Thursday, 31 January 2013

Grasse, the perfume capital of the world...

Grasse is a town situated about 18 miles north of Cannes in the Cote d'Azur and is to be found in slightly hillier country.  It is quite a large town which sprawls down the mountain from a lovely old cobbled centre, with a myriad of shops, restaurants, galleries and squares where you can easily while away a few hours whilst people watching over coffee and pastis or a glass of the local rosé wine.

Its main claim to fame is as a production centre for perfume. Two old perfume houses still operate here and both offer tours to show and explain the production process.  Galimard and Fragonard are both well recognised names in the perfume world.  The area around Grasse supplies the flowers and most importantly the orange blossom which provides the most often used basic substance in perfume.  It is said that it takes 1000 kilos of blossom to make one kilo of oil.

In the old town there is the opportunity, should you so wish to have a break from Provencal cooking, which as good as it is, to allow local ex pats in need of a curry or a taste of something more spicy occasionally.  Grasse serves that need with an Indian restaurant called Le Punjab(!) and very close by is a Vietnamese restaurant, both are located on an atmospheric little cobbled street in the old town, with Le Punjab also having a very pretty enclosed terrace which is nice for lunch if you can face an Indian at lunch time!

In 2005 the old Perfume Line railway was refurbished and reopened as a passenger line.  It was closed during the Second World War and fell into disrepair, but now there are new stations along the route and it is possible to get to central Cannes in around 25 minutes, which opens up all the delights of that great town a to anyone staying in or near Grasse, without the need to drive and battle with the traffic and parking problems that can arise in high season.

Just 5 miles away is the lovely medieval village of Valbonne, with a number of cobbled streets surrounding a central square which is a glorious place to have lunch in the sunshine, even in January. There is a lovely market that runs on a Friday morning which covers many of the pretty side streets and most of the square and is very popular with the locals and the big ex pat community that lives around Valbonne.

Golf is available just to the north at the Grasse Country Club sometimes known as Clause Amic, but the fairways are narrow, so a good golfer would probably prefer either the course at Chateau Begude aka Opio/Valbonne or the Grande Bastide at nearby Plascassier.

Walking around the hills of Grasse of to be recommended, particularly over towards Gourdon, where a great number of tough walks are signposted, and where the views are particularly stunning.  In winter the nearest skiing is a mere 35 minutes drive, so it is possible to have a little ski and then get to Cannes for a late lunch on the beach.

Getting to Grasse is fairly simple.  I have mentioned the railway, but beware the station is at the bottom of the hill and the town at the top! By car it is well-marked at Junction 42 of the A8 where there is a dual carriageway known as the Penetrante which takes you directly to the town. 

We have some lovely villas in and around Grasse (check out!) and also our website on this link: