A Visit to Grasse – Photo Essay

 

At the end of last month I flew out to Nice on the Cote d’Azur to join an exceptional friend of mine who was spending part of her vacation there. The weather was perfect, around the mid-twenties.

We rented a car to go to Grasse for the day, which was only about 45 minutes from Nice. We both expected it to be a small, rather quaint town but it is much more built up than that and the main street was quite grand. Grasse is considered the world’s capital of perfume and produces over two-thirds of France’s natural aromas (for perfume and food flavourings). There are about 30 local perfume producers.

The main street in Grasse.

We visited Molinard on the outskirts of Grasse which houses the old factory/museum, laboratory and shop. All the operating factories had to be moved to an industrial estate outside the town.

Molinard opened the very first factory in Grasse in 1849 and had 300 employees which was a huge number for the time. The company has stayed in the family for five generations and the current owner is the first woman during that time.

molinard house

Molinard House

It ddin’t seem like you needed to pre-book the free tour which seemed pretty informal (Galimard and Fragonard also do factory tours). That Sunday there were maybe ten of us including Canadians and Italians. Our tour guide, Paula, was a lovely lady though we raised our eyebrows at a couple of points. She told us that Molinard perfumes are made from all natural ingredients and that rose centifolia with its lemon and honey facets, only grows in Grasse.

The flowers for the perfumes can be obtained in Grasse but other ingredients come from across the globe.

The equipment used to be made out of copper but is now made of steel.

 

On weekdays two women make 600 soaps here by hand per day.

We tried their best selling Creme 24: a balm for face and body with a strong lemon scent which is intensely moisturising. Apparently they have tried to discontinue it a few times but its fans won’t let them.

Their most famous perfume Habanita (launched in 1921) happily still smells great and the only vetiver-heavy fragrance I really like.

While the production is now off-site, the lab where the perfumer composes fragrances is still at Molinard House.

A peek inside the modern perfume lab.

Some women in our group were greatly surprised to find out you shouldn’t keep bottles in your bathroom because of the three enemies of perfume: heat, light and humidity.

She went through the various concentrations.

You can take part in a perfume workshop here (prices from 189 euro) after which you come away with a bottle of your own custom fragrance. They can then send you re-fills anywhere in the world.

Of course the tour ended in the shop.

My friend bought a tube of the Crème 24 for her mother.

We nearly bought travel sprays of the original Habanita but managed to resist. It’s the kind of perfume I admire but never reach for.

We both bought a couple of the soaps.

From there we drove into the centre of Grasse to visit the International Museum of Perfumery which opened in 1989.

The International Museum of Perfumery

Floor plan

There were some interactive exhibits as well those in cases.

20190929_1224185170617041136432154.jpg

It seemed to be a very old building that had been renovated.

The ‘greenhouse’ had perfume plants such as vetiver and patchouli.

20190929_1229403315221621162435340.jpg

The outdoor garden had jasmine, geranium, labdanum, herbs and more.

Marie Antoinette’s modest travel case (one of two in existence).

My favourite bottle and perfume, Guerlain’s Vol de Nuit

Scented products including My Little Pony.

Finally, there was an extensive temporary exhibit about eau de cologne.

 

The museum’s gift shop was a treat. I picked up several gorgeous postcards and a Grasse tote bag, while my friend bought a pretty silk scarf.

It was a wonderful day and ticked another destination off my bucket list.

Have you been to Grasse? If not, would you like to go? Let me know in the comments and what you thought of the factory tour and perfume museum.

29 Comments

Filed under Travels

29 responses to “A Visit to Grasse – Photo Essay

  1. SOOOOOO JEALOUS of you two hanging out on the continent together.
    Looks like such a fun tour too.
    Fraser is pretty far down the list for me but maybe one day
    Portia

    Like

  2. matty1649

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post. What a fabulous day you had. The photos are brilliant.

    Like

  3. Tara C

    I did visit Grasse, many years ago. We went to Molinard and Fragonard. A nice little side trip on our tour through the south of France. I still have a couple of vintage Fragonard bottles from that trip. I remember the smell in the factory while they were making the soap was enough to knock you over. Thankfully all the windows were open.

    Like

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience and photos Tara, loved viewing them! I’ve never been to Grasse and desperately want to go. One day I will make it happen and I appreciate the insight where to visit.

