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Grasse - three fragrant days in summer

Grasse - three fragrant days in summer

25 May 2015 BY Tim Wells

Grasse was not always the most fragrant town in the world. From the 13th century its main occupation was tanning, and its high quality leather products were exported throughout southern Europe. The processes involved can create quite a stench, however, and even the finest quality kid gloves would turn the noble nose attached to the hands for which they were made. When the tanner Galimard produced a pair of scented gloves for Catherine de Medici, Grasse’s reputation as the perfume town was made, and the trade flourished throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. As the leather industry declined, the perfumeries took centre stage. Grasse enjoys an ideal location for growing flowers, and tonnes of rose, jasmine, lavender, orange blossom, tuberose, mimosa, and violets were harvested annually for the processes of enfleurage and distillation involved in making perfume. These days two million tourists come to Grasse annually to visit the museums and shops, and to take the free guided tours offered by the three main historic producers, Fragonard, Galimard, and Molinard, as well as the International Museum of Perfume, with exhibits dedicated to every aspect of the perfume industry. In late summer the whole town gives itself over to its Festival of Jasmine, three days of highly fragrant celebration, with parades, fireworks, music, and sprays of scented water and strewn flower petals. The 2015 Festival runs from 31 July through 2 August.

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