Tour de France: Provence Bound
By Theadora Brack
C’est l’été and the Pastis sipping is easy, so let’s celebrate with a summertime flashback, shall we? Grab the books, baubles, and bathing suits because this week we’re Provence bound. One of my all-time favorite hot spots in the world, especially when the country brocantes are jumping and the lavender is high! I’ve added new tips and pics. Ready for lift-off?
But first scatter around, all history bugs. I’ve got another royal tale up my puffy sleeve!
Pop quiz: Where was fellow Baltimore belle Wallis Warfield Simpson on the day of King Edward’s abdication back in 1936?
Here’s the scoop: While Edward VIII 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.
Heck, 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 intense scent and the tranquil buzz it gave me.
La Maison Molinard
Designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Molinard factory in Grasse is still worth the journey. Located at 60 Boulevard Victor Hugo, the headquarters flaunts a swanky but cozy show room, outfitted with the Molinard family collection of antique Provençal furniture, perfect for cooling your heels after a long morning of sniffing it up on the town.
Even Queen Victoria paid a visit to stock up on her beloved Eaux de Cologne. Here at Molinard, you’ll not only get an eyeful of their eclectic collection of vintage bottles, labels, and advertisements, but you’ll also learn how perfume is made in Grasse. For a small 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 fragrance was created in 1921 as a product for flappers to scent cigarettes. Inspired by the sweet tobacco smoked by WWI Allied Troops, this leathery 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. Oh, la la.
La vie en rose
While touring in Grasse, I also recommend touring the Parfumerie Galimard and the Parfumerie Fragonard, along with my personal favorite: the Musée International de la Parfumerie Grasse.
Making a splash
Tip: Hold on to your turbans! Designer Paul Poiret is in the spotlight at the Musée International de la Parfumerie Grasse. “Paul Poiret: Couturier Parfumeur” shines through September 7, 2013.
Here’s the squeal: Paul Poiret (a.k.a. Le Magnifique) was the first couturier to create a perfume line. In 1911 he launched his “Parfums de Rosine” with a rousing Ballets Russes-inspired tented backyard shindig. Making leaps and bounds with the theatrical possibilities in garb, Poiret dressed his guests in his new “lampshade”-silhouetted tunics and silky “harem” pants. And thus was the birth of loungewear!
Wandering deep in Poiret’s personal garden of Eden, the party goers feasted and drank wine while cavorting on pillows and blankets embroidered in shades of green and red roses, too. Even Isadora Duncan made the scene and cut a rug like no other. The fête was a success. Word quickly spread about Poiret’s new-fangled scents and “trousers-dresses” for women. It might even say the news had “real legs.”
Ahead of the curve, yes, but it still took awhile for the jupe culottes to catch fire, not hell. “Unladylike,” the critics cried. When the rebelling fashionistas were first spotted sporting such duds in Paris, near riots broke out, according to a 1911 New York Times story.
The reporter wrote, “It is perhaps the American woman, with her love of freedom, who will adopt them for walking in preference to the tight hobbleskirts which would appear to be designed with the the express intention of impeding movement, a state of affairs which the modern energetic athletic woman was bound to ‘kick against’ soon or later. Now that she can ‘kick’ literally as well as figuratively, what will she do? Will she take advantage of this new freedom offered to her?”
Fast Forward: Now throw on your hot pants and let’s take a spin around Provence. Time marches on!