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Scent of Corsica: Casanera, made in Maquis

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Dressed casually in jeans and a sleeveless white singlet under an open check shirt and wearing simple blue suede running shoes with pink laces, Marie Ceccaldi doesn’t seem like your average perfumer.
The 40-year-old admits an aversion to formal attire but then again if you’re as fit and shapely as Marie you’d look good no matter the clothing.
A talented artist and former restaurateur in Provence (L’assiette de Marie in St. Remy), Mairie is now owner of ‘Casanera,’ with its black-painted wood and glass 19th century, Dickensian-style store front in the northwest Corsican resort of Calvi where she was born.
Inside, black-painted walls and ceiling, a 19th century portrait of a noble lady dressed in red, low hanging lamps and a pink stone floor creates dramatic eye appeal. An elongated table with side drawers fills the central part of the single- room store with open shelves and glass cases plentiful.
Marie, who makes her own creams, opened the store four years ago and is content with her product sales, which include eleven different perfumes and a series of seven face and body products based on different plants such as amandula, myrte and especially maquis, the local Corsican vegetation. Other store items include home fragrances, hair products, soaps, candles and jewelry including necklaces, bracelets and rings, some using larimar stone.
“I wanted to give my perfumes a distinct Corsica feel so while they are made in Grasse, they are all based on Corsican natural oils,” she explained one Sunday afternoon in-between serving customers. Everything is done by hand and the cosmetics can keep for six months.”
Interestingly, one of the most popular products is a cream made with immortelle, a plant that grows locally. “Ingredients in the plant stimulate the natural production of collagen and increases blood circulation in micro vessels,” she said. “It is also an anti-oxidant that repairs free radical damage and stimulates cellular regeneration.”
Marie, who has an 8-year-old son, Batiste, and whose partner, Jean-Baptiste, owns La Signoria Hotel in Calvi, inherited her artistic temperament from her parents, her father being a traditional Corsican singer and writer, and her mother, a perfumer who created creams based on natural ingredients in the 1970s.
“Making cosmetics is a little like cooking, the ingredients have to be blended so carefully,” she said. “I was fortunate in that I learned a lot from my grandmother who was extremely fond of plants and used them in all sorts of different ways.”
The perfume store in Calvi is one of six such stores Marie has established, three others being in Corsica, in Porto Vechio, Bastia and Ajaccio, as well two in mainland France, in San Tropez and Cannes.

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