Fragrant France: Grasse

When we were in Antibes having coffee by the sea, we found out that the city of Grasse was just forty-minutes away. The birthplace of perfume? We have to go. So instead of heading directly to Nice, we made a stop in Grasse and it was definitly worth it. Entering the city was a feat as we drove up the mountain down very narrow streets; it was as if the edges of the city were pulling us in closer and tighter as we made our way to the top.

Fragonard is a lovely perfume shop and museum at the tippy top of Grasse. In the 16th century, Catherine de Medici ordered a scientist to visit the Provençal shores of the Mediterranean where fragrant flowers bloomed, to make a perfume out of their essences. Grasse, at this point was famous for its tanneries. To rid themselves of the odor, the leather makers would use the regions natural scents to mask it. After some time, the Glovers Perfumers was born, it was at the time a place where gloves were made for the noblest of families. It was also a place where poisons were created. There’s a story of a French duchess who was murdered when a poisonous perfume cocktail was rubbed into her globes and was slowly absorbed into her skin. Eventually, the town abandoned gloves and became known primarily for its wonderful scents.

Grasse remains the world capital for Perfumery today. What I found most interesting is that even if the essence of a flower is distilled from its country of origin, it will arrive in Grasse to transform it into the perfume, a delicate step that happens in Grasse.

Fragonard is special as it is still a family run business that has been passed on since its beginning in 1926 by Eugene Fuchs. In homage to the French painter from Grasse, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, he gave his business his name.

The factory and shop is beautifully filled with light and the blend of all the scents is intoxicating. I bought more than one perfume and gifts for friends and family. Everything in the shop is a treasure; see for yourself here. I’ve decided my signature scent will be Jasmine, I just adore it! They ship to the USA so you too can have a perfume straight from Fragonard!

After getting our fill of perfume we walked the winding streets in search of le dejuner. We came across a tiny restaurant specialzing in crepes. Of course we had to stop. We sat on the terrace with our wine and filled our water glasses from the fountain next to us. A man in the apartment across from us stood on his balcony and watched the people along with us. Children ran up and down the street, mothers carried home their bags from food shopping and tourists continued up the street, exploring the winding path.

Shortly after lunch we had to start our way to the next city. We stood on the hilltop over-looking the village below. The sun was bright, the palm trees were swaying in the cool breeze and the scent of jasmine perfume caught in the air. It was a moment of absolute perfection and I am so grateful to have had the opprotunity to experience it. France is so dear to my heart and it’s a place I encourage everyone to visit if they can.

If you enjoyed this post about Grasse, check out my other posts on France here and here.

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Originally published at on June 6, 2015.

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