‘Isn’t there a song about this? I wanna lay you down in a bed of roses… who is it by?’, one of the other bloggers asks. ‘It’s Bon Jovi’, I reply without hesitation. ‘Now that answer came a bit too fast.’ And that’s how quickly you share your guilty pleasures with almost strangers when you’re stimulated by fragrant roses (and a bit of rose wine)…

I would lie if that particularly cheesy Bon Jovi song hadn’t haunted my mind ever since I got on the plane for my journey to Monaco. I had been invited by the Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo to enjoy a few days by the Mediterranean Sea and learn more about the famous Rose 31 fragrance by Le Labo which is used in all Fairmont bathrooms around the world. If you have ever stayed at a Fairmont hotel you might have noticed that the amenity products in their bathrooms smell just that little bit better than anywhere else – and it all comes down to a little but fragrant pink rose. We would spend a day in the rose fields around Grasse and discover the way of the pink Centifolia rose from the field to the finished product. Sounds rad, right? But how did this change my life? Read on to find out!

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

Arriving – Travelettes-Style!

I arrive in Monaco in complete traveletty style – and no, I don’t mean the super-cheap Easyjet flight that brought be straight from Edinburgh to Nice (love it!) – but the helicopter that picks me up in Nice and brings me to the Monte Carlo helipad within 7 (way-too-brief) minutes. I would not have minded flying for a little longer and circling over Nice, the coast and Monaco for a bit but the short time was enough to fall in love with the helicopter and remind me of my love for this corner of the world.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

The Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo

Next, I arrive at the Fairmont in Monte Carlo by a quick transfer in a black limousine. My driver is happy to enlighten me about the Grand Prix race track, which I had absolutely no knowledge about. I didn’t even know that it runs right through the city on the normal roads – as you can tell, I’m not an expert…

As we are driving up and down the hills of the city, which is built into the steep rocks and cliffs of the Mediterranean coast, and get closer to the hotel, I notice a particularly sharp corner – the road basically turns 180 degrees. ‘That’s the Fairmont hairpin, the slowest corner in Formula One, and the hotel is just in front of it’, again my driver explains without a hint of judgement. After all, I am here to learn about roses – the cars and races are just an add-on.

The first thing I notice as I set foot in the hotel lobby is how busy it is. A week after my visit the city would be hosting the Historical Grand Prix with classic cars from all decades and around the world racing two weeks before the big Formula One race later in May. Already guests and drivers are arriving in the city and the place is buzzing. After a quick and smooth check-in I take the elevator to the sixth floor, the highest floor with guest rooms, but interestingly, because the hotel sits right at the edge of the sea and is built into the cliffs, there is another entrance to the hotel on the 7th floor – also from ground level. Already I’m fascinated by the architecture and the skills necessary to build this spot in the 1970s.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

My room is spacious and bright with a huge bed (yay!) and a balcony looking out over the sea. Due to the zig-zagging shape of the building and the balcony panels I have full privacy and the sea looks like it’s all mine. There is a cozy lounge chair out there too, and I make plans to put it to good use once the clouds go where they came from. I have to admit the furniture could do with a bit more minimalism, but the view and position of the hotel really make up for that.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

What is incredible is that the Fairmont Monte Carlo actually has 602 rooms – it’s a huge hotel. But because of its zig-zag shape and its length, it doesn’t feel like it is. Service is still very personal, the lady who checked me in remembered me when I checked out – and considering that was on the day before the masses arrived for the Historical Grand Prix, I was pretty impressed.

The hotel has several restaurants of which I tried the rooftop dining restaurant Horizon and the sushi restaurant Nobu on the ground floor. A cool and less formal location is the rooftop pool bar and restaurant Nikki Beach where you can lounge around the pool while snacking on finger food, or take a seat at one of the tables to have cocktails and a full meal. Sadly we are not blessed with much sunshine during our stay, but I can imagine how the rooftop bar would be my favourite place of the hotel if it was hot and sunny all day long.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

The Rose Fields

But enough of the hotel for now and off to the rose fields. Our trip to Grasse starts very early with a drive to the Tourette area close to Grasse about 1.5 hours away from Monte Carlo. We meet the owner of the fields Alain Robuffel and Xavier Brochet from Firmenich, which is the company that receives the roses from the fields and is in charge of extracting essential oils which are then sold to perfumers around the world to mix their fragrances.

