Bien–etre. The moment I thought about this phrase, sweet memories surfaced quickly: just last Summer we were getting bucketloads of bien–etre while cruising along winding roads of Côte d’Azur, and the region of Provance–Alps Maritimes…Grasse included, of course! (if you want to find out more about things to do in Grasse, you can find my travelogues here and here)
Here I go again, back to Grasse!
The second time in three years, to be exact, spending my vacation there, already feeling a bit like a Grassoise.
What does Grasse smell like? Jasmine, of course. Sprayed above the old medieval streets all day long:
This time we rented an apartment in a lovely old Provencal house on the hill facing Musee International de la Parfumerie (International Perfume Museum), 300 m away from the center of the city.
Which seems fine, the view from our bedroom window was amazing, but…going downhill was like a five-minute walk.
Going back home? Well, let me just say that it took me up to fifteen legs’n’gluteus exercise minutes…
As a perfume lover, of course I stayed in Grasse. I noticed that numerous tourists don’t stay in the town. There are organized tours from all the bigger cities along Cote d’Azur, offering half-day or one-day excursions to Grasse. Meaning that at 10 AM you can quietly sip your coffee or tea on the main square -Place aux Aires, but all of a sudden, buses and trains enter the city and the invasion of one-day tourists begins, ending usually around 5 PM and leaving jasmine sprayed, old cobbled streets empty and quiet again.
I did manage to visit some new perfume shops and boutiques in town, besides the well-known Fragonard-Galimard-Molinard trio (will tell and show you more in one of my next blogs, stay tuned).
I also must say that I do need to return again: there’s so much to see and to do that you cannot possibly cover everything in ten days! And I am talking about Grasse only, let alone all the wonderful and amazing sights and places in Riviera’s Maritime Alps region! I am already making a „must see“ list for my next visit…
Any season is the perfect time to visit Grasse, but I do think that May is probably perfect timing if you need more peace and quiet and days that are not too hot. And Rose Centifolia experience: that divine, fruity, deep, oh! So a special rose!
Summer months of June, July and August are packed with various events in the city! On 3rd, 4th and 5th of August you do not want to miss Fete du Jasmin (on my first day in Grasse) and on August 12th a celebration dedicated to Tuberose took place.
Make sure to check out events on the list of the International Perfume Museum (MIP): they have a great offer of perfume workshops on a daily basis. I had a difficult time to chose between Accord Aromatique, Poudre, Epice (Les epices de l’Arabie), Musque, Agrume, Boise, Gourmand workshops– one for each day in a week.
You can also make your own perfume there, booking in advance is obligatory and the price is 60 EUR (one adult person, 100ml). Or arrange your private visit or a private event for professionals, book a workshop for children on Friday mornings – they can create their own eau de cologne!
MIP offers tours to MIP Flower gardens on Saturdays (4 EUR): this was a recommendation given to me by Jessica Buchanan of 1000Flowers: you just have to see, touch and feel fields of different flowers, depending upon the season of the year, right here, in Grasse.
The MIP olfactory route in Gardens allows you to discover notes used in perfumery and includes fragrant plants grown in Grasse.
Along the way, you can touch fragrant foliage or smell the flowers near your path.
In the „Conservatory“ you can learn more about the history of the perfume plant industry in Grasse: the first plants were wild orange from Italy, lavender, cassia from the mimosa family, myrtle and pistachio mastic.
From the 17th century onward, these three plants become major ones: jasmine rose and tuberose.
Today, there are not so many rose fields as you might imagine: some rose centifolia is still grown in Grasse through a partnership between Chanel and Mul family in Pégomas, or in Le Labo fields. I asked: it’s not easy to get a job or even volunteer as in rose fields: the collaboration between field owners and pickers is many years long, pretty closed and pickers are usually Gipsies (Gitanes), from a clan called „La Fleur“, so I am told. There are other growers in the region. I will continue to try to find a way to spend one week in May in Grasse, picking roses (I’m perfectly aware there’s nothing romantic about it, don’t worry…)!
