On a perfect Saturday I’ll wake at 10am and start the day with coffee and bircher muesli, a habit from my Swiss childhood in Montreux. I’ll order an Uber to take me to Vallauris, a small town known for its pottery making and where Picasso began his work in ceramics. I’ll visit the galleries – Sassi‑Milici and then La Bergerie Céramiques, which has pieces by André Brasilier, whose work I love.
The cab will then take me to La Bastide Saint-Antoine, close to Grasse, where I’ll meet friends from the perfume industry for lunch. We’ll start with a glass of Dom Pérignon, my absolute favourite drink, and I might have lobster and prawns in a champagne and dried mushroom risotto. Lunches are long there and so much fun. I like to know my suppliers well and I always pick up the bill – it’s a sign of respect.
After an espresso, I’ll take the Uber to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, a quintessentially French medieval town. I visit the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, for which Matisse designed the stained glass; the colours of the windows evoke everything that is special about the area to me – the light, the atmosphere and the sea. Up the hill is Fondation Maeght, a fantastic modern art museum. I love the Giacometti courtyard, because I can relate to him through my work. He struggled creating his sculptures and I do the same with fragrances – and there is always the question of how to know when the work is finished.
Around 7pm, I’ll go home to change and make my way to dinner with friends at Bacon in Antibes. We usually have an aperitif of Meursault, but if the sommelier recommends something I will always try it because I am as curious as a 12-year-old; discovering new things is my job, and perfume and wine have a lot in common. We don’t even look at the menu because Bacon, despite its name, serves only fish. We might order what I consider to be the world’s best bouillabaisse, although some argue that another restaurant, Tetou, takes that prize. It’s in a fancy shack on the beach near Cannes and the cousin of the owner sprays herself with Giorgio Beverly Hills, which is terribly strong. I have tried to get her off it, but she says that otherwise all she smells of is fish. Still, her bouillabaisse is a close second to Bacon. About midnight, I go back to the house to have a few glasses of white wine and smoke my favourite cigar, a Montecristo No 3.
On Sunday I usually open my eyes at nine, get up slowly and drink some strong Assam tea. I’ll walk along the coastal path in Saint-Jean. It’s important to me to be by water; my surname means water in German and my star sign is Cancer. I’ll have coffee and a croissant at La Civette and then go to the Marché Forville in Cannes. I love to smell the fruit and vegetables in season and buy some to take back to Paris. I often visit a wonderful shop called CannOlive for mini olives, which are exquisite but tiny; there is more pit than fruit. Then I go to the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, a magnificent place evocative of the glamour of the 1920s. I swim in the saltwater pool; I have to avoid chlorinated pools because the smell lingers on my skin and can interfere with my work in the lab.
I don’t sunbathe – it’s so boring – but I like to look out over the sea while I have a simple lunch at the hotel’s Club Dauphin, maybe a club sandwich. With a double espresso and a bottle of Perrier for company, I while away the afternoon until it’s time to return to Paris. I don’t eat on the plane because the food is so bad but I will have a few squares of Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa chocolate when I arrive home; it’s the Swiss in me. I go to bed soon after, refreshed from a weekend by the sea.