Although known by many as the perfume capital of the world, the Côte d’Azur town of Grasse is also famous for its museums and film connections.
The reason Grasse become known as a purveyor of fine perfume dates as far back as the 12th century, when it was know mainly for its leather and tanning industry which caused an unpleasant aroma to hang over the town.
Around this time there was also a growth in the fashion industry, with the perfume industry stemming from here as flowers were grown in the area. As the centuries passed, Grasse’s reputation increased, with many great perfume brands, including Chanel and Dior, ensuring their product was made there.
Today there’s an impressive International Perfume Museum in the town, open to visitors through the year.
Film-wise, Grasse became famous when Patrick Süskind’s 1985 novel, Perfume, was turned into Perfume: the Story of a Murder in 2006.
The film starred James Bond actor, Ben Whishaw, as the murderer Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Grenouille kills young women in his quest to find the perfect scent.
Although the film wasn’t shot in Grasse, I did take a tour of some of the locations used in the book.
Grasse does appear briefly in the 2009 film, Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, which closed that year’s Cannes Film Festival. The film stars Anna Mouglalis as Chanel and Mads Mikkelsen as Stravinsky and details a supposed love affair between the couple in 1920, the same year Chanel No. 5 was invented.
Chanel No. 5 was first announced to the world by Coco in Grasse on 5 May, 1921.
Grasse will feature in another film in 2014, Grace of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly, the star of that infamous Côte d’Azur film, To Catch a Thief (1955). The film crew arrived in Grasse in 2012 at the old hospital to shoot a sequence for the film.
Although not film related, one fascinating place to visit in Grasse is the Musée Fragonard, a museum filled with hundreds of anatomical oddities.
Some of the best known artefacts in the museum are a number of « flayed figures » with date from the late 1700s, including skinned cadavers and a human head!
The town also contains an Art and History Museum and a Maritime Museum, while sport and other leisure activities make Grasse an ideal place to visit in the French Riviera.
Next time I’ll be visiting the town of Mougins.
The Côte d ‘Azur, within three hours of over 30 European destinations, offers a wide range of themed stays all year round. With France’s second airport, Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, the French Riviera is within reach of over 33 countries, 103 destinations and served by 56 airlines.
Grasse is located approximately 40 kilometres from the town of Nice. Visit the local tourist office at www.grasse.fr.
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Top image © CRT Riviera Côte d’Azur – Photographe : Pierre Behar
International Museum of Perfume images © CRT Riviera Côte d’Azur – Photographe : Georges Veran
The Musée Fragonard © CRT Riviera Côte d’Azur – Photographe : Georges Veran
Fort de France © CRT Riviera Côte d’Azur – Jessye Autard