When in Rome, pardon Grasse…I decided to book a visit and make my own perfume (again). To make your own perfume in Grasse, the cradle of perfumery? It is educational and so much fun! If you are into perfumes, this is really a must-do!
I love looking at my companions sitting at perfume organs during workshops: a mother, discussing notes with her daughter to make her a perfect birthday present. A couple, mixing and laughing together, creating a bridal perfume (they are getting married as soon as they return to States) and so on!
It’s great to see people trying to learn more about perfumes. They are showing interest and devoting their time – to perfumes, trying to express their creativity in given circumstances and offered possibilities. People attending these workshops have an opportunity to learn the basics of building a perfume structure, smell different notes, blend, use pipettes and experiment with proportions, have a real hands-on experience of perfume making! I think this is simply wonderful and I wish that even more people would want to devote their time and energy to learn more about perfumes! What a wonderful world this would be!
Perfume geeks, like me, doing…well. I’ll tell you, a little later on.
Let me give you basic info first, classics. You can book your “make your own perfume” workshop at:
Galimard. Offering Haute Couture Perfume Creation Workshops in Grasse (and Eze) where you work with their Master Perfumer in her lab. Prices range from 200-800EUR or you can attend the Studio des Fragrances workshop, in small groups, by appointment, 53 EUR per person. (2hrs, 50ml). 127 notes organ.
Fragonard. Perfumer Workshop, 90 minutes, 100 ml. You also receive a pouch for your perfume and an apron. 65 EUR.
Molinard. L’Atelier des Parfums. 60 minutes, 90 bottles organ, 50 ml, 69 EUR. Le Petit Parfumer, for children, too. La Villa du Perfumer is a private perfume creation session.
No matter which house you choose, you will go through a similar process. My choice was Galimard, both times, simply because it is the oldest house and because their organ features 127 notes/accords. Maybe also because you can create a line of products, like body cream and shower gel, too. Next time I visit, I will probably choose Molinard. And then Fragonard. 😀
Your formula stays recorded in their archives and you can always order another bottle – if you really like your creation you can get a refill.
So, there I go again. During a perfume making workshop in Galimard lab, I made my first perfume, three years ago. Pretty, but not exceptional. This time, I came prepared.
You see, I do have ideas about a five to six perfumes (at least) I would like to make or have made for me. These ideas are not expressed by notes or perfume groups, no, I have vivid images in my head. Memories, moments, little bits and pieces of emotions. Some are like paintings on canvas, some are vivid and bright like short movies in glorious Technicolor…
Then I think about these images and try to translate them into notes and accords in perfume language. The keyword is trying. 😀 Don’t expect too much.
Galimard has a very pragmatic approach, as all the others I mentioned/ perfumes and notes are strictly divided in „for her“ and „for him“ groups:
You have 127 notes to play with, which is fine in my opinion for this level of perfume making.
A really lovely young lady helped me with proportions. She told me that she is a student of chemistry in Lyon and that she comes to work at Galimard every summer. I know I might have taken too much of her time at the workshop because I really wanted her to hear my story first, before pushing me to start sniffing and choosing max five top notes or accords…and then other 4-5 middle ones, and 4 base ones…
This young lady was really patient, but the supervising lady approached me a couple of times to warn me that I’m running behind scheduled time in the process and that I should hurry up. I swear I had a feeling that she would be even harsher if I were an apprentice there…
There’s more. At one moment I wanted to add a very specific fruit accord to a leathery tone and received a really scorning gaze: you do not want to do that, kind of look. 😀
Alas, she hasn’t heard my olfactory memory this perfume was supposed to bring back… I think that she didn’t really like my pretty rebellious attitude in the sense of not blindly listening and following her suggestions.
I did pretty well, I think. Not that is exactly what I wanted/imagined/dreamed of, but here it is: „Once Upon a Time“!
Now I have to wait for 3 weeks for it to mature, in a not too dark, not too light, not too humid, not to dry, not too hot and not too cold place.
