Scent From Heaven
Condé Nast Traveller India|August/September 2016
Scent From Heaven

As Chanel No. 5, one of the world’s most iconic fragrances, gets a makeover, Vir Sanghvi heads to Grasse in the South of France, where it all began.

Vir Sanghvi 

When you tell people you’re going to the South of France in May, you get knowing looks. “Ah yes,” they say, “Cannes”. And yes, as the season begins on the French Riviera, the events pile up. There is the two-week long Champagne-fuelled orgy of deal-making and red-carpet posing that is the Cannes Film Festival. A few miles away, in Monte Carlo, the tennis tournaments are winding down, there is a buzz over the Bal De La Rose and the gamblers have arrived to throw their cash at the tables in the casino.

All over the Riviera, the smell of money is in the air. The Russians arrive in their megayachts and hit the shores of Antibes. Nice is overrun by rich women in designer summer wear. At Cap Ferrat, the more discreet stars, who have been forced by their studio to fly in for the film festival, skulk by the pool of the Hotel Eden Roc, glad to avoid the Cannes party circuit. 

It is all quite over the top and slightly ridiculous.

And yet, there are parts of the Riviera that are free of the May madness. They have stayed essentially French, I suspect, because the international jet-set has not heard of them. One such place is the small town of Grasse. It is less than an hour’s drive from Nice, yet it feels a world apart. When I went, in May, as festival fever took over Cannes and Nice, life here was unfazed, unchanged. There were no topless starlets, no Hollywood deal-makers in reflective sunglasses—even the rich Russians and Arabs had given the area a miss.

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August/September 2016