April 19, 2012
In the late 1800s Russian, Belgian and English royalty flocked to the town of Grasse on the Cote d’Azur to construct stately “Belle Epoque” mansions, and in doing so helped to pin the French Riviera firmly on the map as being a favourite holiday destination for the aristocracy.
For the last three centuries, Grasse has been considered to be the ‘perfume capital of the world’, an industry which today pulls in 600 million Euros a year and produces almost all over the perfume made in France.
Although Grasse has not always enjoyed being at the height of noble culture that it first experienced in the late 19th century. During the 1970s when the likes of St Tropez, Cap d’ Antibes, Cap Ferrat and Cap Martin were luring the world’s most affluent and elite to purchase lavish second homes to escape to in the winter, the town of Grasse had lost its patina.
Four decades later, the situation in Grasse could not be more different and the town has certainly returned to its former glory as being one of the most sought-after places on the Cote d’Azur to be seen in. Talking about the rise and demise of Grasse, Jill de Moleyns, who works for Riviera Estates said:
“It [Grasse] was where everyone wanted to come to because of its perfume reputation. Then the local council built a lot of cheap housing for the wave of North African immigration and people started to look elsewhere.
“But Grasse is getting back to the city it used to be. As the oldest part of the Cote d’Azur, Grasse has a fantastic, safe historic centre and the houses have great character.”
Its old narrow streets, lined with shops, museums and perfume factories, remain a hive of activity and attract more than two million visitors a year. And the countryside surrounding Grasse is equally as magnetic, encircled by a handful of medieval hillside villages, such as Opio and Mougins, entrancing the likes of the legendary French actress Bridget Bardot and writer Marcel Pagnol.
This ancient town of Grasse may not the celebrity super-yacht reputation of St Tropez, but its character retains a magnetism that has survived the test of time.