New blog, part II will follow!
The Plum Girl Blog
Photos: The Plum Girl
It’s funny how my mind works. Keeps surprising me. US Election day is just around the corner, a friend arrived in Washington DC recently and sent me a photo of the White House yesterday and there I was – thinking about perfume. The one I enjoyed just a week ago.
The story behind this perfume revived images of Antibes from my 2016. summer trip to Côte d’Azur. It was a hot sunny August day. I just took a right turn off the A8, driving towards San Juan Les Pins. Roof down, fresh air coming from the park of nature and golf terrains, fresh Mediterranean Sea breeze playing with my hair. I thought, yeah, he might have felt just the same and why am I thinking in black&white right now? Well, because it was 1937.
And the perfume? Well, it brought back memories of my early corporate days. Being a young woman at the beginning of my career, struggling to be taken seriously in spite of her youth, I might have used this very perfume on a daily basis.
The perfume is Eight&Bob 100ml EDT Spray.
The Eight&Bob story goes like this:
In 1937. a young college student from a wealthy family, aged 21, toured Europe with his friend, driving a Ford. His summer vacation included a stay on the French Riviera, Antibes, to be precise.
While wandering around the popular resort, openly and straightforward as any young American would have done, he started a conversation with a Frenchman about the fragrance he was wearing. The young American’s name was JFK.
The man he was talking to was Albert Fouquet, who liked to experiment in perfume-making. As the story goes, Fouquet left a fragrance sample at JFK’s hotel with a note that said, “In this jar, you will find the dash of French glamour that your American personality lacks.” (I can imagine that text to be true 😎).
When Kennedy got back to the States, he sent Fouquet a letter saying that all his friends back home loved the fragrance, and asked the perfumer to send eight samples and “if your production allows, another one for Bob.” (Robert Kennedy.) Fouquet complied, and labeled the samples “Eight & Bob,” and a brand was born. In 1939, Fouquet died in a car accident. However, Philippe, the Fouquet family butler, had often assisted Fouquet in his perfume-making, so he took over the orders. When World War II started, Philippe hid the bottles inside books that he cut by hand so that the Nazis wouldn’t seize it.
After the war, Philippe never made the perfume again. The formula remained a well-kept secret. Eight&Bob recovered the formula and production process sixty years later and here it is, in cut out book packaging again. You can read their full story here.
50 years after his assassination, four different perfumers — Jockey Club, Creed Vetiver, the German cologne 4711 and the reissued fragrance Eight & Bob — all claim to have touched JFK’s skin. It’s a great story, but skeptics take note: The only hard evidence is that Kennedy really did visit France in 1937. Later on, there’s probably more proof that his collar occasionally held the scent of Chanel No. 5 (no further explanation needed, right?) than to any and all of the perfumes he might have used.
How did this perfume make me feel? It is a unisex perfume, to start with, make no mistake.
I would say is a fine “business day in an office perfume”, the one you would want to wear on executive board meetings. It could make you feel powerful, classy and ummmm…rich.
There have been many reviews written about it. Some say that it’s nothing special, some say that it reminds them of Fahrenheit32 and some call it a masterpiece.
I would say it’s a winter/early spring perfume, a balanced and a fresh fragrance. It could make a great signature scent. It lasts and it lasts, for almost 12 hours. Does it smell “good”? Yes, with a citrus and spice opening, developing on my skin into an accord that feels like a cross between violet and iris (is that the famous Andrea ingredient?). Woods embrace this accord as cedar, sandalwood, and guaiac add depth. Eight & Bob stays refined with not overly sweet vanilla adding the final, classy touch. The packaging is superb! Yet again, as my thoughts rush, this one puts the new Eight & Bob perfume Cap d’ Antibes on my wish list.
The story behind Eight&Bob might be true or false, whatever – just enjoy the perfume, write your own story! Now I wonder what fragrance shall be present in the Oval Office for the next four years? Soon we will know: enter “Empire” by DT or Thierry Mugler’s Angel? (Update: DT it is…)