Guess who was in town when I visited Grasse? No less than French ex-president Sarkozy and his wife. Clueless upon arrival, my friend and I spotted a small crowd and a suspiciously large number of French tricolors in front of the cathedral. They seemed to be waiting for something…or someone. Camerateams were all ready to go and discussing last changes and set-ups, the people living in the surrounding buildings stood by the windows, smartphone or camera in hand. About a hundred people had gathered in the small square in front of the cathedral. We checked online to see what was going on and soon found out that Nicolas Sarkozy was awaited to attend the funeral of a former politician. I could sense the guy next to me positively skipping up and down in anticipation. He also suggested we climb up the bench, ‘you won’t be able to see him otherwise’.
After waiting for about an hour or so, we saw him for about two seconds which was the time it took the journalists to spot him and completely block our view. And then he was gone.
We stayed a bit longer to witness the rest of the ceremony where they transported the coffin into the funeral car. Guards and journalist followed the car for a while and then it was over. Some of them lingered for a bit longer, catching up on town gossip and news.
Then it was time to do some actual sightseeing, or well, in Grasse that means everything involving perfume. If you have read the book ‘Perfum: The story of a Murderer‘ (or watched the movie), you’d know. There are several perfume factories to visit, all of them free of charge with a factory shop at the end of each tour. Nonetheless, it was interesting to learn about the process of perfume making and perfumes itself.
Next stop was the Musée International de la Parfumerie (Perfume Museum) which showed a great collection from the history of perfume and make-up to flacons to art about perfume. I would not recommend taking the guided tour as it would have been better to explore the museum by ourselves and go at our own pace. I kind of felt like I was missing a lot of great parts of the exhibitions and being rushed through, even though the tour was long (2h) and tiring. The museum had a great collection of perfume and make-up related objects on display. I learned a few new things, for example that the brand Maybelline was founded by a chemist who wanted to help his sister. Back in the days, mascara was really hard to apply and smudged easily. His trick was to add vaseline to the formula and Maybelline (Maybel + vaseline) was born. His sister’s name was Maybel. Another display showed products used to blacken one’s teeth, which was popular in Japan during the 19th century. Apparently, apart from being a social custom, this was also supposed to prevent tooth decay.
There are a few other museums to visit, most of them somehow sponsored or run by the Flagonard perfume empire, like the Musée Provençal du Costume et du Bijou where you can see a small exhibition of traditional jewellery and clothing from the area. Typical elements were elements from nature such as floral and herbal patterns, and women often draped a fichus, a square scarf folded in a triangular shape around their shoulders. The upper class was of course influenced by Parisien fashion but incorporated local designs.