As a perfume fanatic and aspiring perfumer, I have wanted to visit Grasse ever since I learned it was the perfume capital of the world. I have had wild dreams featuring colorful meadows with rows and rows of beautiful flowers and overwhelming fragrances. In my mind, a perfumery was always sitting in the middle of a large meadow of pink flowers. When I finally got there, was I in for a surprise.
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Temperatures sweltering. Roads winding. Cars speeding. Fragrances…lacking. Instead of flat meadows with rows of blossoms, it was all steep hills and rows of tightly packed houses. Surely we were just passing through a small town on our way to the perfumeries where I had scheduled perfume classes. What I was seeing didn’t seem quite worthy of my spending my hard-earned babysitting money. However, when we pulled into the nearly vertical parking lot and saw the signs pointing to Molinard, there was no denying it: my experience was not going to be exactly how I had dreamed. The moment I opened the door of the car, the humid, upper-ninety-degree temperature hit me in the face like a dead fish, and I got out to inhale my surroundings. Even though the meadows and flowers were missing, I wasn’t completely disappointed.
After signing in at the front desk, my mom and I were promptly led to an atelier. I immediately noticed the giant distillers and wall decal reading “Le Bar Des Fragrances,” and knew that this was going to be better than I could ever have dreamed. A master perfumer guided us to a personal table with a rotating perfume organ in the center. Black bottles held the many essences, all labeled in French, with tiny colored diamonds indicating whether the bottle contained a top, heart, or base note.
The class was given in French, and, surprisingly I understood almost everything the perfumer explained about the creation process, only stopping her a couple of times to ask for a quick translation. Needless to say, I was immensely proud of myself for not needing to take the class in English, allowing the perfumer to speak her native language, even though she was most definitely fluent in mine. (I heard her giving a class in English to a group of American tourists.) Taking the class in French gave me a deeper appreciation of the experience, as I felt more immersed in the culture. And then, the heavenly sniffing began. I opened bottle after bottle, closing my eyes and letting the scent rise up into my nose and fill my thoughts. After much thought, I narrowed my preferred essences to a group of seven, including honey, magnolia, and gardenia and created my first perfume: Fleurté.
Every moment in I spent in Grasse is imprinted in my memory and part of Fleurté: from the small moments spent outside of the perfumeries to the picnic we had as a family in the Jardins de la Princesse Pauline and the terrifying drive back down the narrow, winding streets punctuated by tiny speedometers greeting slow drivers with smiley faces and speeders with frowns. These moments erased any disappointment at the lack of meadows or the absence of pleasant fragrances wafting through the city. They overpowered the scorching temperatures and the sun that lightly burned my shoulders. These moments made me realize that even though something may not turn out exactly how I had imagined it, it just might be better. Now, whenever I open my bottle of Fleurté, the scent that comes out is more than magnolia, honey, and gardenia. The scent is of memories of Grasse.
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