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Visiting the L'Occitane Factory in Provence

March 7, 2012 at 4:56 PM | by | ()

It may not be growing in the fields right now, but in Provence, lavender is always in the air. And no more so than around Manosque, a town high in the hills between Marseille and Nice, and where toiletry brand L’Occitane En Provence is based.

L’Occitane is probably our fave brand of smelly stuff so when we stayed at the official L’Occitane Hotel, Le Couvent Des Minimes, our priority was to fit in a factory tour of the operation at Manosque.

Sadly, it wasn’t to be. We arrived at the hotel on a Sunday, when the factory is closed, and the staff had no idea when, or even if, there would be a tour (of their sister outfit) on the Monday. On the Monday, they told us that there was only one tour that day – at 4pm, in French. And though our pigeon French could have muscled through, we had to be on the road to the airport at 3.

So instead, we hit the factory shop. Now, we’d brought a big suitcase, ready to stuff with L’Occitane products that we assumed we’d get for next to nothing at the factory shop. Not to be. The hotel told us we’d get 10% off at the store – turns out everyone who visits the store gets 10% off. But it’s 10% off retail prices, not factory prices. In fact, half the things we picked up, and cross-referenced on the L’Occitane website, were either more expensive or negligibly cheaper than what we could pick up back home. Factory pricing fail.

We were also hoping they’d carry a larger range of products, including the Best Body Lotion In The World, which they discontinued 18 months ago, and which has haunted us ever since. But no, they had exactly the same stock as a normal shop. Factory store fail.

So should you try to visit L’Occitane? Depends how big a fan you are of the brand, and what your plans are. If you’re in the area, and you’re sweet on the brand, go for it (and tell us how the tour was). If you’re staying at the Couvent, ditto. Just do what we didn't, and book ahead, by phoning the number here.

But if you’re milling round Provence and were thinking of making a trip up there? Don’t bother. It’s about 45 minutes on the autoroute from the main Nice-Marseille road, you have to pay to use that autoroute (or drive slower on local roads), there’s little to see in the towns around it, and your savings on what you buy will be negligible. Try the gorgeous perfume factories in Grasse instead.

Not that we’re bitter. Just making sure you don’t make our mistakes.

Photos: Juliab for Jaunted

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