This was, I think, my fifth trip to Paris. I was in eighth grade the first time I went, one of the many kids from our middle school’s French and Spanish classes (I was taking Spanish) slogging through those two countries over spring break. What I remember of that trip: four francs to a dollar, more or less; the crepes (and the fact that they hurled your change at you); and that I could get served alcohol at a bar, so I spent evenings consuming things like White Russians and Grasshoppers and then throwing them up later, thereby giving me a lifelong aversion to nasty, sweet liqueur drinks. I also remember our group tour going to a generally off-limits part of Notre Dame cathedral where if you stepped another fifteen feet the wrong direction you’d fall several stories to the ground — no guardrail. My interpretation was that the French assumed that if you were stupid enough to walk over there, well … (insert Gallic shrug here.) I didn’t disapprove. I wonder if you can go up there now.
I am no faux Parisienne, no Francophile. I don’t know what it is that has brought me back again and again to this city. It is familiar (the Metro, the Left Bank, the walk along the Seine, the Palais Royal and the Luxembourg gardens, etc.) and yet pleasingly foreign. I have just enough extremely basic French that I can get by and not offend (e.g., bonjour, excuse me please sir/madam/miss, thank you, pardon, yes, good-bye) but I don’t speak French, and so I can tune out most of the spoken language around me. I can wangle a pastry any time I want to, but otherwise I can disengage and wander. I am happy in Paris. Ten days in Paris was just the ticket. In case you are wondering. In case I freaked you out a little with my Snowmageddon/drinking/I-need-a-vacation post, about which I am a little … embarrassed. But hey — this blog is part social experiment for me, as you surely know.
A commenter on Angela’s first post about our Paris trip on Now Smell This was amused by the adorably wide-eyed enthusiasm of Americans abroad, and — hey, I’ve had worse truths said about me. I did not detect any massive offense or disdain by the French at my obvious delight, or at my expressions of appreciation for what I have been served or shown or told. In fact, I would say that overall the French people I met in Paris have been nothing but helpful and accommodating, and appreciative of my basic (if amusing) efforts to learn and use new words and admire my surroundings, whatever they were at the moment – from the man selling the artisanal honeys to the beauty of the overblown roses spilling their petals on the zinc tabletop one rainy morning.
My next few posts will probably be Paris posts, and each post should have a specific perfume section. As I didn’t blog from Paris (or even take a computer) I’d rather organize my thoughts this way than one huge, sequential laundry list of here’s-what-I-smelled. If the personal bits bore you, you should be able to scan until you get to the perfume bits. Bon appetit.
I got to smell the two new Prada Infusion scents – Tubereuse (which was on the ladies’ side of Sephora) and Vetiver, which was on the men’s, although certainly I wouldn’t let that hold you back.
The first of the series, Prada Infusion d’Iris, was a scent that grew on me over quite a long time, probably more than a year, as I came to appreciate its subtlety and its surprising longevity. (Prada Infusion d’Homme is so similar to the original Infusion d’Iris to my nose that I am missing its point, but it’s supposed to be a tad more woods/incense. My personal theory is that the marketing machine was worried that a man wouldn’t buy a scent with “Iris” in its name, no matter how unisex it looked and smelled.)
Infusion de Fleur d’Oranger was (literally) a bitter disappointment – I love orange scents, whether they’re blossom or fruit, and Oranger is a strangely sharp, sour soapy, unpleasant little thing on me. I also think it was supposed to be a limited edition, which was just fine by me, and I don’t see it on the shelves much over here, but it was all over Paris. While I’m blathering, their L’Eau Ambree from last fall, in the short, rectangular, original Prada bottle, is so sheer it would fit nicely into this line.
I tried the Prada Infusion de Tubereuse first (twice, actually, because I had trouble getting my hands on a Vetiver tester.) I wish our image function were working on here, but you can google them – it’s the standard Infusion bottle, but it’s got a little abstract decorative detail down the side – pink and gray for Tuberose, green and gray for Vetiver – with matching caps and a little dangling silver tag, and I think they’re really nicely done – a little more playful then the original bottle, maybe, but still restrained and chic.
And that, unfortunately, is the nicest thing I can think of to say about Infusion de Tubereuse. Given the concept, I was prepared for sheer and subtle. But I wasn’t expecting anything quite so … generic. It could be almost any vague combination of florals – not too sweet, not fruity, not interesting. I got the same impression on my skin as I did on the paper strip, so out of curiosity I soaked the sleeve of my wool coat with it – four healthy sprays – and after an hour it was essentially gone. The notes I have are tuberose, petitgrain and blood orange, and I’ll take their word for it. Other than “floral” with some citrus I wouldn’t have had a clue – not even “white flowers.” Folks who don’t care much for Infusion d’Iris would probably shrug their shoulders and say, well, what do you expect? But if you can smell it, the original Infusion d’Iris is a great addition to a fragrance wardrobe, and I don’t have anything else quite like it. Tubereuse I’ll be taking a pass on.
And so it was with a heavy heart that I sprayed on Vetiver (it took me visits to two Sephoras and a Marionnaud to find a tester) and … well … honestly?
It was great.
Now, before you start drooling on your keyboard, let’s have a reality check – Onda this is not. It’s one of the Infusions, yes? And so it has a similar lightness, and if you’re underwhelmed by Infusion d’Iris, maybe you’d feel the same about this. Notes are vetiver, tarragon, Madagascan pepper and purple ginger, and that sums it up nicely.
I put on Givenchy Vetyver from Les Mythiques on the other hand, and the contrast was interesting. The Givenchy is at once rootier and more elegant; it smells like, well, Givenchy – a dressier fragrance calling for a nice, starched shirt. The Prada Vetiver reminds me a bit of that Lubin Vetiver reissue which I was wild for and which I wish I still had a sample of – it’s cheerful and peppery and citrusy and a bit effervescent, that gin cocktail effect, although remember we are talking subtle. The vetiver stays green, sheer and cologne-like, designed to refresh rather than to challenge (although there’s nothing “fresh” or watery in the scent.) And for those in on the joke, the punchline is much like the Prada Infusion d’Iris — it is extraordinarily tenacious. While Givenchy Vetyver, ever the gentleman, departed after several hours, the Prada joined me in the shower, lasted through several handwashings, spent the night, and was still there in the morning, all smiles. I had no objection whatsoever. If you like your vetiver on the light side, and/or you were remotely charmed by any of the others in this series, you might want to give this one a whirl.
Special thanks to my partners in crime, Louise and Angela from Now Smell This, with whom I shared an apartment on the Blvd. Montparnasse (a view of the Eiffel Tower!), some amazing meals, excellent walks, vulgar jokes, and quite a few belly laughs. Also thanks to Ange for graciously allowing us to use her laptop to check our emails when we discovered a dearth of internet cafes in our area (WiFi and smaller, cheaper laptops are taking their toll, even in the student neighborhoods.) Finally, ladies – I blame both of you for the necklace you forced me to buy, which has already garnered compliments. Let’s do it again, maybe in Portland this summer…