Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mediterranean Cruise - Grasse & St. Paul-de-Vence

I am imagining traveling through Grasse in Provence, one of the perfume capitals of the world.  Surrounded by fields of jasmine and roses, how could people not walk around with silly grins on their faces?

To the right is some of the architecture, embraced by rolling hills.

We are planning a visit to a local perfume factory (Fragonard or Gallinard), to see how flowers turn into liquid fragrances.  Magic!  Grasse has had a successful perfume industry since the 18th century.

I'm not big on bottled perfumes, but they certainly had a role to play in history, especially in medieval times, masking the ghastly smells of plague and death.  Probably where the phrase "The great unwashed" originated.  Can you imagine how hideous and foul things would smell?  Lack of plumbing, lack of flowing water, the dead rotting alongside garbage in the streets.  A waft and a whiff of jasmine in those times would help you keep your sanity.

We'll also be stopping by St. Paul de-Vence.  The description of the area is irresistible:

With its assemblage of stone houses and narrow walkways and its location amid colorful terraced vineyards, bougainvillea and mimosa blossoms, it is considered by many to be the Cote d'Azur's most picturesque village.

History here goes back to Antiquity, when Greek sailors introduced some of the olive trees and vines that became part of the landscape.  By the time of the Roman Empire, Provence was suffering Barbarian invasions.  St. Paul was officially founded in the 9th century.  The only surviving part of the castle at that time is the dungeon.  As interesting as that might be, I think I would rather take in the winding stairways and mimosa blossoms.

There was a thriving artist colony here in the 1960's -the Fondation Maeght - that included some of my personal favourites, like Chagall, Miró and Calder.  If there's time, I'd love to check it out in person.  Here's a virtual tour.

Again, I am worried about 'missing the boat'... being so hypnotized by a Chagall that I lose track of time.  I'll need to have some kind of alarm to snap me out of my trance.  Or maybe I'll just float back to the boat, above the hills and villages of Provence.


1 comment:

Pamela Ewen said...

What a wonderful tour! I'm writing a book that centers around perfume in Provence in the 1940s and hoping to get there soon. Would love to know whether there is a museum in Grasse (or the area) showing how perfume has been made through the years.