Thursday, September 27, 2007

Grasse to L'Epine

We are in Mouans Sartoux, just outside and sitting with a cigar, excellent cup of coffee and this journal on the patio outside our room. At 7:45 am it is cool, clear and promises to be another of those spectacular late summer days in Provence. Reflecting on the trip so far, we have seen many beautiful and memorable sights, had a lot of good times and conversations, and we have certainly enjoyed each other’s company, but (there’s always a but isn’t there?) the motorcycle accident and uncertainty about Kat’s mom have created some tension that seems to manifest itself during our lively and emotional dinner times. We all wish those two things hadn’t occurred.

Today is the day I get to refill my prescription for my favorite cologne, Fragonard's Magellan (of Portuguese explorer fame), which is made right here at the factory in Grasse. I have a bottle at home that I have been nursing for the past few years, using it only on special occasions. The drive to parfum street was a breeze, and if I had to give up retirement and work in a factory, this would be the place. The setting is beautiful, and we arrived before they opened. Familiarity in thic case breeds comfort, and we made ourselves at home in the reception area reading the explanatory boards and exhibits. The first bus arrived just before 9:00 and our English language tour started right on time. Our tour guide was excellent and we were enthralled by the slow, exacting, and costly process of extracting fragrance from nature. So many smells, so little time. No wonder this stuff is so expensive. The last room you view contains the "organ" where the master "nose" mixes the various fragrances to create the perfect scent.

Kat traded the tour for a walk around the area and a visit to the perfumed fountain. I headed to the gift shop and my dismay was evident as I was informed that they had discontinued Magellan (I guess that was not that big a market for old Portuguese explorer scent). The young saleslady called the other Fragonard outlets (including the one in Paris) and none had so much as a bottle left … hmmm - seems to belie the theory that it wasn’t a good seller. Try as they might to sell me something close (I was dizzy from all the fragrances I tested), I was having none of it, and left disappointed but smelling pretty good. I think Alicia found something she liked.

As we left the building I was taken with the subtle harmony of the surroundings and that the colors are so easy on the senses. As in Siena, complimentary colors are employed by nature, surely by design. It’s easy to understand why all the impressionists loved Provence.

It is a short and easy ride to Nice airport from the hills, and the dreaded moment of car return was at hand. Our real fear was that SIXT would immediately charge our credit card the estimated repair cost. In fact, the gentleman who rented us the car wanted a second credit card (in case the first one had too low a limit) at the time, and I told him to forget the upgrade. He relented, afraid he would lose the €100 fish he had successfully lured onto his line. The same nice SIXT lot employee (Anna) who checked us out when we rented the vehicle checked us in when we returned it. She marked the four locations of damage on the return document, and told us that our credit card would be charged only when the repair bill was received by them. Our credit card company would coordinate with SIXT in Germany and they should pay SIXT the approximate $3,500. So off we went, no problem. What a relief I felt as I lugged/dragged our bent handle luggage into the terminal, my heart filled with love for my son.

The clear beautiful day in the hills was not evident these 30 miles away on the coast. Sitting at a bus stop outside the terminal the sky looked nasty. There was some mild turbulence as we ascended and before entering the cloud cover we barely had a view of the southern coast of France. We were settled into the next to last row of the plane where Kat tried to do crossword puzzles through the constant chop and the kids were so affected by the rough air that they fell asleep.

Perhaps the weather will be better in Paris. Perhaps not. Retrieving our bags at Orly, we headed to the nearby SIXT counter where we declined an upgrade and happily marched over to our little Ford van-like thing in the underground parking (much easier than CDG for renting then locating a car). Without a fancy navigation system we had to do it the old fashioned way (map and brains) to make our way out to Dizy, and a local Campanile, which is the French version of Holiday Inn.

Tonight is the night of the big dinner in L’Epine at Aux Armes de Champagne, one of the finest restaurants in which we have eaten. We had to call and ask to push our reservation back ½ hour for a number of reasons (maybe those navigation systems are worth the money after all) including Kat getting locked in the room. Oh well.

For years we have kidded Edward about his buying us dinner at the restaurant of our choosing and this was our choice. He was very good natured about it and we all enjoyed an excellent meal. Kat and I were afraid to look at the bill so we didn’t, but we did thank them both.

Tomorrow it’s the real Champagne then back to Paris where Kat and I hope to get to the Cluny museum and Ed and Alicia want to go sight seeing. Then Saturday morning we head to Amsterdam and that afternoon they head back to Iceland.

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