    Like

    • Hi Kathleen,
      I definitely recommend it as part of a trip to the South of France. There are so many great towns such as Nice and Cannes along the Cote d’Azur. We even went on the train to Monaco where I lost 20 euro at the famous Monte Carlo Casino 🙂
      I hope you can make it happen before long.

      Like

  5. Fantastic account of a fascinating, memorable – and wonderfully sunny! – visit to Grasse. So glad the weather was kind. Your pictures are the next best thing to being there in person. I was interested in the packet of OMO, which I remember from my childhood, and who knew there was a scented Little Pony?

    I have been to Grasse a few times: when I lived on the Cote d’Azur as a student, and again on a business trip in 2000 – to visit a supplier of perfume ingredients, no less! But it was just another job back then as I didn’t fall down the rabbit hole till 2008. I remember passing some of the perfume-related buildings on that occasion, but definitely didn’t do a proper visit anywhere. If I ever go back to the area, on the bucket list it goes, not least for the high quality souvenirs you mention!

    And I have to ask…did you come across anywhere selling socca? 😉

    Like

    • V, I completely forgot about the socca! No doubt it was in evidence but I wasn’t looking.

      What a wonderful place to have lived as a student. Bet that wouldn’t be so easy these days.

      How funny that business trip actually concerned perfume ingredients in Grasse. Little did you know…

      Like

  6. Ingeborg

    I have only been once to the South of France, to Sainte-Maxime mainly, so there’s still so much to explore in that region. I think I would plan a journey to Grasse for early summer or September, the middle of the summer is too warm for my liking, at least for sightseeing.

    How I would love to see the garden and greenhouse of that perfume museum, there’s so many plants and flowers I have not smelled in the wild and I imagine having sniffed the plants would make it easier to detect the different notes in a perfume. Also, love old perfume bottles. That Vol de Nuit bottle is iconic and there are some other fine design examples, too.

    Like

    • Hi Ingeborg,
      I think early summer would be ideal because presumably the flowers are in the fields. I don’t know whether you can go into them but that would be amazing.
      Seeing the plants was my actually the most interesting part of the museum for me.

      Like

  7. I love every picture and want to go to Grasse so bad. Not just Grasse. France in general. . If I don‘t plan it, I guess it won’t happen. It‘s hard to get away for me, but your post has at least motivated me! The vetiver plant looks beautiful. I need to put Crikey onto a find be some VdN, I do believe I need the bottle.
    xxxx

    Like

  8. Hamamelis

    I loved your post. I visited Grasse in 2015 with my husband, I had fallen down the rabbithole deeply. We made a ‘tour de France’ to Spain and back, but first had a shopping spree in Place Vendome in Wevelgem. We spent a few hours there, and quite some euro’s, a lovely shop and staff. Steven made lots of travalo’s for us (Jicky, Shalimar, VdN, some heavy ouds I remember) and loaded us with samples and goodies. On the way back from Spain we spent a day in Grasse, we ‘did’ Fragonard instead of Molinard, and we toured the Museum. We both had such a great time, and seeing your pics (I didn’t take many I think, never do) reminded me of the great time we had there. My husband loved to smell the plants and scents in the Museum (vetiver!) and although I had the same slightly raised eyebrows during the Fragonard tour, my husband bought an EdT which is still his favourite.

    Like

    • Hi Hamamelis
      Your trip sounds fantastic. Place Vendome must be a very special perfumerie.
      How cool that the fragrance your husband bought at Fragonard is still his favourite. Such a nice memory.

      Like

  9. Sounds like a perfect day! 🙂 Which I know it was since I know who you were with.
    Next time together! :*

    Like

  10. Oohh the South of France..good on you Tara!! Love the pics and the sunnyness of your story xx
    PS..wish I was there with you xx

    Like

  11. I’ve never been to Grasse, and I’m not sure if it’ll ever be on my itinerary – not that I wouldn’t want to but the logistics of traveling from where I live to there requires much more free time than I envision having in the foreseeable future. So it was great to read your story and see all those pictures (and be a recipient of a present from that trip 🙂 ).

    Like

    • Maybe one day you’ll be able to do a tour of the South of France and can include Grasse, but I can see it’s not practical for now.
      I hope you enjoy your soap!

      Like

  12. Love this perfume tour in Grasse… I love the South of France so much!!!! Beautiful photos..

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.