The good news is that I am updating the blog, albeit with a micro-post. The bad news is that I’m not doing that because I got my book done – In fact I have not, so this post is not heralding any radical change in the pitiful pace at which I produce my posts here.
The fact is that I have just visited Grasse, and I found it remarkably uninspiring. I was definitely happy to be there – I enjoyed the museum of perfume, went through all the Fragonard museum rigmarole and found it amusing, and revelled in the vibe of the medieval town small centre. It had to be done, it was due in a way, and I am glad I did. However, the place is yet another version of the typical town of the Riviera, that slice of coastal land that stretches from Western Liguria to Nice and Cannes, the quintessence of which is, for me, the Italian San Remo, a depressing town famous for its casino and a culturally decrepit music festival. A decadence conjured up by palm trees, casinos, Belle Époque buildings and affluent of ex-affluent old chaps whose cultural reference is provided by Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot. Grasse is a French version of San Remo, minus the cheesy music festival and the sea (which is at stone throw anyway), plus the perfumery industry. An industry that flourished in the 19th century, boosted the industrial growth of the centre up the 1970s, and started to decline at the end of that century. The success of the industry resulted in the destruction of the landscape and the proliferation of over-proportioned estate blocks. Although the old town is still delightful (except for the central Rue Marcel Journet, which is filled with perfumery-themed tourist traps), and its narrow alleys prevent from seeing how the rest of the town actually is, Grasse feels like an overpriced monument to the glories of the past.
If what you expect of Grasse is strolls across Rose de Mai fields, good quality raw materials and a vibrant, modern perfumery scene, you are likely to be disappointed. Although you’ll find curiosities like this at the museum of perfume,
if you really want your smell to be delighted in late May in Provence, well you should head west, and wander between Nimes, Avignon and Alès, where the air is filled with the heady fragrance of brooms in full bloom.