You know the name Grasse, don’t you? Have you read or seen “The Perfume” by Patrick Sueskind? Or have you ever been interested in perfume? Then you definitely stumbled across that name. But have you already been there? Or are you wondering if you should go?
A clear YES, let’s go to Grasse!
Grasse is in the hills to the north of Cannes and is often called the ‘world capital of perfume’. It formerly relied on tanning but turned to producing perfume in the 17th century, when perfume started to be applied to leather gloves to cover the stench of the treatment. The presence of perfume is evident on every street corner even today.
Perfume production in Grasse
In the Musée International de la Parfumerie in the city centre, you can learn all about the history of perfume. The major perfumeries such as Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard still exist and offer guided tours in their factories. But that’s not all: you can also create your own perfume under guidance! What fun! The ingredients of your own perfume are stored so you can always reorder it.
The old town of Grasse
Grasse has both an old town centre in the heart, where the alleys are so narrow that one can only stroll through on foot, and a rather typical southern French town around it. Since Grasse is also a junction from where the main roads go to all directions, but especially into the mountains, there is always quite a bustle here. But as I said: in the old town only pedestrians. And lots of shops.
But I think there are some things here that you can’t find anywhere else. The shops offer more regional or Italian specialities – there is this one shop that only has Italien biscuits! Delicious… Many, really extremely many perfumeries, a few antique shops, a few opticians… If you are looking for big brands, you will be disappointed. But that’s what makes Grasse so attractive to me. Let yourself be surprised by local producers.
While strolling so happily through the old town, you will eventually notice that you tend to walk upwards. At the highest point, you can expect the cathedral – where I couldn’t unfortunately enter yet, because each time I tried a wedding took place – and a great view over the plain to Cannes and with particularly good weather far over the Mediterranean Sea. In the church, there are supposed to be numerous paintings to se, including a few works by Rubens! But as already said: during my visits, there were always celebrations in the church.
Napoleon and Grasse
There’s one thing left to talk about and that’s Napoleon. From his exile on Elba, he set off for Paris with his army in 1815. After crossing the Mediterranean he landed in Golfe-Juan near Antibes and covered 335 km to Grenoble in just a seven-day march. This route is now known as route napoléon and also passes through Grasse. You can easily recognize it by Napoleon’s coat of arms, the eagle. Those who like hiking can follow parts of the road. But in any case, one can marvel for a short moment, especially at the view over the plain that Napoleon and his army achieved at that time.
I would always recommend a trip to Grasse. And after learning the theory of perfume creation and perhaps even practicing it in a course, you can take a trip to the gardens of the International Perfume Museum in Mouans Sartoux and learn which plants provide the raw materials for the perfumes and how they are processed. You can spent an informative and, above all, fragrant day and deserve a trip to the sea.