Rose de Mai : Amazing Grasse

We call it “May Rose”, “Rose de Mai”, or even “cabbage rose”. “Centifolia” is the emblematic rose of the city of Grasse, and if it holds this status, it is probably because of its exceptional perfume. Among the existing 40 000 roses in the world, this rare one is the most appreciated by master perfume manufacturers. Its hundred petals gave its name to this precious and fragile flower : it needs to be picked up by hand with the dew on the very day when the bud opens up. Here in May we celebrate it, Grasse and other towns nearby organise festivals on its name. At Café du Cycliste we are dedicating a series of four jerseys to this rose in order to honour its fine touch and the delicate way to produce it.

Our Ride of the Month will take us to the foothills of Grasse on a route slightly longer than 120km. We will get some altitude with Col de l’Ecre reaching as high as 1100m, an ideal combination when season changes.

As I leave Nice harbour in the morning towards La Colle Sur Loup, the first stage of my adventure, I know that the first 20 kilometers will be a nice stroll along the seashore. The weather forecast predicted some sun but the clouds piling up over the foothills remind me that I should have probably taken my gilet. Well, we’ll see up there. As I ride through La Colle sur Loup, the sun is still shining and the temperature is very much pleasant, but what awaits me in the gorge of the Loup river is much cooler ! After 40 kilometers I reach the Courmes waterfall : the river doesn’t usually flow much in the summer but the spring snowmelt makes it bigger today and I can even feel some spray as I ride along.

Outside of the gorge, I am being watched by the village of Gourdon, nestled on its rock. It will take me some good 45 minutes to reach the “Eagle Nest” as they call this famous perched village, classified as one of the most beautiful of France. Upon arrival, there is a strange feeling of quietness in this 350 inhabitants place. The grey clouds give a winter feel, something completely different than the summer vibes when flocks of tourists flood the streets.

However, I really don’t want to get cold so let’s focus for now on the hovering Col de l’Ecre, 400m above me. I climb at a good pace which brings me into the clouds settling on the plateau de Caussols. I am slightly disappointed that the mist is still there as I turn on this amazing little road of the plateau which usually displays a lunar landscape. I could only get a short glimpse at the mountain ridge over the sea because of the foggy atmosphere which also spoiled the summit finish at the top of Col du Ferrier: I hurry back down into the descent to Grasse for milder weather. A ray of sun warms the heart of the old town of the perfume capital of the world. It is here that the most famous perfume manufacturers gave a second life to perfume plant growing. The precious centifolia rose is grown here over 40 hectares of prestigious gardens for Dior or Chanel…You can get close to the Rose de Mai in the International Museum of Perfume in Mouans Sartoux : an unforgettable memory for your eyes and nose that I highly recommend for one of your off the bike activities.

The route then goes downhill for the next 20 kilometers and brings me down quickly to the seashore. The sun is back again. It is my first ride over 100kms this year and I start feeling it ! The last kilometers riding back to the Café allow me to peacefully gaze at the sea and feel the gratitude for being able to ride from sea to mountain with just my own two legs in such a short amount of time. It is the end of this ride full of colours and fragrances… I promise I will take you to a garden in glorious bloom soon !

Download the GPX file from Strava here.