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Provence Bound: A Weekend Getaway in the South of France!

Vintage blue, white and red, Porte de Vanves Flea  Photos by Theadora Brack

Wallis Warfield Simpson

By Theadora Brack

It’s high time to take a holiday, some time to celebrate! So pack your bags, books, baubles, and lip balm because this week we’re trekking to the south of France. See, there’s no time like the summertime for some brocante shopping, fossil hunting, and Pastis sipping!

But first gather around, all history bugs. I’ve got another royal tale up my sleeve!

Pop quiz! Where was Wallis Warfield Simpson on the day of Edward’s abdication back in 1936?

Well, here’s the scoop: While Edward bid farewell on the radio airwaves, “Wally” and her stylish BFF motored to Grasse, inland from Nice, and toured the Molinard and the Bruno Court perfume factories, according to the newspapers of the day. “Mrs. Simpson Calm; Takes An Auto Ride,” was the zippy headline.

I’ve had those days! Fully embracing flower power, lavender both soothes and re-energizes my spirits every time, transforming not only perception, but also attitude. I am a believer. In Provence, I once trailed a lavender truck flush with clippings as it slowly made its way to a distillerie les coulets (traditional lavender distillery), beaucoup miles out of my way because of its scent and the tranquil buzz it gave me.

La Maison Molinard

Ding-dong! Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Molinard factory in Grasse is still worth the journey! Located at 60 Boulevard Victor Hugo, the headquarters also flaunts a posh but cozy show room, decked out with the Molinard family collection of antique Provençal furniture.

Eau de Lavande and Habanita by Molinard

Heck, even Queen Victoria paid a visit to stock up onher beloved Eau de Cologne! Talk about making lemonade from lemons! By the way, the queen’s Grand Hôtel in Grasse is now an apartment building. Located at 26 avenue Victoria, it’s now called La Résidence du Grand Palais. Worth a drive-by, don’t forget to curtsy!

Petal Pusher

Here at Molinard, not only will you get an eyeful of their eclectic collection of vintage bottles, powder boxes, advertisements, and labels, but you’ll also learn how perfume is made in Grasse. Plus, there’s a gift shop! Also, for a fee, they’ll even help you create your very own signature scent. Talk about being a queen for a day!

My pick? It’s got to be Habanita. The powdery scent was created in 1921 as a product for flappers to scent cigarettes. Inspired by the sweet tobacco smoked by WWI Allied Troops, this leathery little number with hints of lavender was re-launched as the real McCoy a few years later, coolly dressed to the nines with water nymphs by Réne Lalique. So wiggle on in your glad rags!

Everything IS coming up roses

While in touring Grasse, I also recommend visiting the Parfumerie Galimardat 73 route de Cannes, the Parfumerie Fragonard at 20 Boulevard Fragonard, and the Musée International de la Parfumerie Grasse at 2 Rue Mirabeau. All three are worth a spin!

 

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56 thoughts on “Provence Bound: A Weekend Getaway in the South of France!

  1. Oh, Theodora, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate slipping away, if only for a few minutes, to travel to Grasse. And little Ms. Simpson! What a fabulous, investigative little tidbit. Love it.

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    • Thanks, Anita!! It was great fun to dig up a “little dirt” about Grasse! I just picked up Anne Sebba’s That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. Have you read it? Enjoy the weekend! I’m looking forward to your weekly Sunday Post. Enjoy the weekend!! T.

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  2. T – for once I can say I have actually been to one of the wonderful places you write about. We had a superb couple of weeks un Entrecasteaux a few years back which included a wonderful trip to Grasse and the Molinard factory. A symphony of the senses! The lavender fields are a sight to be seen! Thanks for reminding me of an OARsome holiday. J

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    • Yes Theadora – and I am so excited to be spending a week in Provence on our trip! J, I would LOVE any tips you have on the area from your trip and thanks Theadora! As much as I am looking forward to Paris, I am reeeeally excited about a week in the South!

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      • Great planning, Shira!! Have you picked an area? You’ll be there in August? If so, add the outdoor brocantes to your list. I’ll dig up the link to the online “brocante” list for you. For the love of Julia Child, Provence is a great place to score vintage cookware! Have you started to pack?! T. (Say, do you have any favorite lavender recipes?)

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    • Ah! So you made it to Grasse and the Molinard factory? OARsome, indeed! Did you take the factory tour? I loved the “petal” room. I bought about 50 bars of soap. I couldn’t resist. All lavender, of course!! That was a perfect day. T.

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    • Merci! The Duchess of Windsor was a beauty!! Especially in Elsa Schiaparelli garb. I love her “lobster dress” portraits by Cecil Beaton for Vogue in 1937. Wearing the fabulous “lobster dress” by Schiap and Salvador Dalí, she glows! Enjoy the day!! T.

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      • It is so gorgeous in Chicago today, it would be difficult to not enjoy. Going out in a bit to “find” some photos, soon as the sun’s angle lessens and I can get some good backlight.

        Have a wonderful day over there “babs”!

