Everyone´s first time in Grasse should be a blind visit. Wearing a blindfold over the eyes and playing with the sense of smell. Taking each step depending on the deep sensations caused by the infinite smells of its streets. Smells that, magically, bring back childhood flashes, evoke restlessness, rise to the seventh Heaven, cause a stir in the soul. Because Grasse’s fragrances turn the soul in a real muddle.
A 3.000 scents’ symphony caresses visitors’ noses while walking through the narrow streets of this little city from the Alpes Maritimes, located in the region Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, which delimits with Italy. Such as delicate, intense but subtle experience could only be thrived in France, the country of romanticism par excellence, the global driving force for the use of perfumes and fragrances.
Because of its inland location, Grasse goes unnoticed on the Cote D’Azur vacation route. But it’s precisely its location what enabled its magnificent reputation: at the top of a hill, with privileged views to the coast, warm weather of Provence, and surrounded by fields where it is easy to grow fragrant flowers and fruit trees. However, it wasn’t until the XVII Century when essences began being used as livelihood. Commerce in Grasse was based on leather tannery, an activity that enveloped the city with a strong and pungent smell. As it is said, is the tanner Galimard who decides to impregnate a pair of leather gloves with floral perfumes and give it to Catherine de' Medici as a gift. This marvellous and unique piece is then desired by Royal Court and high nobility members, what boosts this little town’s economy.
Taxes were risen and Nice conquered the leather’s market. The grassois inhabitants had to look for a new mean of livelihood and thus became specialised in perfumes creation. They grew a myriad of plants and trees on the vicinity and developed a scents’ fixation technique with grease. Jasmines, roses, carnations, mimosas, orange blossoms, violets… at every step, at every home-made jam, at every fragrance.
What to do
Believe it or not, this charming city has much more to see and live. Erected during the Middle Ages and being a true witness of the Kingdom of Savoy (The Duchy of Savoy became the Kingdom of Sardinia under the control of the House of Savoy), Grasse is composed of narrow streets and numerous squares, which were the site of the Patrick Süskind’s book The Perfume (subsequently made film by Tom Tykwer). The extravagantly described Place de la Poissonerie conserves only the drainage channels; the Place de Aix de Aires, and its Luis XV’s fountain, let the passers-by imagine the hustle and bustle, the leather’s trading, and to be thrown back to the perfumes commerce’s prime era thank to the flower stalls that inhabit the square. The Place aux Herbes is the third characteristic square of the town and it is worth a stroll. The old defensive walls surrounding the city are from the XVI Century.
After savouring some oysters on the shocking viewpoint -where the Admiral De Grasse’s statue lays-, wander around the nearby streets to find the XII Century’s Tour de l’Evêque and the hidden cathedral Notre Dame du Puy, from the XI Century, and where to admire two Ruben’s paintings and one from the local painter Fragonard.
It is highly recommended to explore the world of perfumes’ creation. Hence a visit through the International Museum of Perfumery is a must, or through any of the three famous perfumeries that offer free guided visits: Fragonard, Galimard and Molinard. At the end, the visitor feels like a member of the royal family, being shrouded in majestic fragrances of perfumes, soaps and creams. A king or a queen for a daytime.
The flowers, plants and trees grown around Grasse turn the fields into magic scenes for delightful, enchanting and captivating walks. Local people hold the best recommendations and are more than happy to give directions to the tourists.
The jams made in the area are of a delicacy and quality of Gods’ own nature. Who visits Grasse shouldn’t leave without relishing a good breakfast with jam made of jasmine, tangerine, roses.
When leaving Grasse, the visitor has just a priceless sensation of calm and distance to problems. It is a couple of weeks after when realises how Grasse’ scents have turn the soul in a real muddle.