Grasse, Côte d'Azur, France; looking over La Plaine de Grasse, where roses used to grow in their thousands.
Click bottom photo for more images and information on Grasse or head for Nice
Once tiny and awaft with aromas, Grasse is now hulking, cramped and pungent with diesel fumes. A hilly place crowded with expatriates dreaming of a quaint, semi-rural home, Grasse is not much of a tourist attraction; it's one of those sad places with a magical name but an ambience that has slipped away while no one was looking and the town planners were out to lunch.
Still, tourists keep on coming as it's only 20 minutes or so from Nice or Cannes, the small old town area is of some interest and the perfumeries do a good job of freely entertaining and educating while later extracting €uros for minute, smelly bottles.
Grasse's famous, historic Fragonard perfume factory, with free museum, multilingual tours and golden gift shop.
Hint: if you're driving to Grasse leave the wheels as soon as possible in one of the undergound parks, trying to find a roadside space is near impossible, not to mention the casual French habit of battering their way into a tight space may cause trouble with the rental agency when they see the dents. This photo was taken from on top of one of the town centre car parks.
The diminuitive, admission-free Fragonard museum displays some fine perfume-related artefacts. Among other Grasse perfumeries with free tours and museums are Molinard and Galimard.
An English language tour explaining the ancient perfume distillation process.
Grasse has been the centre of the world's perfume trade since the 18thC due to the fine climate and sheltered habitat that permitted extensive flower farming, though of course these days most perfumes are synthetically produced. Still, two-thirds of France's flavours and scents are produced in Grasse every year and it's an essential stop for 'nose' training.
Testing perfumes on paper strips in the delightful - though slightly pushy - Fragonard shop. More Grasse Photos.
At the beginning of every August there is a Jasmin Festival (Fête du Jasmin or La Jasminade) involving flowery floats cruising through Grasse crewed by nubile maids in who throw flowers into the crowds. The town also hosts free firework displays, parties, music groups and street activities.
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