Postcard from Grasse: Prof. Magda El-Shenawee


Today I took the train to visit a nearby town called Grasse, which is famous for manufacturing perfume! The train took 20 minutes from Antibes, where I live. All of these small towns are in the area of Nice, France. (Cote d'Azur means French Riviera.)

The most famous perfume factory in Grasse is named after a famous painter, Fragonard, who was born in Grasse. This year they opened his art museum next to the factory. One can see the name Fragonard on top of the factory.

For most flowers, they extract the scent by boiling them in these big containers.

But for fragile flowers like jasmine, they absorb their scent by sticking them in animal fat before the flowers are spoiled. They keep the fat and later extract the scent to make the perfume.

As one can imagine, a filtering process will be needed. These filters are paper ones similar to those used in coffee makers. These are used to filter the flowers’ remains from the obtained liquid. Of course the factory smells incredibly good – a mix of all flowers used in their perfumes, particularly the famous lavender.

A sleek lab within the factory, with vials of scent on shelves.

This lab was a restricted area for visitors as it is only permitted for the expert “noses”; we were told only 50 such experts exist in the whole world. They study for 10 years to get to that level! Perfume factories share these “noses” as they can’t afford having their own; their services are very expensive.

As in all wonderful towns in the French Riviera: sun, mountains, palm trees, food, and nice people! Just walking around was big fun and totally relaxing.

Grasse is an old town like all French towns! Lots of narrow alleys, and it gets narrower on the side ones.

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