Geographically, Grasse sits on a hill inland from the coast with stunning views on high of Cannes and Anitbes. It's very accessible from Nice and the rest of the Riviera, and is just a short hour and a half train ride away. We decided to hire a car and take the very beautiful scenic route from Cannes via the Loup Valley. Do be warned however with the latter that this is ever so pretty, but very twisty! However driving in Cannes and France in general can be quite stressful- I find anyway!
One of the main attractions in Grasse is the Fragonard house and perfume museum but because I have so many photos of this amazing place I will discuss this in the next part of my series exclusively. However Grasse is of course known for its prospering perfume industry since the end of the 18th century. Many perfumers are trained or have spent time in Grasse to distinguish their craft, and the town produces over two-thirds of France's natural aromas for perfume and for food flavourings.
And quite incredibly, did you know that Grasse's perfume industry turns over more than 600 million euros a year. Isn't that amazing to think about?! A large part of this is because Grasse has a particular microclimate that encouraged the flower farming industry. Grasse is warm, and yet sufficiently inland to be sheltered from the sea air. Jasmine, for example, is a key ingredient of many perfumes, and was brought to France by the Moors in the 16th century which flourished in this area.
But as well as perfume, Grasse's leather and tanning work developed during the 12th century around the small canal that runs through the city. However alongside this production it started to develop an unpleasant aroma of the leather. This was because at the time of the Renaissance period perfume manufacturers began production of gloves, handbags and belts because it was attractive to the Italian fashion market and of course Queen Catherine de Medici. Throughout my time in this part of the French Riviera, I noticed a huge presence of Italian and French culture merging together.
In the middle of the 18th century, perfumery was experiencing a very important development and the introduction of new production methods turned perfume making into a real industry that could adapt to new market demands. During the 20th century the creation of synthetic products brought the affordability of perfumes and their spin-offs to a mass market that included shampoos, deodorants, creams, detergents, food flavouring for cookies, ice cream, dairy products, beverages, convenience foods, confectionery and so on.
Grasse has many other main attractions if perfume isn't your thing, such as the Cathedral, dedicated to Notre Dame du Puy that was founded in the 11th century. The interior of the Cathedral contains three works by Rubens and one by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, the latter who was a French painter native of the town. So if you're an art fan like myself, this is highly recommended. But if art isn't your thing, other sights in Grasse include the Saracen Tower, the monumental gate of the Hôtel de ville and finally the International Museum of Perfume Musée d'Art et d'Histoire de Provence Church of Plascassier, built in 1644.
I truly adored Grasse and it was such a joy to meander around the quaint pretty streets which was fragranced with the beautiful perfume aromas. If you decide to spend your precious pennies in Grasse I highly recommend getting three things: A perfume, a handmade soap and some luxury Olive Oil. You won't regret it!
Have any of you visited Grasse before? If not, is it somewhere you might like to visit? I've included the video from my travels as I have for each post previously. If you skip to 1.45 to 2.05 you can watch a little visual part of my time in Grasse. Jusqu'à la prochaine fois ;).