We took the back roads to Grasse not sure what we’d find along the way. Grasse is the perfume capital of the world; 15 kms north of the city of Cannes.
The road was often hilly and windy and the further we travelled the greener the landscape became. It’s always tempting to detour into little side roads to discover what pretty villages we might find but if we were to submit, we’d never reach our destination. Beautiful villages number in their thousands in France and we can’t see them all.
(Photo: Emile Taillefer)
One though took our fancy and we were about ready for a coffee break. We’d been driving for about 90 minutes. The sign post read “Callian” and we could see the village up on the hill, surrounded by oak forest and evergreens. We headed that way.
We drove up the spiral streets to the medieval castle perched on the top of the hill and ordered coffee as we sat in the shade of the 17th century church.
You can probably imagine how I felt when I discovered I had no memory card in my camera! I’d forgotten to replace it after downloading to my iPad the night before 🙁 Thankfully I had my iPad with me, so all shots on this article were taken with the iPad other than those which have credits.
The ancient feudal castle; one of the oldest in the region.
A view from the town overlooking the hills and forests. The swimming pool was a teaser; it was a hot day!
Grasse, the World’s Perfume Capital
With my caffeine hit taken care of, off we went to Grasse where we found somewhere to park our toy car (in Centerville no less – “Centreville” being the name the French call the centre of the old village in each town) and within minutes stumbled upon a little restaurant with lively music. Needless to say we stayed a while.
That’s a VERY big guitar 🙂
The Perfume Industry of Grasse
Grasse is only 15 Kms north of Cannes but 350 m high in the hills. It’s far enough inland to be sheltered from the sea breezes that blow from the Mediterranean, has plenty of water due to the location in the hills and the availability of irrigation from a nearby canal. The microclimate here is perfect for growing flowers.
The famous Chanel No 5 is just one of the many perfumes produced in Grasse and it’s key ingredients are jasmine and May roses. Jasmine is the key ingredient in many perfumes and 2 harvests per year in Grasse produce 27 tons. That’s a LOT when you imagine the size and weight of a little jasmine flower!
The perfume industry in Grasse has prospered since the 18th century and the equipment used to produce it is fascinating as we found when we visited the Museum of Perfume. No photography was allowed in the museum as I discovered when I whipped out my iPad. A lady came rushing towards me calling “Madam! Madam”! I got the message.
One shot I was allowed to take
Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-Puy in Grasse
The cathedral is magnificent and is the most significant monument in Grasse. No expense was spared with this one, and not only are there valuable chalices in glass showcases but also four Roden paintings on the walls.
A place to relax in the square outside
View from the hill (outside the cathedral)
And then there was Gourdon
The original castle of Gourdon existed in the 9th century, 3 centuries before the construction of the Louvre in Paris was even begun. It perches on top of a rocky spur 760 metres above sea level and has been a fortress during centuries of feudal wars. Reconstructed several times to make it’s fortifications even stronger, the castle was impenetrable.
As we drove higher through the rugged landscape towards Gourdon I really began to miss my camera. This was the territory where Valjean in Les Miserable, trekked his way to freedom having been freed on parole, and one of the only scenes in the whole movie to be actually filmed in France.
We pulled over at the only spot available, to get our first glimpse of what the town they refer to as an “Eagle’s Nest”. These were taken with my iPad.
Zoom lens on the ipad
The village is very small, and now totally occupied with catering to the tourists.
However the view is, as one would expect, spectacular.
That’s the Mediterranen you can see.