It was Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II, who introduced perfumes to France. She “brought" (he sounds kidnapped to me) her perfume maker from Italy and his lab was linked to her with a secret passage, so no formula could be stolen.
The perfumes enjoyed success when scented gloves became popular and replaced the smelly ones and the court of King Louis XV was called a fragrant courtyard. He required a different scent every day from his courtesan, Madame de Pompadour, who ordered huge supplies. Perfumes were applied even to furniture and they replaced soap and water. An “excellent" idea.
Two liters of cologne was delivered to Napoleon every week, while Josephine preferred a musk and used it so much that her boudoir smelled sixty years after her death.
Grasse, capital of perfumes
Grasse is located in the Alpes Maritimes province, a twenty-minute drive from Nice, fifteen from Cannes and forty minutes from Monte Carlo. Grasse is the perfect base for accommodation and a starting point for trips to all the places you want to visit.
It's twenty minutes away from the sandy beaches and if you drive twenty minutes in the opposite direction you'll reach the ski resorts in the Alps.
As the book “Perfume" says, Grasse was the smelliest city in France at the beginning of the 18th century because it was the center of the leather industry and it exuded the most unpleasant odors of the leather processing and tanning.
Then Jean de Galimard founded the company and began making fragrant gloves for King Louis, creating his own perfume formulas. Thanks to the fields of jasmine, roses, tuberose, and mimosa the business started to flourish.
Today in Grasse, there are more than sixty companies that are part of the fragrance industry, schools, educational centers, and there are “Noses", masters of the composition of new perfumes.
To become a “Le Nez", except of being born with an above-average number of scent receptors, it takes a tremendous amount of effort to “grind" that tool. They can't use perfumes, eat spicy foods, drink alcohol or smoke and they walk around with a mask that they only remove at their lab. It takes at least seven years of study, apprenticeship, and hard work.
There are about fifty people in the world who can truly be called “Le Nez", and most of them are in Grasse. For the past ten years, no noses have come out, that is – no students have managed to finish college.
The world's most famous houses carefully hide their “Noses" in unmarked luxurious Provence villas.
The Maison Molinard
Gucci and A., didn't have much interest in visiting Grasse, but Miss Whisky and I insisted and, (surprised?) we won. The men had to come with us and spend the whole day smelling dried rose petals.
I chose Molinard because I have already been to Fragonard before. Dragging the guys around the factory for 2 hours was enough for proofing the stability of our relationship but next time I will call in advance to reserve a place in the workshop and to spend hours designing my own, personal fragrance in Molinard's laboratories.
The guys' interest woke up a little bit in the industrial part of the perfume factory: cauldrons, tubings and …ugly metallic stuff… really, men…?!
Whisky and I just wanted to run through that part of the museum, shaking with desire to bath in the perfumes at the end of the visit and to buy the best, unique perfume ever, no one else will have wherever I go.
The factory tour was great but Gucci and Whisky stole the show. All the Americans in our group came to us screaming how great our stroller was, how beautiful our babies were and how much they missed their dogs left at home.
If you go to Molinard, buy yourself a perfume (I bought a Tubereuse Vertigineuse, that has a drug effect on me. I floated the rest of my trip surrounded in the tuberose cloud and I finally figured out how junkies feel. I'm definitely a tuberose junkie.) but don't miss the best face cream ever: their Creme 24.
I bought 3! I would have buy 10 but A. was looking at me suspiciously so I tried to control myself. A big mistake! Now I'm addicted to that cream, I love how it feels on the skin, the smell, oh, the smell,… and Gucci and Whisky say it tastes marvelous.
If someone knows any drug dealers coming regularly from France to the Canary Islands, please give me his number.