Grasse is Always Greener

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I think the real hallmark of a good pun is when you feel secondhand embarrassment for the person making it.

Today I’m taking a trip in the way way back machine to the three day field trip (+bonus weekend) my class took to Grasse back in February.  Since coming back we’ve had many tests and a two week break, which will maybe explain why I’m only getting to the Grasse lowdown now.

For those who don’t know, Grasse is a region of the South of France instrumental to both the development of the perfume industry and the production of many raw materials today.  IFF, which sponsors my training program, has one of its LMR centers there, which coordinates the production of high quality natural raw materials around the world (including in Grasse).  We’ve smelled many of these materials as part of our course.  Granted, because it was February, there was very little in bloom and not much ready to be harvested- except the mountains and mountains of mimosa, which was absolutely spectacular and perhaps the pivotal experience of our visit.  Not to mention that the city was beautiful, we were lucky with weather, and it wasn’t snowing like it was in Paris and Versailles.  Plus meals were included.

On Day One, we took taxis from our school in Versailles to the Orly airport.  There was a little singing on the ride and some playing of Contact, a game I’m pretty fond of.  Of course, because it was snowing, our flight was delayed by maybe an hour, but it wasn’t too late when we got into Nice airport and I slept on the flight anyway.  We then took a hired bus to our hotel in Grasse, Hotel le Patti, and promptly collapsed in our shared rooms.

Breakfast at the hotel was provided and opened at 6, which was excellent for me because I always wake up too early, even if the breakfast wasn’t too exciting (or at all vegan friendly).  That day we visited the LMR facilities and listened to a talk about their purpose and practice.  We split into two groups for a tour of the factory and the smelling of some raw materials.  Lunch was brought in for us.  Though we had been asked about our dietary requirements (and I identified myself as vegan/vegetarian), the choices were fish and chicken.  Which caused me to have a bit of a hunger panic attack.  After more smelling we left LMR and were left with a free evening.  Somehow (everyone accepted my suggestion based on frantic vegan research) we all ended up at a little Vietnamese restaurant, which was great fun.  Then groups of us splintered off for exploring.

The next day was my favorite.  After another early wake up and early breakfast, I took about an hour to wander around the city of Grasse on my own, which was absolutely beautiful.  I love discovering new cities.  When it was time to leave, we departed for the mimosa harvests.  We visited a small shelter that was housing already harvested mimosa and took an hour’s break for a photoshoot, wine, and nuts.  I may have stolen a lot of leftover cashews.  I may not yet have finished them.  The bus then took us on a tour through the mountains and Tanneron, the mimosa city.  the whole place was covered with blooming yellow puff bubbles.  Lunch was a fiasco similar to that the day before.  This restaurant did make me a special vegetarian meal- unfortunately it was fish.  Struggles.  I had a lot of table bread. After lunch we visited the LMR experimental field to see what was growing and being worked on.  It was definitely not the season for it, but I imagine in later spring and summer it must be very interesting.  We returned to the hotel and once again converged on the same place for dinner (once again a place I had suggested- Achiana, a fantastic Indian restaurant that I very much recommend if you’re ever in the area).  But there was a bit of a SNAFU in the form of a very dramatic house fire that almost entirely blocked the path.  It was an amazing and terrible sight.  After dinner we frolicked in the city and got up to mischief.

Friday was our last day, and the most rushed.  I followed my pattern of the day before of an early breakfast followed by a walk around Grasse.  By the time we left I was starting to get familiar with the area- the city center is pretty small, but very varied in elevation.  We visited the Perfume Museum in Grasse, which was pretty cool but very rushed.  Highlights included a mummy hand, a mummy foot, a toilette case that had belonged to Marie Antoinette, many gorgeous old bottles, and a visit to the greenhouse where we were shown labdanum, among other things, which I was later able to identify when I visited my grandparents in Spain over vacation.  We were given free time for lunch and splintered off in smaller groups for the first time.  I was with a group that had a very splapdash meal at Achiana- because we couldn’t leave Grasse without going back!  But of course we didn’t have time to finish. Thankfully I got to carry some food out to eat later.  We visited the museums gardens after lunch, which were somewhere between Grasse and the Nice airport.  Again, February was certainly not their peak season, but there were a few interesting things to see.

Many of us had decided to stay in Nice for the weekend and made our way to our respective abodes after being dropped off at the airport.  Because I don’t have any notes or a schedule from the weekend, I’ll just rattle off some memorable moments- walking high up to view the city, seeing a beach for the first time in forever, riding the ferris wheel (it was Luis’s first time!), waking up to see the sunrise over the water, and just generally exploring the city.  I have to admit, Nice isn’t really my cup of tea.  My classmate George says it reminds him of Florida, his home state, and that’s pretty accurate to me.

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Listen to Why I’m Stressed

It occurred to me that today is a links day but guess what? I don’t have many links and I’m feeling stressed and over-stimulated, and I felt like writing a links post would be not an excellent thing for my brain.

So I want to do what I often do when I’m stressed and make a list of what’s bothering me.  It kind of helps.  Especially because when it comes down to it I’m kind of living my best life.  There’s nothing seriously wrong in any way whatsoever.

There are a few too many focuses and that’s a hard thing for me to handle because of who I am as a person.

So in the order in which they occur to me:

  • We have three tests coming up in the next two weeks. For one I have to memorize approximately 100 synthetic molecules, their names, and the families they’re classified in. And recognize them by scent.  And review the 130 natural materials that will be trickily sprinkled in… For another I need to recognize something like 50 or 60 fine fragrances, with names and brands, and scent families.  I don’t even know what the other one is at this point. Maybe chemistry?
  • There’s a French one coming up. Do I even have to take the French test? (My French is good enough that I’ve been told I don’t have to come to class).
  • I finished my green beans but didn’t eat the broccoli I bought this week and I’m worried it will go bad.
  • I need to go grocery shopping on Sunday and I’m slightly stressed about what recipes to shop for.
  • In three weeks we have a field trip to Grasse for a few days to study the mimosa harvest. And most people (including me) are staying the extra weekend days. But that means I have some trip planning to do, and my last trip planning experience didn’t give me a huge amount of faith in my abilities.
  • Speaking of trip planning, a week later is the start of our two week February break. I have no idea what is happening there.
  • It’s hard to go back to working all day. I hate sitting so much and feeling so exhausted after. Smelling for 8 hours is actually really exhausting. I need more physical activity and stretching.
  • I want to try a financier pastry but I don’t know what kind to buy. It looks like they come in almond, pistachio, and chocolate varieties.
  • Speaking of which, what kind of bread should I get this week?
  • Lol I need to find a summer internship.
  • I discovered that Chipotles exist in Paris and I REALLY miss Mexican food so I’ve asked some friends to go with me tomorrow, which is kind of a worry for me. Just the planning and timing.
  • Speaking of my plans tomorrow, there’s an exhibit at the Petit Palais that I have to get to (it closes Sunday) on the pastel art of Degas and Redon. Must make that happen.
  • I left my favorite necklace and my iPod at home. I miss them.
  • My grocery shopping? I need to get a jam but I’m torn between four types. (Figs or mirabelle or Reines Claudes or fruits rouges?)

I think that’s it! Stay posted for links (and hopefully sanity) tomorrow!