All the girls are now at university so we are officially empty nesters. With that in mind we decided to take a few days off and are currently enjoying warm weather and the local rosé in the south of France. St Paul-de-Vence to be precise, and very lovely it is too.
As we are only half an hour from Grasse it was not difficult to persuade the Boss that a little detour around the Fragonard museum and factory would be a pleasant way to spend the morning.
The museum was small but fascinating with fine examples of toiletry bottles and equipment from as early as the sixth century BC, the latter in such superb condition that at first I thought it was a copy. But the jewel in the crown is the factory tour.
The bottles of essential oils alone were enough to woo me.
The bottle went on and one. To be honest I am not sure what is in them, but they were so beautiful.
Originally extraction was either cold press, where each flower was placed on a rack of animal fat (cow or pig) for twenty four hours and then replaced daily for a month until the fat was soaked with the flower essence. It was then washed with alcohol, the alcohol evaporated away and what was left was the absolute.
Racks for cold press.
More robust plants were heated with the oil over a few days and then washed with alcohol as above. Today they have perfected a slightly more rapid option using alcohol directly, or the good old maceration and still method. (See my post here about how to make your own rosewater – but sadly not essential oil!)
The perfumes (at 76% these are the perfumes not the eau du parfum nor eau de toilette) are blended in these huge vats. Perhaps not quite as romantic as those rose petals we soaked in water to make perfume for our mothers, but a little more effective!
I am wearing this particular perfume today/
Some of the equipment looked like giant coffee machines!
For reasons known only to Fragonard, you can buy egg boxes of soap.
This process was a little more familiar (soap making not egg boxes – most of our egg boxes are full of real eggs from our real hens!)
Lots of mixing, shaving and mixing again. Mind you their equipment is a little more sophisticated.
They also run workshops where you can mix your own perfume. Sounds fun at two hours and might give it a go. Particularly when I learned it takes six years to train as a Nose. That’s as long as a doctor! This is the play laboratory. Apparently a real one has 2,000 to 3,000 different scents to choose from! This Libran would find that a little overwhelming.
And finally of course to the shop! The prices were actually quite reasonable (especially with my 10% discount voucher acquired earlier in the day!) So a few purchases were made.
Today is Farmers’ Market day in St Paul-de-Vence so it will be cheese I will be smelling and tasting!
Love Gillie x