Follow Your Nose to France

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, September 7, 2008

Q. Could you suggest a travel itinerary for someone who is interested in all aspects of perfume, from production to sales? I think this would be a European trip, but I could be wrong.

Claudia Saunders, Stafford

A. You're on the right scent. The undisputed perfume capital of the world is Grasse, a flower-drenched, 18th-century town on the French Riviera about 12 miles northwest of Cannes. With more than two dozen perfumeries, the town is the center of the French perfume industry and produces more than three-quarters of the world's fragrances. It's an appealing place, with a picturesque public square, flower markets and knockout views of the Cote d'Azur. But most people visit for the perfume factories, many of which offer tours, workshops and gift shops. You can follow the process from extraction and distillation to mixing and classifying scents, and even create your own perfume.

To get there from Paris, take the train (about 6.5 hours, from $135 round trip; schedules at Or join a half-day tour with a company such as Executive Transport Service (011-33-4-92-98-06-29,; about $232 per person double from Cannes or Antibes). For more info on the region: Grasse Tourism Office,

As long as you're in Paris, visit a few exclusive perfume boutiques with a self-described "passionate perfumista." Neela Vermeire's Perfume Paths walking tours visit boutiques such as Guerlain and Hermes; she'll help you pick out a fragrance based on your preferences and personality. "You can't choose a perfume unless you're in the right environment. It's like choosing lingerie," she says. Walks last about four hours and cover five or six houses; cost is about $218 (shorter tours are available for $145). She also offers custom tours of Grasse from Paris: Typical trips run three days and include visits to the perfumeries, meals in local restaurants and gallery visits. Details:

I am a single female senior citizen interested in traveling overseas. Are there organizations I might contact in order to travel with someone in my position?

Joan Catapano, Manassas

It's smart for solo travelers to team up. Among the groups that can put you in touch with like-minded travelers:

· Connecting Solo Travel Network, 604-886-9099, Half the members of this Canadian company are 50 and older, and about 60 percent are women. Annual membership fee ($35) includes a bimonthly newsletter, travel-companion advertising and access to an annual directory.

· O Solo Mio Tours, 800-959-8568, The California operator matches travelers with roommates on group tours. Travelers range in age from 35 to 60; about 75 percent are women.

· Travel Chums (212-787-2621,, based in New York, lets you troll for trip buddies with a free database and access to message boards, and notifies you when someone with similar travel criteria joins. For a $180 annual fee, you can post photos and send messages to other members.

· Europe Through the Back Door (425-771-8303,, in Washington state, matches solo travelers of the same sex in a room together on tours.

You might also want to check tour operators that sponsor trips for seniors, such as Grand Circle Travel (800-959-0405, and Elderhostel (800-454-5768,

Your Turn

The couple looking for an off-the-beaten-path trip in Central America shouldn't be so quick to cross Costa Rica off their list, says Brian Quinn of West Springfield (Travel Q&A, Aug. 31). He recommends the remote Osa Peninsula on the country's Pacific Ocean side. "To get there, we flew from the capital, San Jose, to Golfito, took a boat across the Golfo Dulce, and then a 14-mile Land Rover ride. We stayed at the wonderful Bosque del Cabo Rainforest Lodge (011-506-735-5206," . . . Elaine A. Thomas of Manlius, N.Y., says the best place for a shuttle-launch-watching party is on the beach in front of the Royal Mansions Resort in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (Aug. 24). "Or you can walk one mile north to Jetty Park (good parking there as well) and watch a launch for free from there." . . . On Yellowstone lodging (Aug. 17): Sue Marcus of Fairfax recommends the Paradise B&B near Gardiner, Wyo. (800-541-4113, "The B&B is right on the Yellowstone River. . . . Watch for people in the park with spotter scopes. We watched a grizzly for an hour through a stranger's scope!"

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