Good morning my little rays of sunshine! Checking in for week 2 of my France diary. This week felt like a year long journey, seriously. I cannot believe I arrived here just a week ago. Being here feels like I’m in another world.
As many of you know, the reason I am in France is to study the art of fragrance, and how to successfully market a fragrance. There are so many components to fragrance that hadn’t even crossed my mind before this trip. Currently I am developing a fragrance inspired by Ella Fitzgerald: her music, her essence, and the romance of the 1940’s jazz age. Each pair has workshopped with different scents on the olfactory pyramid to discover what exactly we want our fragrance to entail. Next week we will be traveling to Grasse to work with master perfumers to develop our fragrance. How wild is that?! My partner and I have a clear direction of scent we are going for with our concept, so we’re excited to be able to speak with a professional and develop the fragrance.
There is something so magical about living in this little village. It is so different from what I have experienced. Every time I walk through the village, I feel like I am walking through a movie set. It is so peaceful and quiet, almost like a dream.
Living in a small village, though, has come with it’s quirks. And by quirks I mean the power goes out literally every night. It’s as if the village is rejecting our use of electricity and technology. The first two nights this happened, we were freaked out. I mean, come on, this town in ancient, there are probably ghosts chilling around us. But now since it happens so often, we just go on with our night. It usually comes back on eventually. The water is also cold most of the time, unless you get lucky and have warm water in the shower for the first 5 minutes. We find an occasional gecko on our walls, in which we call Dan, the chair of our program/trip dad, and he takes care of it. (Side note about Dan: He thought my name was Robin for most of this week, until I confronted him about it at lunch on Sunday afternoon, and we cleared things up.)
The first day of class my roommates and I missed the van down to our classroom (due to the gecko previously mentioned), and since we had never been to Lacoste before, we had no idea where we were going or how to walk to the classroom. (We live on the top of a hill and our classroom is at the bottom.) We texted Dan and he said that he was coming in a white van. So we waited for a white van to approach. A couple minutes later, a young French man pulled up in a black van. We awkwardly stood there, making eye contact with this attractive stranger. “We shouldn’t get in,” one of my roommates says to me. I open the door and ask the man if he can drive us to Maison Basse (where our class is being held).
“Sure,” he says. Sounds convincing. I slide in, the girls hesitant, but follow my lead. Once we shut the van door, he drives off. I text Dan and tell him we got in a black van, just as the wifi shuts off. Honestly, for a minute I considered what would happen if this dude was actually a strange creep and was going to kidnap us. Just in case, I unlock my van door, you know, in case I need to jump out. Let me tell you, this dude was BOOKING it down the hill. I was thinking, shoot, I’m the reason we are going to get taken.
Turns out he also works for SCAD, and we made it safely to class. We actually see him around a lot, and we are still unsure about whether he speaks English or not. I’ve only heard him speak French besides his hesitant “sure” on the first day. I’ll try to find out in the next week and get back to you with the details.
Lavender is a pretty big deal here in the south of France, especially in the fragrance industry. My class had the opportunity to explore the lavender museum in Provence. If you enjoy the smell or color of lavender, you would have loved this place. It was filled with lavender walls, lavender machines, and an endless amount of lavender products. Something interesting that we learned at the museum of lavender is that there are two types of lavender: lavandine and lavender. One of them (lavender) contains many beneficial components, able to heal cuts, reduce anxiety, and ease joint pain. The other type (lavandine) actually causes anxiety, and has no health benefits. Lavandine is much easier and cheaper to grow than lavender, but like I said, lavender contains many beneficial traits, which makes the lavender essential oil worth the time and money.
After we visited the lavender museum, we walked around the town, and found the cutest floral shop. Flowers are my favorite in any country.
I’ve spent most of my week in Lacoste, working on my fragrance with other students. Saturday was the first day we ventured out of our little Lacoste bubble, and man was it different. In Lacoste, most of the people we interact with work for the school, and therefore speak English. When we went to a market in a town 20 minutes outside of Lacoste, the story was different. Everyone spoke French and little to no English. Walking through the market and interacting with the venders felt like a giant game of charades. Since neither of us spoke the other’s language, both sides of the conversation had to rely heavily on body language and facial expressions. Again, so different from anything I had experienced.
The market in Apt was incredible. So many different sights, smells, and sounds to take in. We saw lots of colorful patterned fabrics, smelled different types of food (some good, some really, really bad), and heard many French conversations, sweet street music, and carried laughter. About halfway through the market we came across a quaint little book store, and decided to check it out. I loved seeing all of the French novels, and ended up finding a French version of The Great Gatsby. It has amazing prints on the opening pages. I was giddy walking away with it as a keep-sake.
One of the most uncomfortable situations from this week was in Apt when we were trying to find a place to eat for lunch. We sat in a cafe, expecting to be handed a menu, but instead was given the option of a cappuccino (which is great, I love a good cappuccino, but I wanted some food at this point in the day). We tried to ask for a menu, but ended up in an awkward stare-down with the beautiful blonde waitress who had no idea what we were saying. Any French any of us knew before that moment went out the window, and we just awkwardly smiled until she walked away. Ugh.
About 20 minutes in to this awkward lunch-in, I spotted Kelley, a SCAD Lacoste employee who speaks fluent French, and literally chased her down the street through the market. “Kelley!!!” I yelled as I ran my American ass down the street. She looked at me, confused, but also with a smile, because let’s face it, I was embarrassing myself. I explained my situation, and she very kindly helped us find a good lunch spot, sat with us, translated the menu, and ordered for us in French. Kelley, you are a lifesaver. Also, she is the coolest person I’ve ever met, so theres that.
Halfway to Kelley, Dan spotted me, and yelled, “ROBIN, did you find a good lunch spot?”
NOT NOW DAN, ROBIN IS ON A MISSION.
Heading back from the market, we stopped at an incredible little town called Fountaine-de-Vaucluse, which is a town in a valley with a fresh water spring running through. The water was so blue and clear. The history of the town is quite interesting in that they still don’t know where the water comes from. We hiked up to the top to see the water fall, (which like, eh, I’m not the biggest fan of walking at an incline outside, but also, they had crepe stands along the way, so that helped motivate me), and it was an amazing view. The fragrance marketing team was not prepared to go on a hike, hence our overly stylish outfits, but I’d say the crepe and view was worth it.
As you can tell from my many stories, last week was full of events. This week we are heading to Grasse to develop our fragrance. I, like always, don’t know what to expect, but I’m sure I will come back with many stories.
Until next time,