I’ve always wanted to go to Grasse. It’s the perfume capital of if not the world, France for sure. I envisioned a charming village perched on a mountainside surrounded by fields of flowers, the air scented with lavender, orange blossom or jasmine depending on the month.
So here’s the scoop. No fields of flowers. The village is sort of charming, in an ancient tiny cobbled street sort of way. But it’s not charming in a quaint, festooned with flowers way. The views are lovely, despite the lack of flowers. There are several famous perfume factories here — Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard — the oldest dating back to 1752. There are also museums of perfume and places where you can create your own proprietary blend. Most of the shops sell things that are scented in some way shape or form. You can even get candied flower petals, although I’m not sure where they get the flowers.
As I stroll through the old town, I intermittently smell bread baking, garbage, garlic sauteeing and the faint smell of pee in spots. Not exactly what I expected.
Suddenly something mists forth from holes in what I had assumed were electrical cords strung overhead. My first thought is that Grasse is an odd choice for a terrorist attack (I assume they’re spraying the town with ricin, smallpox or other frightening fatal agents I can’t spell). But when I realize I’m not dead, I wonder if it’s just a way to mist the flowers that were once here. Or just a friendly effort to keep tourists cool and moisturized. Or maybe the whole infrastructure of Grasse is collapsing and these are mini leaks (kind of like hundreds of tiny steam pipe explosions).
As I mull the possibilities over, a pleasant waft of orange blossom surrounds me. Ahh, that’s either what ricin smells like or…. oh my god, they’re squirting fragrance into the air! Suddenly, I feel like I walked into the ground floor of Bloomingdales.
Turns out, Grasse smells exactly like Fragonard’s newest fragrance “la fleur d’oranger”.