We visited the centre of Grasse. Inside the narrow streets and alleys of the old town, there was a market, and a spice stall, with all kinds of fresh, loose spices for sale, including some red peppercorns (baies roses).
We stopped at a few more shops to buy perfumed soaps and other souvenirs, and then we found the Musee International de la Parfumerie. The ground floor was devoted to artefacts – distillation equipment, but there were also crates of oak moss and benzoin, centrifuge equipment, smaller laboratory devices, and then on the first floor there were historic bottles and packaging – arranged in chronological order. A special exhibition was on the second floor – detailing perfumery and fashion in the twentieth century. This was a fascinating look at the relationship between the two, through the decades. There were examples of shoes and clothing, coinciding with perfume bottles and launches, and brief descriptions of the history of the period. On the roof was a garden and greenhouse, with many perfumery plants; there was ylang ylang (in flower!), ginger, pepper, vanilla and aloe vera, with baskets of olibanum and benzoin.
We drove further up the hillside to look at the view of Grasse from above. In the Provencal hillsides there were aromatic plants growing – broom, immortelle and thyme. Then we returned to Cannes to get ready for the finale of the Congress, the Gala Dinner.
All the delegates assembled on the roof garden of the Palais des Festivals for cocktails. Then, dinner was served in the Salon des Ambassadeurs. The menu cards on the tables had scratch ‘n’ sniff “tasters” of parts of the menu, herbes folles, fruits des bois, and pain d’epices.
After the dinner, we were expecting “The Blues Brothers”, and some music started on stage, and some lights, and then the curtains drew back and about ten people came out with bowler hats and sunglasses on, but clearly they were the WPC Committee! Jean-Pierre Subrenat introduced each one in turn, for them to be thanked and applauded for all their hard work, then Francis Thibaudeau, the Vice Chairman of the Congress, thanked Jean-Pierre for all he had done. And they announced that the next World Perfumery Congress would be in New York, in 2004.
A few minutes later, the music and lights started again, and the real “Eight Killers Blues Brothers” came bounding out onto the stage! For the next hour or so, they played some excellent music, and many people got up to dance. Then, at the end of their performance, they announced that we should not rush off just yet, because the “surprise” that we had been told to expect at the end of the evening was outside waiting for us, and so we all went out onto the terraces, for a fantastic firework finale in the bay of Cannes.
The fireworks were being set off a boat a little way out to sea, and there was classical music being played over loudspeakers, and it really made a wonderful and utterly memorable end to the evening, the day, and of the Congress.
Sunday 3rd June
Near a Provencal vineyard we strolled along a trail, up a hill, and in the space of a few metres, we found cistus, juniper, rosemary, and thyme growing wild. We climbed the hill further and admired the Provencal view – we could see for miles! Afterwards we went back down and drove to the Domaine de La Navarre, where we looked at olive trees, cypress, bougainvillea, oleander, plane trees, and eucalyptus trees.
Finally, we walked through another field, where there was broom (genet) growing in the hedgerow. There was hardly anything moving in the field, it was a hot and still Provence afternoon. As we went back to the car, we looked at the cork trees beside the vineyard, where they take the bark to cork the wine bottles. It was a highly fascinating nature walk!
Photos and Report by Julie Towle