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  3. I lingered long over the lavender fields. Lavender that most heavenly of all fragrances. My hands-down favorite fragrance Theadora. Why wouldn’t a king give up his throne for this woman of exquisite taste. Our weather is February cold and wet so we are leaving the gloom behind. Inspired by your words we’ll watch two DVD’s – My Father’s Glory and My Mother’s Castle, Marcel Pagnol’s captivating story of a young boy in turn-of-the-century South of France. A couple of glasses of rose wine from Provence and we’ll join in lavender fields forever.

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    • Oh. Yes. Thanks, Virginia!! Marcel Pagnol’s My Mother’s Castle (1990) and My Father’s Glory (1991) have been on my wish list for ages. I’m tracking them down now, along with the book. The bottles of rosé are already chilling!! T. (I also sprinkle lavender clippings on the floor!)

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      • I just came in from the garden Theadora. I was weeding around the lavender. ANY excuse to inhale their perfume.
        One Christmas my husband put the two Marcel Pagnol’s DVD’s under the tree.. I cried when I unwrapped my gift. I had been wanting those movies for years. Virginia

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  4. Oh-Em-Gee! You have made this perfumista jealous to no end! I went to Grasse during my first visit to France when I was 15 years old. We toured gardens and the Fragonard factory. I think it’s the memory of that trip that has made me into the perfume-crazy person I am today. Every time I pass a field of lavender, whether it’s in France or a little plot here in New York, I always run my hands through the blossoms and inhale the loveliness from my palms. Wonderful post!

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    • Dear Mad Perfumista!! You’ll have to make another pilgrimage to the Fragrance Hubbub of the World! After several years of rehab work, the International Perfume Museum is back open. It’s worth the trek!! Plus, during the summer months you’ll find brocantes with vintage perfume bottles. It IS Perfumista Heaven! Theadora

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  5. Love the post… And coincidentally, we are heading to La Côte d’Azur in September. While we won’t have time for Grasse, I have planned a visit to Galimard and Fragonard in Éze. So looking forward to that now after reasing your post.

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    • Vivien, Excellent planning!! I look forward to your reports from the “field.” By the way, Fragonard has a free Perfume Museum in Paris. Le musee du parfum
 is located at 9 rue Scribe
 (Metro: Opera). In the gift shop, you’ll because find exhibited several more of the museum gems. Keep your eyes peeled for my favorite: a candle-snuffer-shaped number called “Sleeping,” created by Elsa Schiaparelli in 1938. Enjoy Galimard and Fragonard!! Theadora

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      • Excellent recommendation for le Musée du Parfum. I will add that to the itinerary and I will keep my eyes peeled for ‘Sleeping’. There will most definitely be a trip report when we get back 🙂

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  6. A lovely evocation of one of the most places on earth, the photos are as ever a pleasure! Beautiful, enticing, well… a fine place for you my dear Theadora 🙂

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      • Can I ask which one? We loved Fontvieille. Small. Near the Chateau Romanin winery. There’s les Baux about 10 minutes away. But too touristy.

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      • Theadora the post about my Mum’s shoes are gone….but, but I found other interesting shoes that could do an interesting post( shoes similar to your piccie)

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    • Gordon, I agree!! It’s one of my favorite photographs of Wallace. And speaking of beauties, I’ve really been enjoying your street art photography series. You’ve captured some amazing works! Theadora

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    • Merci!! Theadora (Your site is pretty darn FAB. I loved Cecil Beaton’s 1928 portrait of Paula Gellibrand! The sparkly dress and rings are amazing!!) Have you seen Beaton’s 1937 photographs of Wallace Simpson? They were taken for Vogue Magazine. Wallace is wearing the Schiaparelli and Salvador Dalí gown. She’s radiant.)

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    • I feel the same way about your site!! Loved the recent Rachel Carson quote: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” Beautiful!! Theadora

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  7. embracing flower power… remembering to curtsy… hope to sometime be a king for a day… for now, i’ll wiggle my glad rags! love this, you’re genius! cheers!

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  8. I wish this blog had smellyvision! I also love the story of you trailing the lavender truck – it sounds like a dream.

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    • Thanks, Rob!! Yes, bring back the old Smell-O-Vision! Yes, I followed the truck all the way to the distillery. I had just gone fossil hunting. Scored 37 tiny ammonites! And the sun was setting. It was very dreamy!! Theadora

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      • Ammonites and lavender? That sounds so poetic and hypnotic. The parfum I really want to sniff is La Habanita. I love the influences, they’re so zeitgeisty (and its links to flapperdom).

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  9. Sunset on the lavender fields sure make these grey Parisian days seem longer! Someday I’ll have to get a “Grasse” Matinée!

    Thanks for the detour!

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  10. I’m ready to head back to Provence. I love the lavender, too, and once gleaned a number of stalks in a field that had already been picked. Using bubble wrap, I managed to get them all back to the US and they’re still hanging in my house. The last few years, I’ve had good luck growing my own lavender, not in fields like that, unfortunately, but still beautiful and beloved by the butterflies and bees (as well as me!!)

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