A WEEKEND WITH GIRLFRIENDS: A RELAXING BREAK IN THE PAYS DE GRASSE
MOUANS SARTOUX - SAINT CÉZAIRE SUR SIAGNE - LA MOULIÈRE
2 days, 1 night
My girlfriends and I decided to take a break and plan a weekend together, just us girls. Two days of relaxation and wellbeing, a fragrance-discovery walk with anecdotes about the history of perfume, then a picnic made with flowers in the shade of the trees in this sweetly scented garden. Our afternoon was then reserved for treatments and pampering at an enchanted spa with décor straight out of Arabian Nights. Come evening, we chose to just to be together in a world of peace and quiet, at an historic site on a vast, verdant property, reconnecting with nature and living things in various energizing workshops. So we were rested and recharged for our refreshing hike the next morning on La Moulière mountain, where we absorbed more positive vibrations, leaving us ready to start a new week with a new mindset.
1 : AWAKEN THE SENSES AT THE MIP GARDENS ON A FRAGRANCE-DISCOVERY WALK, LEARNING ABOUT FLOWERS AND PERFUMERY
2 : REJUVENATE AT LE SPA DES DELICES
3 : A NIGHT OF NATURAL PEACE AND QUIET
4 : CLEAR THE MIND ON A REFRESHING HIKE
Highlight #1 : AWAKEN THE SENSES AT THE MIP GARDENS ON A FRAGRANCE-DISCOVERY WALK, LEARNING ABOUT FLOWERS AND PERFUMERY
Mouans-Sartoux : « Smelling the world through a perfumer’s nose »
10:00 a.m.: Smelling the world through a perfumer’s nose
We started this BFFs day with a fragrance-discovery walk in the Gardens of the International Perfume Museum. On a two-hour guided tour across more than five acres, we went back to the very beginnings of perfumery, discovering the fragrant flowers and plants used in making personal fragrances: bitter orange, jasmine, rose, tuberose, mimosa, violet, iris, geranium, lavender. To top off this fascinating, fragrant stroll, we next attended an outdoor workshop to create a 100%-natural perfume. The theme of our workshop (it changes every month, depending on which perfume flowers are in bloom) was lavender, the smell of summertime in the South of France! The perfume designer’s remarks were very informative and she guided us in the proper dosage of the “olfactory notes” of the eau de parfum that each of us formulated, which we then took away with us in pretty little bottles.
From garden to table
To stay in this floral theme, we remained in the garden, in the shade of the trees, and had a picnic lunch made from flowers. Most perfume flowers, we learned, are largely edible and the concept of “floral cuisine” was created in Antibes 15 years ago. In adorable bamboo boxes, halfway between a Japanese bento and a hat box, we were served a starter, a main course, and a dessert worthy of a gourmet chef. Chilled pea velouté with mint, cubes of fresh goat cheese, and daisy petals, then a local ratatouille with lavender and a piece of salmon filet. The meal ended on a sweet note with a rose-water-and-lychee sponge cake finger with raspberry-rose petal coulis. We were surprised and delighted by these delicious treats and will surely try the range of rose, violet, poppy, or daisy tagliatelle sold in the shop to attempt to reproduce a floral recipe at home.
Highlight #2 :
BE PAMPERED AT LE SPA DES DELICE
3:00 p.m.: Luxury, serenity, and indulgence
When you need to relax, reflect, and catch your breath, there’s nothing better than a spa. The one we chose had lots of amenities in the 2,100 square feet of space, but what was best was being allowed to reserve it for our group alone. The spa is in a chalet in the Grasse backcountry and the indoor décor reflects the natural surroundings: wood everywhere, exposed brick walls, a fire in the fireplace – everything feels down-to-earth and genuine. We each donned a bathrobe and flip-flops, which were provided in the welcome basket, and spent all afternoon savoring the sauna and hammam, as well as the Jacuzzi and swim spa, which are outside. We also enjoyed a “bathing ceremony” in the balneotherapy tub, lulled by the hydro-massage jets and various delightfully scented salts, then a scrub and a body wrap, ending with a face or body treatment, each of us choosing what we wanted. Sheer delight!
Our spa specialist took us around the world through the sumptuous treatments: Polynesia, Africa, Syria, India, Indonesia, Japan – each country was associated with an exotic flavor, from tiaré flower to chocolate, from Damascus rose to Himalayan salt – there is something for all tastes and desires. On the marble massage table, she first gave us a body scrub, followed by a wrap on the hot-sand bed, to revitalize the body and give it a mineral boost. The spa then gave us the choice between either a one-hour facial treatment using plant extracts and oils (anti-aging, cleansing, or moisturizing), or a one-hour body massage. We fell in love with the Ayurvedic massage by candlelight, even though there were six other treatments, each looking more incredible than the rest.
SPA DE DÉLICES
Highlight #3 : A NIGHT OF NATURAL PEACE AND QUIET
Communing with nature
The day continued on this theme of relaxation when we arrived at the charming property where we would be spending the night. On this agroecological olive-growing estate that is centuries old – some olive trees date back to the Lérins monks! – everything grows without any chemical input, respecting nature’s cycles, and the owners promote the culture du vivant, agriculture that respects the environment, animals, and people. They sell local products bearing the Nature et Progrès (Nature and Progress) seal, going beyond simple organic certification: floral jams, honey, olive oil, and more. What is most tangible here is the serenity of the atmosphere, beckoning you to release your cares and just reflect on this verdant paradise, rendered more beautiful still by the landscaper, Jean Mus.
The positive power of fragrance
The hosts go further in strengthening the harmonious connection between humans and nature: They have developed a well-being concept based on fragrance. Smells can have many positive effects that are often unknown. Olfactory memory is the longest-lasting of all memories, triggering recall in the manner of Proust’s famed madeleine, offering stimulating or relaxing powers, or even curative capacities, as found in olfactotherapy. After a scent-centered yoga session at sunset, we dined by the pool that was once a natural basin beside this authentic, 18th-century sheepfold, with a breathtaking view of the Massif des Maures and the Esterel. To close the day, the owner prepared a homemade olive-tree bath infusion, made from leaves and bark mixed with blooms from the garden, helping us let go of the last of our tensions and drift into deep, delicious sleep.
Highlight #4 : CLEAR THE MIND ON A REFRESHING HIKE
"La Moulière mountain"
Invigorating the body outdoors
On Sunday morning, after sleeping as late as we liked, we headed for the La Moulière mountain for a refreshing hike. The objective of our walk was different from a traditional hike: It was a “health walk” – short-distance, moderate-intensity physical activity covering less than six miles, walking at a slow pace so as to enjoy the surrounding nature and countryside. This kind of walking erases any built-up stress and anxiety, boosts self-esteem by releasing endorphins, and increases breathing capacity and brain function through improved oxygenation. The guide who led us on this walk stopped frequently to share his knowledge of nature, introducing us to the different plant species and various birds we heard and saw along the way.
Gathering nature’s treasures
With the influence of the nearby Mediterranean, the Southern Alps have a very abundant and colorful flora and remarkably diverse fauna. Many flowers grow wild in this region, including bellflowers, colchicum, wild daffodils, lupines, spring snowflakes, alpine aster, mountain cornflower, nettle, buttercup, thyme, and meadowsweet. While picking them can make a lovely, old-fashioned bouquet, some of them are edible and can be enjoyed throughout the hike, just like berries. We eagerly nibbled on monk’s rhubarb, daisies, coltsfoot, rowan, juniper berries, rosehips, blueberries, and many more delights. It was a fantastic just-us-girls weekend, packed with vitamins, good vibrations, laughter, and leisure.