Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Paris, Day II - Perfumed Day

Today was a perfume day. And although I wasn't able to visit ALL the perfumeries I intended to visit, it was a great day!

First I made my way to Palais Royal, where both Salons Shiseido (aka Serge Lutens) and Le Parfums de Rosine reside. It was a little tricky to find the place, and I ended up approaching the place from the back. I tried to sneak in through Stella McCartney’s shop, and a kind sales associate opened the back door and advised me to go around the building where the real entrance is. The Palais Royal are like a secret garden in the middle of Paris (practically just across from the Louvre, to the direction of St. Honore). Green coifed trees line up in the middle, leading to a central sitting area in front of the fountain and near a little mysterious garden that is fenced off.

Le Parfums de Rosine was closed for lunch, and Serge Lutens was so dark I thought it was closed too. I entered the shop which seemed empty, and suddenly from outside of the wall a friendly clerk appeared all smiling and apologetic in case I got startled. The walls and ceilings are all purple with moon, sun and starts designs that resemble a wizard’s magic box. Any place in the wall can open to reveal new sales clerks, or just another makeup collection… In the middle there is a winding staircase that leads to what one would think is the magician’s chambers where all the concoctions are made, but in fact is “just the office”…

The shops’ exclusive collection of perfumes, bottled in bell-jars, lay in three corners of the room, and only one was dedicated to the export line. I sniffed a few scents that I haven’t had a the opportunity to try before – Mandarin Mandarine (more spicy than citrusy, but with an opening of juicy candied mandarins that really appealed to me), Sarasins (an intense jasmine), Rouse (rich cinnamon oriental with a hint of black Russian tea if I recall correctly), Gris Clair (lavender and mineral), Flouve and La Myrrhe (plasticy and aldehydic for my taste but I wanted to re-visit in the future when less pressed for time and precious skin space) and Nuit de Cellophane (an Herbal Essence hair conditioner in a Serge Lutens bottle). On the back of my hands/wrists I let the sales clerk dab some Tubereuse Criminelle with a blotter strip (which begins with medicinal vapors of camphour, fuel and an overload of heady floral tuberose and jasmine) and came back later for a bit of El Attarine (which unfortunately I had to wash off as it had too much of Safranal - a leathery-saffron molecule in it that doesn’t agree with my skin). Tubereuse Criminelle smelled more creamy and agreeable as time passes (the aggressive camphoreous opening disappears after 5 or 10 mintues). It’s an interesting, multi-faceted tuberose, much darker than real-life tuberose and with only a little bit of green and powdery aspects. I was also given the little book of wax perfume, which is perhaps the most explicit Serge Lutens souvenir one could hope for that can make a very interesting scrap-book item!

When Le Parfums de Rosine finally re-opened after lunch a most vivid young sales lady expressively explained to me the concept behind each fragrance. I have many samples from this line thanks to a generous perfume-friend; so I sniffed a few scents that I was not familiar with. Rose Kashmirie (warm oriental rose, I think with allspice and musk – a little like Parfum Sacre but different), Rose de Feu (also spicy oriental, but with the bracing sharpness of freshly grated ginger) and the newest in the collection – Rose Praline, which was inspired by rose macaroons! The girl was so was eager to tell me how she is particularly smitten with Laduree’s Ispahan macaroon – rose macaroon with raspberries and lytchee. I made a mental note since I did plan on another visit to Laduree; however, later on I learned that this is a signature creation of Pierre Herem, which he may or may not I believe this is a creation of Pierre Herme, which he may or may have not given away to Laduree before establishing his very own patisserie on Rue de Bonaparte.

We than continued walking towards the Opera house, and had an espresso at Café de La Paix and than continued to Place de Madeleine to find a Fleur d’Oranger fragrance for my neighbour next door from Fragonard (which was swarming with tourists). On the way there I stopped at Divine, where I smelled for the first time l’Homme Sage (sensual oriental for men, with unusual aromatic and ambery notes), l’Homme Ceur (a beautiful masculine iris that is equally soft and cool with violet leaf, vetiver and angelica) and l’Inspiratrice (rose-patchouli, dry and voluptuous at once). The lady at the shop was very knowledgeable, friendly and helpful as well and the tester cards had all the information about the fragrance, and folded into three parts to cover the centre, which is sprayed with the scent. It was than placed in a cellophane envelope, which retains the scent for days on end even after leaving the shop (even some of the alcohol seems to stick around…).

Another interesting stop, just by Divine, was a chocolatier on Rue Scribe – unfortunately I did not take a card and did not remember the name, but the store was very chic and the package was impeccably elegant and simple with etching of large cocoa bean on everything. The flavours seemed unusual too – there were beautiful shapely truffles with Violet, Rose and Orange Flower (a flavour I never heard of existing before my own Guilt chocolate truffles).

But my restraint with this chocolatier went out of the window as soon as I spotted nothing less than Tonka-Chocolate ice cream and an Apricot-Rosemary sorbet in front of Le Maison de Chocolat. I had to try both of course (shared with my boyfriend to reduce the guilt factor and also to enjoy his facial reactions to tonka!) , and while the rosemary was toned down in the very jammy apricot sorbet, the tonka was intense even with the dark chocolate ice cream. In both cases, these aromatics were only at 1% concentration. I was very, VERY impressed. And thankfully I survived carcinogenic attack of coumarin. So far so good. After that we wandered around in Place de Madeleine – I window shopped at Fauchon, which was an almost disnified version of French pastries – éclairs with pink frosting and little daisies on top, cakes that look like a bunny rabbit’s garden, and so on and so forth. We continued to a few other very interesting spice, pastry and tea shops, including Mariage Freres which had an overwhelming selection of scented teas and quite impressive tea-scented candles (I was particularly smitten with the mint candle and the red tea candle). While the teas may not be the best or most authentic teas (and many seem too artificially flavoured to my taste), the atmosphere there was mysterious and calming. It was quite dark and felt a little bit Asian. I only wished they had a place to sip on some teas as it started getting quite gloomy outside… In fact, it started pouring a couple of mintues after we left the shop.

We decided to take the metro to the Louvre and skip the rest of the plans for that day (i.e.: Colette, Chanel, IUNX, JAR and all the perfumeries I was not planning to visit Paris without seeing first). But than we ended up in a maze of metro transfers because we were looking for passes for Le Chateau de Versailles for tomorrow first, and by than it was too late for the Louvre…

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