Cannes & Grasse
July 24, 2009
But if you don’t have a personal stylist hanging off your arm, expect the same frosty welcome you might get on the Avenue Montaigne in Paris. Those in search of dazzling red-carpet looks minus the attitude should head for the promenade’s hippest multi-brand boutique, 55 Croisette (54 blvd de la Croisette), to check out the cutting-edge womenswear and accessories by international designers including Lanvin, Balenciaga, Zac Posen and Adam Jones. Style-conscious men can shop for ultra-chic cashmere sweaters at Bruno (36 blvd de la Croisette), jaunty yachting outfits at Paul and Shark (72 rue d’Antibes) and, at Trabaud (48 rue d’Antibes), suits every bit as sharp as those sported by the actors in the Film Festival’s 1994 Palme d’Or winner, Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction .
Brad and Angelina caused a huge stir at the Festival last year, taking their A-list offspring shopping for all-white ensembles at Bonpoint (16 rue du Commandant André). Baby bling is much in evidence in this glitzy side street just off the Croisette. I Pinco Pallino offers embroidered tulle dresses for little princesses and miniature brogues and fedoras for les petits princes (no.12). Baby Croisette (no. 29) carries everything from classic Dior layettes to rhinestone-studded sneakers, while around the corner, P’tit Mec (66 blvd de la Croisette) specializes in designer beachwear for pint-sized fashionistas, selling itsy-bitsy Dolce & Gabbana bikinis, Armani swimming trunks and adorable Miss Blumarine flip-flops adorned with pink satin roses.
Unlike the flashy fashion and jewelry boutiques on La Croisette and Rue d’Antibes, the city’s gourmet shopping scene is significantly harder to find. Head down Rue Meynadier, a bustling pedestrian shopping street awash in shops selling cheap sunglasses and gaudy beach towels and follow the enticing smells towards the Marché Forville, the Provençal covered market. Just before the market, at the lower end of Rue Meynadier, you’ll find the famous family-run fromagerie Ceneri (no. 22), the mouthwatering chocolates and 22 flavors of macarons at Jean-Luc Pelé (no. 36), and the gourmet mecca Ernest (delicatessen no. 52, pâtisserie at 53 bis). Don’t be put off by the unprepossessing façade of Cannolive (16 rue Vénizelos). This authentic old-fashioned store, run by several generations of the Raynaud family, is stocked with an impressive range of regional olive oils, tapenades and Lérina, a plant-based liqueur made by Cistercian monks on the Ile de Saint Honorat, one of the two Iles de Lérins in the Bay of Cannes. Better still, catch a ferry over to the island to visit the medieval abbey and its still-active monastery, where you can pick up a bottle of Lérina direct from the gift shop.
A 10-mile drive up into the hilly arrière-pays behind Cannes, the small medieval town of Grasse is the perfume capital of France. Some tourists come to soak up the delectable Provençal atmosphere of the vieille ville with its ochre-colored houses and crumbling facades, but most are here for a guided tour of one of the town’s world-famous parfumeries. Molinard (60 blvd Victor Hugo), established in 1849 and well-known to fragrance fans as the creator of the 1921 cult scent Habanita, offers year-round free tours and special workshops where would-be noses can create their own eau de parfum (by appointment: 04.92.42.33.21, €40). Molinard’s elegant in-house boutique, beneath a 1900 stained-glass cupola, offers a selection of gorgeous fragrances displayed on 18th-century Provençal furniture.
Galimard, the oldest of Grasse’s parfumeries, was founded in 1747 by Jean de Galimard who supplied the court of Louis XV with olive oil, fragrances and pomades. There are free tours of its laboratories and distilleries, filled with intriguing copper stills and antique equipment (73 route de Cannes). Visitors can also sign up to become a perfumer’s apprentice, concocting their own fragrances at a two-hour workshop at the Studio des Fragrances (5 route de Pégomas, 04. 93.09.20.00, €45). Both the factory and the Studio are a little way out of town, but there is also an in-town Galimard boutique (22 cours Honoré Cresp) selling fragrances, soaps and scented candles at factory prices.
Fragonard (20 blvd Fragonard), in a former tannery on the edge of the old town, is now run by two sisters whose great-grandfather Eugène Fuchs launched his perfume business in Grasse in 1926, naming it after the city’s most famous native son, 18th-century artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard. After delving into the 3,000-year history of scentmaking on a tour of the historic factory, perfume aficionados can sniff their way around Fragonard’s wonderfully fragrant boutique, which showcases the brand’s full range of perfumes and cosmetics. Don’t miss the beautifully packaged soaps scented with the Provençal aromas of mimosa, rose, lavender and orange blossom. Just down the street, another Fragonard boutique, Confidentiel (3 rue Jean Ossola), sells silk tunics and delicate jewelry made from semi-precious stones while Fragonard Maison (2 rue Amiral de Grasse) offers delicate embroidered household linens and traditional boutis quilts inspired by the collections in the nearby Provençal costume and jewelry museum.
Fittingly, for the birthplace of Rococo painter Fragonard, Grasse still boasts an active artistic community and the winding streets of the old town are studded with artists’ studios and galleries. One of my favorite shopping destinations in the vieille ville is Quatremains (12 rue Amiral de Grasse), a quirky little boutique run by Marieke Lekkerkerker and her husband, Philippe. The couple’s Baroque treasure trove is filled with gilt-edged mirrors, trompe-l’oeil picture frames, tasseled cushions, chandeliers and other decorative objects, both genuine antiques and clever reproductions. Marieke and Philippe also screen-print vintage wine labels, mount them on canvas and add layers of crackled varnish, transforming grands crus classés such as Vieux Château Certan's 1947 Pomerol into original artworks.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of France Today.
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