www.grassetourisme.fr Sprawled across the southern slopes of the limestone plateau which shelters the coast, official southern start point for the Route Napoléon, Grasse has been the crucible of the French perfume industry since the 16thC. The raw ingredients – roses, jasmin, verbena, mimosa, lavender and citrus amongst others – are all grown nearby and transformed into essences at a handful of local perfumeries, then sent away to be blended into fragrances by, among others, Dior and Chanel. On the road into town, you can stop off at the modern Gali-mard laboratories for a free whistle-stop introduction to scent-making techniques and to stock up on toiletries without paying big-name prices. In town, Fragonard, 20 boulevard Fragonard, and Molinard, 60 boulevard Victor-Hugo, also open up their doors to the public.
A short step from Fragonard, on the edge of the Old Town, the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence is housed in a fine 18thC mansion built for Mirabeau’s sister, the Marquise de Cabris, Elegantly furnished rooms display period antiques and porcelain; there is a marvellous kitchen hung about with pots and pans, plus regional crafts and costume (closed Sat-Sun, Nov). Wend your way through the tall, narrow streets for a quick look at the 12thC Cathédrale, and up to place des Aires for the daily flower and produce market.
If the name Fragonard seems familiar, you would be right in thinking of the 18thC artist, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, who was born here in Grasse. During the Revolution he returned to take refuge in the home of his friend Maubert, now the Villa-Musée Fragonard and a cultural centre in a park west of the Old Town.
Villa holidays: Grasse, its surroundings and the whole of Alpes Maritimes and Haute-Provence offer many holiday rental properties.
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