Grazing in Grasse

Trip Start Apr 03, 2009
Trip End Apr 14, 2009

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Flag of France  , Provence,
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

You never know what surprises await you on the other side of an experience. The Globetrotters were reminded of this lesson today, as we drove the roads and highways, passing through Aubagne, Cassis and Toulon, among others. We were hoping to stop and stroll through the streets of some of these towns, but as we have learned, Jean is a destination guy -- he likes to get where he's going in a hurry. So we quickly snapped a few pictures from the car and sat back to enjoy the ride.

About three hours later, we arrived in Grasse, the perfume capital of France, located in the province of Nice. Now, this is the kind of place you want to walk around. Here, life seems easy, slow, comfortable and beautiful. The hillsides are sprinkled with villas of all sizes and designs, and I can only imagine what stories each one holds from its history in this place.

As Jean navigates the tight streets, Michael and I sit quietly, fists clinched as our car brushes within mere inches of the oncoming vehicles. Soon enough, we find ourselves turning down a driveway that has to be at a 45-degree angle with nothing but hillside up ahead and beneath. Michael insists that we should not be driving down this way, but Jean ignores him and luckily we come to the home of the Gignoux's friend, Francoise. Her hillside villa is gorgeous, and the view is absolutely breathtaking. We are greeted by her two boxers before entering her home to find a dining table beautifully decorated and set for five. This is the surprise, and it is well worth missing the stroll around Cassis for the day. 

Francoise is an elegant woman with an air of independence and an apparent sense of humor. Even I could tell that without understanding a word of what she said to the Gignouxs during their conversation. I did, however, understand Francoise's review of what she learned in English class years ago. She said it took her 55 years to learn this very simple phrase: "I wish you a merry Christmas, a pocket full of money and a cellar full of beer."  That was incredibly funny to me, and I had to ask her to repeat it.

Aside from being very charming, Francoise is an incredible hostess and a very talented cook. Some of the finest restaurants in the States would be challenged to prepare a menu to match the quality of the lunch she prepared for us. Over two ours, we enjoyed a mixed green salad with Prosciutto and Parmesean, pork roast with potatoes and artichoke leaves, assorted cheeses with French bread, and homemade apricot tart. I can't even describe how delicious everything tasted. Just take my word for it.  

Following lunch, Francoise escorted Jean, Michael and me into the town of Grasse to do some sightseeing -- first at the Notre Dame du Puy Cathedral, then to overlook the village of Grasse, and finally to visit a perfumery. This was the treat I had been waiting for. I so wanted to tour a perfumery, see how various scents are created, learn the process for producing perfume, and bring home some perfume from France. The experience was everything I had hoped it would be, thanks in large part to our tour guide, Anne, who expertly explained the history of perfume making and even the difference between eau de toilette, eau de parfum and perfume.  It's all about the amount of fragrance and water included. 

With my perfume in hand, and a ton of samples to share with friends and family, we went back to Francoise's home for one last view of the hillside -- and one more piece of apricot tart -- then we enjoyed a leisurely drive back to Coudoux.
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