over and told us how much of each to put in. Some of the base notes were very strong so we didn’t need as much oil to get the same scent.
After we poured the right amount of liquid into a graduated cylinder we got to smell it! Then we had to smell all the heart notes while also smelling our base note on a paper test strip. When everything starts to smell the same you smell your own skin and it resets your nose.
We picked our favorite 5 and added 5mg of each to our already mixed base. From here we needed to smell all the headnotes by themselves. We picked our 5 favorite and added 5mg of them into our perfume.
We got to pick a bottle and name our scent. When we were all done they put it in the bottle for us and printed a label with the name of our perfume as well as a number. They keep the recipe in their system so it can be ordered again. We were able to order body wash and lotion in our own scent. We were also told it takes 2 weeks for our perfume to mix completely and we had to put our willpower to the test and wait.
They also give you a certificate of completion from the studio of fragrances.
After making perfume we headed to Fragonard for a tour of their perfume factory. We watched soaps being made and put our noses to the test when trying to guess some scents like which was jasmine and which was iris.
Since we hadn’t done enough with perfume for the day, we headed to the International Perfume Museum. There were fun things to smell and test our knowledge and even an indoor perfume garden.
They had examples of how perfumes were used as well as perfume bottles and containers dating back to the Egyptians.
For dinner that night we tried a local dish called ‘Fassoum’ which are zucchini flower fritters.
We headed back to our airbnb for a beautiful view of the city lit up in the mountains.
The next morning we had coffee under an ancient olive tree overlooking the city and met the airbnbs owners dogs. The dogs gave us a great send off as we made our way to the next part of our week in Provence.