Grasse is an easy day-trip (or half-day trip) out of Cannes. There is a bus number 600 that hangs out at the back of the train station and runs every twenty minutes or so. It takes around 55 minutes to get there and costs €1.50. (there are also trains but at three times the price).
The town’s claim to fame is as home to the perfume industry. Grasse has the ideal climate and elevation for growing the herbs used in perfume production. Companies such as Chanel have their own plantations of roses and jasmine in nearby fields.
You can visit the perfumeries. I went to Fragonard (situated on Blvd Fragonard; yes it’s so important it has it’s own Boulevard), but there are others.
The town also boasts a fragrance museum, where you can learn about how Grasse became the ‘fragrance capital of France’ (originally it was a leather tanning town, but the leather didn’t smell very good so someone had the idea to use the herbs to fragrance the leather gloves. This is a shortened version; it’s a big museum).
It’s a cute little town offering views back down to the coast. There are lots of little stores selling art and jewellery, along with the array of soaps and lavender bags. There is no shortage of shopping opportunities if that’s your thing.
There are a few restaurants offering reasonably priced fixed menu lunches (and also some unreasonably priced food too, if that’s more your thing). I managed to track down the frozen yogurt shop, so I was happy.
There are a lot of nice walks in the nearby area, and also some other cute little villages to see. A lot of it was hard to get to by public transport though; buses were infrequent and the timetable was confusing. When I asked at the tourist office about buses to nearby Plascassier (I read there are fields of jasmine there) I got told to take a cab, although there was supposedly a bus hiding somewhere. Clearly it hides itself so well that even the girl in the tourist office doesn’t know where to find it. Maybe it’s easier in summer.
Nearby Valbonne was nice; it’s become very popular with ex-pat British these days, although they don’t seem to have ruined it the same way the ex-pats in Spain have ruined whole villages on the Costa del Sol.
Bus number 630 goes to Valbonne from Cannes. Just don’t make the mistake I made of going there on a Sunday. I checked the location of the bus-stop to get back with the driver (because I’ve been caught on that before; buses go back using a different route to the one they use to get somewhere) and he rather irritably said oui ici, as if it were the stupidest question ever. You think he might also have taken this opportunity to mention that this was the last bus back that day (it was around 3PM), but maybe he liked the idea of the stupid English woman waiting at the bus stop for a bus that wouldn’t come, as some kind of punishment for my bad vowel pronunciation.
A car would be useful here.