grasse, france

Our visit to Grasse marked a shift on our trip: we started noticing crowds and tour buses and although we weren't on the coast yet (though we were close!), the town started to have a bit of a coastal vibe and feel to it.  The first four days of our road trip were pretty quiet and peaceful, and compared to the next section, it felt like we had France to ourselves sometimes.  Because we were on a mission to make it to a couple more places before we got to our new home for the next few nights, we really only saw one thing in Grasse: a perfume factory.  Grasse is considered by many to be the perfume capital of the world - there are around 30 producers in the area and 3,500 people are directly employed by the industry.  This isn't a new thing either: perfume's been associated with Grasse since the 16th century.

Based on reviews I read online, we chose the Parfumerie Fragonard, which has been in operation since 1926 and offers frequent free tours in English.  We both actually found the tour to be interesting and informative, and although it predictably ended in the gift shop, there was no pressure to buy any product (although I think we both wanted to!  Our guide had done her job well!  Although we resisted at the time, I'm glad to know that I can find their pretty products here at anytime).  

D - Our guide really made the tour (as I guess it goes with most guided tours).  She was so...what's the word I'm looking for?  Oh yeah, French.  She sort of reminded me of Helen Mirren's character in The Hundred Foot Journey.  Not snooty per se, but rather very knowledgeable, confident, and reserved, with exactly the right amount of pretentiousness mixed in (but in the charming French way).  It was just perfect!

See more from our road trip around southern France: our day in Toulouse here, and all of our stops on our first day: Cahors, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, Bouzies, Rocamadour, Padirac CaveLoubressac, and Figeac.  We began our second day in Marcillac-Vallon and Belcastel, made a stop at the Viaduc de Millau before heading into the Gorges du Tarn, and finally checked out the lovely Sainte-Enimie.  That night, we stayed in Le-Pont-de-Montvert.  

We started our third day in Labeaume before driving through the Gorges de l'Ardeche and stopping afterwards in Aiguèze and then spending some time checking out Roman remains in Orange and staying the night in Vaison-la-Romaine.  The next morning we explored Vaison-la-Romaine, drove on to Sisteron and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and through the Gorges du Verdon and stayed the night in Castellane.