Grasse – How to get there and what to do!
Grasse, the Provençal perfume capital and most likely the sweetest smelling town in the world, is positioned in an ideal microclimate where the generous sunshine and profusion of rain during the winter months helps flowers and herbs to flourish. No wonder that Chanel, Dior and Esté Lauder rely solely on Grasse jasmine and roses for No 5, J’adore L’or and Beautiful perfumes.
60% of all aromas for both perfume and flavorings in France and 8% worldwide comes from here.
The history of perfume making has been present in Grasse since the 18th century and is not only thriving but of a major importance for the community employing directly around 3000 and indirectly over 10 000 residents of Grasse. The 3 historic perfume manufacturers Galimard, Fragonard and Molinard open their door and provide free guided tours where you can learn all the basics about the industry but if you are really keen and interested do not miss on their workshops.
With up to 12 departures a day from the Nice main train station, Gare Thiers, taking a train is the best option. The journey takes about an hour and half and the ticket costs €10.40 one way.
If you want to save some pennies, opt for the bus number 500 that costs €1.50 one way. The journey takes around an hour and forty five minutes. Your bus leaves from the bus stop called Albert 1er not far from Hotel Meridien (check the schedule on Lignes d’Azur website).
All 3 major perfume factories Galimard, Fragonard and Molinard offer you a chance to learn about how perfumes are traditionally created and construct your own bespoke scent, both female and male. A great opportunity to bring a unique and memorable souvenir from the South of France. In all three places, you need to book in advance, see the details below.
The workshop is run by a master perfumer – “the nose” (le nez in French) who first explains to you the basic ingredients and process of perfume making using flowers, herbs and fruit including jasmine, patchouli, roses, lavender, lilly, violet, tobacco and many others. The nose then gives you a blind test to establish your subconscious tastes and encourages you to add some other essences to create what you consider being that perfect scent.
The bottle is then labeled with the name you’ve chosen for your perfume and you will be awarded with a diploma – un diplôme d’élève parfumeur.
The good news is that if you fall in love with your perfume you can reorder it online using its reference number as the perfumery keeps your formula on files.
Note that being “a nose” is challenging job that takes up to 7 years of study and (mostly) qualification in chemistry. Their ability to identify scents is super rare and fascinating.
Galimard – 2 hours perfume workshop during which you get to create your own 100ml (3.3 fl oz) perfume from a choice of 127 essences. Fee is €53 per person and additional €10 if you’d like to bring a guest with you. There is a workshop in Eze as well.
Book online on www.galimard.com (click on “create your own perfume” and then pick a suitable date. You can book via phone +33 (0)4 9309 20 00.
Fragonard – 1.5 hour long workshop where you can compose your significant 100ml (3.3 fl oz) perfume from 9 essences for €65 with an optional 1 hour factory tour.
Book online on www.fragonard.com/en/workshop.
Molinard – 1 hour long workshop from which you bring home 50ml (1.69 fl oz) of perfume made from a choice of 90 essences for a cost of €69. You can choose between the workshops in Grasse or Nice.
Molinard offers a 30 minute children’s workshop (no appointment necessary) for €25. Kids can make 30ml (1.01 fl oz) perfume out of 9 selected essences.
INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF PERFUMERY
25 Bd. du Jeu de Ballon, 06130 Grasse, Tel: +33 (0)4 9705 5800
Summer (May – September) 10.00 – 19.00
Winter ( October – April ) 10.00 – 17.30
Closed 1st May, 25th December, 1st January
Fees: €4 per person, under 18 years old free and the first Sunday of the month during the autumn free entrance
Founded in 1989, the International Perfumery is the only museum of its kind in the world allowing its visitors to explore the history and uniqueness of the profession of manufactures and large perfumery houses.
THE GARDENS OF INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF PERFUMERY
979 Chemin des Gourettes, 06370 Mouans Sartoux, Tel: +33 (0)4 9298 9269
Opening Hours :
Spring (opening 31st March – May) 10.00 – 17.30
Summer (May – August ) 10.00 – 19.00
Autumn (September – 10th November) 10.00 – 17.30
Closed : 1st May, annual closing between 1st December and 30th March
Fees : €4 per person, under 18 years old free
The gardens are not located in Grasse but in Mouans Sartoux, a 10 min drive by car or by bus. Here the visitors can discover and smell the species such as roses, jasmine, lavender, geranium, juniper, orange blossom etc that provide valuable raw materials for perfumery for centuries.
But Grasse is not only about the perfumes. Altitude up to 400 meters above the sea level and the limestone hills around the town promise a fresher climate during the hot summer days and an inviting break from the beach. Puffs of cool water are being sprayed on the visitors of the small grass square surrounding Notre Dame du Puy, a cathedral built back in 11th century (3 outstanding religious artworks are to be found inside the cathedral by Rubens, Louis Bréa and Jean Honoré Fragonard).
There are plenty of cool wine stores serving local vintages, cafés, interesting stores that give Grasse more authentic feel than most of the towns on “to do list on the Riviera”. Grab a map from the friendly tourist office and start exploring.