On The Train to Grasse
I’m on the train from Paris to Grasse, breathing in with my eyes the green landscape of the French countryside. Although I admit I woke up still feeling sick and was mostly into sleeping for the best part of the train ride, I was able to get some rest and enjoy some fo the view.
We are now at the very last bit of the trip and I’m gradually feeling more like home. It looks like my homeland in the winter or spring time. Fields of poppies, bushes of broom covered in yellow flowers. Little coral houses with orange shingles, and of course vineyards everywhere. The Mediterranean ocean pops into view every once in a while and it’s as blue as one can only hope.
Being here for a few days I’m noticing a few things about the French (and I do hope this is not going to offend anyone), which come across quite obviously with smells: most people wear perfumes, and they wear good ones too. I’ll be walking on the street and various scents, some familiar and some not cross my path. People here smell good. But than there was someone on the train who was wearing some baby-poweder smelling perfume and we had to put up with that for the entire ride, so I guess being around other perfumephiles comes at a price… On the other hand, there’s a lot of smoking going on and you pass through clouds of smoke or need to put up with them in cafes and restaurants all the time. The toilettes are usually way cleaner than anywhere else I’ve visited. There is almost always some good smelling hand soap, and more often than never there’s even an air freshener. In fact, the metro stations are regularly sprayed with air fresheners, mostly smelling of lily of the valley (or lilac I’m told too but I haven’t smelled that yet). I don’t know how they would’ve smelled without the air fresheners, but I was told it used to be horrible.
Towards the end of the train ride, I managed to finally et myself together and stop feeling sorry for myself (even though my ears are still ringing) and go freshen up with some of my mimosa perfume I was planning to wear in the south of France. We than enjoyed the last bit of macaroons we saved for the trip, whose flavours intensified because they were out of the fridge for several hours. The mango jasmine was so much more intense and just downright amazing; and the violet also came through a lot more clearly in the violet-cassis macarons. I also tried new flavours – Caramel Fleur de Sel, Lemon, Rose, Raspberry and the Orange Blossom, which is my new favourite (right next to the Bergamote and Mango-Jasmine).
After another very short train ride to Grasse, leaving the beaches behind and heading towards the very beautiful mountain, we took a taxi to the hotel. Even the receipt of the taxi driver reeked of perfume. And so was nearly everything everywhere – a nice old fashioned floral perfume this or the other in every level at the hotel and everywhere there are little shops and perfume museums. The city looks very pretty and spreads wider than I would have ever imagined. It’s a mountain city and the population here is far more diverse than you’d expect from a small town – there’s a huge Italian influence not only on the architecture but also the cuisine, and the population is not only French – there are North African Muslims, East Indians and Antilleans for examples (and restaurants to match as well). I was particularly thrilled to walk down the narrow streets and find little Arabic pastry shops selling all sorts of baklawa and Gazelle horns. It reminded me of the nearby Arab city to my village as well as other ancient mountain cities with the narrow swirling streets spilling over the mountains and staircases everywhere.