Saturday, March 24, 2012

Antibes, Grasse, Nice

This morning the tour participants left Avignon and headed toward Nice, making two stops along the way.

After a drive lasting more than two hours, the group first arrived at Antibes, a coastal town on the French Riviera.

Tour participants were given two-and-one-half hours to explore the town of Antibes.

My parents simply walked around the old town, still fully enclosed by centuries-old ramparts, and enjoyed a nice lunch.

Antibes is home to a Picasso museum, one of many Picasso museums in Europe, which my parents might have visited had the Antibes Picasso museum not been closed for renovation. Antibes is also home to a noted naval museum, but the naval museum is in a distant part of town, and my parents chose not to venture beyond the old town.

My parents did not find Antibes to be particularly interesting or particularly beautiful. The old town, with its narrow streets, was unduly commercial and unpleasantly dirty, and there were few buildings of interest to be found.

Antibes was at its best from a distance, looking at one rampart of the old town from another.

From Antibes, the tour group was transported to nearby Grasse.

Grasse is the perfume capital of the world, and the tour group was taken directly to the Galimard Parfumerie, where a one-hour guided tour was conducted.

The guided tour was a first-class affair in every way, and my parents—unexpectedly—found themselves fascinated by the experience.

The tour began with a visit to the on-site museum, at which antique equipment for producing scents was on display. The tour continued with a visit to the modern factory, after which the tour group visited the laboratory, surely as complex as laboratories at DuPont. The process of extracting scents from flowers, plants, woods and other raw materials was explained in depth.

At the conclusion of the guided tour, there was a two-hour “workshop” with scent experts. During the workshop, tour participants were requested to find their favorite “essences” and create their own personal perfumes. At the conclusion of the workshop, participants were presented with tiny souvenir bottles of their own personal creations.

Tour participants learned that perfumes have “architectures”, just like music. A good perfume must possess a good top note, a good middle note, and a good base note (and, in perfume terminology, it is “base”, not “bass”), all chosen from one of 127 available notes—and all three chosen notes must coexist in the right proportions in order to achieve a rounded, harmonious result.

All of this was explained by an expert “Nose”—a person trained to possess the very highest olfactory skills—who assisted each tour participant in the perfume-creation process.

My parents, to their surprise, found the workshop to be very informative—and a lot of fun. The Galimard personnel were exceedingly knowledgeable, exceedingly professional, exceedingly French and exceedingly chic. The afternoon was, more or less, an unexpected delight, a once-in-a-lifetime experience for persons having no inherent interest in the subject of scent creation.

After the afternoon-long visit to the Galimard Parfumerie, the tour group was transported to Nice, where it will spend the next two nights.

The tour hotel is right in the center of Nice, in contrast to the tour hotel in Avignon, and my parents said the hotel is quite fashionable.

After settling in, my parents and three other couples walked around Nice for ninety minutes and located a restaurant for dinner.

My parents report that Nice is a gorgeous city.

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