Xavier takes us around the fields, explains the how the roses are picked and gives us a run-down of the different kinds that are used for essential rose oils around the world. The rose grown here is called Centifolia - it is bright pink and gives off a very strong, sweet smell; absolutely delicious. The roses blossom for only two weeks per year every May, and the flowers only open for a couple of hours in the morning before the sun gets too warm. You can imagine that because of this the Centifolia rose is a very precious and exclusive flower – this is far from the mass production somewhere in India or Turkey. The roses are hand-picked every day and transferred right away to the small Firmenrich rose factory where the essential oils are extracted.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

We follow the roses to the factory where for safety reasons we are not allowed to take our own pictures. The big hall is almost empty now but during the year it sees millions of flowers from all parts of the world – Vanilla from Madagascar, Jasmine from India and of course the Centifolia rose from Grasse. As we walk further back towards the extraction tanks, we see a carpet of pink flowers lining the floor – the harvest from the fields of the early morning hours is ready to be extracted. The company produces fragrances and flavours that are used in the body care, home care and perfumes we use everyday. As we smell the various oils and varieties of flowers and spices we recognise hints of our own shower gels or perfumes at home – incredible to see where it all begins. Of course we also recognise the scent of Rose 31, Le Labo’s own body care line using the Centifolia rose oil.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net
photo by Lucy Will Show You

Firmenich Rose plant 5 Copyright CombyAVM
photo courtesy of Firmenich

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

After an eventful morning at the rose fields and in the rose factory we have deserved proper French lunch with lots of cheese, fresh vegetables, a delicious quiche and – of course – rose wine that luckily tastes nothing like rosé! With a beautiful view over the little villages surrounding the fields, sheltered from the wind in the arches of a beautiful stone cathedral and an ever-sweet smell of roses in my nose, I forget that I ever have to leave again.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net   A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

Back in Monte Carlo I have a final day left to explore before facing the reality of my flight back home. In true travelettes-style I postpone discovering the city until later – first I want to check our the hotel spa and indulge in some flowery oils. I book a 90-minute hot stone massage with revitalising Lavender oil, but as usual I’m sceptical of the re-vitalising part. Whenever I get a massage I get so relaxed that afterwards all I can think of is lounging in the sun or in my actual bed. But not this time. Yes, I fall asleep during the treatment and yes, it is so soothing and relaxing it makes me forget the activity-packed days behind me, but once the therapist is done with the treatment I am so full of energy, I immediately embark on a 2-hour explorathon around Monte Carlo. I do not care that my hair is full of essential oils or that I am still wearing my bikini from a brief visit to the pool bar earlier that day. My feet carry me as if by magic and in just two hours I make it past the casino, down to the harbour, through the historical and tres chic part of Monte Carlo, back up the hills and along the race track.

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

Initially I wanted to name this article ‘How a trip to Monaco Ruined my Life’ – because that is essentially what this weekend in Monaco and Grasse did to my senses. A helicopter ride, my own little piece of sea view, the most energising massage of my life, the smell of fresh roses in the fields and my own collection of Rose 31 products – nothing can or will ever feel, taste and smell as sweet and refreshing as these experiences. In theory I am ruined for life, but of course in practice it just means that I got a little taste of how sweet life can be.

And as I’m writing these last words with hands moisturised with Rose 31 body lotion and a bouquet of pink roses next to my laptop, the scent of the fresh roses of Grasse lingers on in my mind and I promise myself, at least I will try to always smell of roses!

A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

If you also want to fall in love with the smell of roses at the Fairmont Monte Carlo check out their website. Or, if you want an even more intense encounter with Rose 31 have a look at the Scents & Senses packages available at The Savoy, a Fairmont-managed hotel in London, Fairmont San Francisco and The Plaza, a Fairmont-managed hotel in New York. As part of your stay you get a peek into one of Le Labo’s boutiques, learn how their scents are created and mix your own Rose 31 fragrance.

Do you pay attention to what places smell like when you travel? Is there a smell you will always remember and forever associate with a favourite place of yours?

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A Life-Changing Trip to Monaco | Travelettes.net

All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

Disclaimer: Kathi visited Monaco and Grasse courtesy of FRHI and my trip was generously supported by Visit Monaco and Le Labo. All opinions are the author’s own.

This is a post by Kathi Kamleitner.

Kathi Kamleitner was a regular contributor at Travelettes from 2013 to 2019. Originally from Vienna, Austria, she packed her backpack to travel the world and lived in Denmark, Iceland and Berlin, before settling in Glasgow, Scotland. Kathi is always preparing her next trip – documenting her every step with her camera, pen and phone.

In 2016, Kathi founded Scotland travel blog WatchMeSee.com to share her love for her new home, hiking in the Scottish Highlands, island hopping and vegan food. Follow her adventures on Instagram @watchmesee!