I take it all back – the French are hateful. They made me eat all sorts of things in Paris. I was walking ten hours a day and I still managed to gain four pounds. It was outrageous – when I wasn’t downing duck pate and crepes and wine by the carafe, I was following my Pastry Porn google map all over central Paris (Mulot, Herme, Fauchon, Aoki, Carton, Laduree, etc.). This leads to soul-searching questions like: is this caramel éclair from Fauchon, which tastes very slightly of salt, really worth the $8 I just paid? (Why, yes. Yes, it is.) I tried to restrain myself to just three desserts a day, plus all the regular eating. The only really bad meal we had was the most expensive, at Alain Ducasse’s Aux Lyonnais. Seemed like a combination of lack of managerial oversight and maybe a little cocaine problem, I can’t be sure. Angie and I laughed our asses off – I can’t think of a more pathetic meal I’ve had – and as that was the low point of the trip, I’ve got no complaints. A city in which every third store seems to be shoes, perfume or something fabulous to eat can’t be all bad.
A visit to the Mothership was required – the Guerlain mothership on the Champs-Elysees. My First Time. You know what? It’s not even that the store is so gorgeous, which it is. The service is perfect. They’re all over the place — ready, willing and able to assist as necessary, but if you want to hang out in there for two hours and sniff on your own – well, go right ahead. All I had to do when I had a question was look up and meet a pair of eyes. And there are tester strips everywhere. Knock yourself out.
(Note right here – my handwriting during this visit was terrible – must have been the sugar rush. Apologies for French and other misspellings.)
Downstairs they were displaying the Eau de Shalimar Edition Charms, which according to the charming SA is basically Shalimar Light (EDT and EDP) in the cutest bottle. For a Guerlain fangirl I’ve never been able to cozy up to Shalimar. This Eau didn’t smell quite as lemon-Pledge as I remembered from my Light tester a year or two ago. It’s not my favorite. Shalimar is … well, it’s a thing, isn’t it? I respect it, even if I don’t want it. I don’t really see the point of Shalimar Light. Also (quelle surprise!) the SA says that Idylle is the big seller among the younger gals who come in.
Browsing the men’s stuff (this was also true at Sephora) … honestly, why can’t every man around me be wearing Habit Rouge (that leather bottle!), one of the colognes, or L’Instant Pour Homme? Can I just whine for two seconds about the heinous tragedy that is the lack of attention paid to L’Instant Pour Homme, a stunningly attractive anisic-spicy thing which I think gets ignored because it’s tainted by the L’Instant name? Wah wah wah. Or …. let’s get everyone to wear Derby!!! Mmmmm.
Giggled at the Elixirs Charnels – example: Boise Torride – a sexy perfume for a subtly androgynous woman. Uh … ooookay. Also, memo to design/production – those super-tall bottles with the atomizers? Suck. The atomizers are fussy, they break, and they don’t form a tight seal, letting air into the bottles and contributing to evaporation and spoilage. Other than that, they’re great.
It was fun trying so many of the scents in extrait, and I did a browse (they’re arranged quasi-chronologically?) of some of the less-loved and less known among perfumistas. Champs-Elysees, not so much, but I kind of warmed up to Jardins de Bagatelle, a big, heady 80’s style aldehydic floral. Also, what is wrong with me that I have never paid any attention to Chamade? It must be the green bit at the top that first put me off, but the spicy drydown is glorious. No, don’t tell me about the rose in there, la la la I can’t hear you.
They also had a special display for the new Aqua Allegoria Flora Nymphea – that was interesting. (I’m not wild about the bottle re-dos.) The set right now also includes Mandarine Basilic and the hilariously named and delicious Herba Fresca, and two others. Nymphea seems like a departure for that particular line – it´s a more complex, orchestrated scent than what I think of for the AAs, which is often built around simple two-note compositions. The longer I smelled it (a floral-y musk? Musky floral?) the more I thought of Idylle. It’s kind of Idylle Fleur d’Ete. Since I bought a bottle of Idylle, that’s not a huge criticism, but it doesn’t have the often herbaceous/citrus crispness I’ve come to expect from the AAs.
They have four candles for 50 euro each. Tahitian (tropical), and Indes (sandalwood) weren’t especially interesting. However, Hiver en Russie was stunning – “hot tea from a samovar blends with the scent of wax.” Also, myrrh and incense. I’ll take one of those, please. Boudoir Venetien was makeup, rice powder, silk and flowers – a bit like Annick Goutal’s Le Sac de Ma Mere, only where the AG is homey and nostalgic and comforting, Boudoir is bigger somehow – an expanse of old room with wood and peeling paint and grandeur.
I smelled Eau de Lit, their “glove, hankie and bedsheet” spray, which I of course sprayed on my skin, and nothing swelled up or dropped off. (Also, I think this was originally marketed as a regular EDT?) It got me thinking. I’d smelled Serge Lutens’ new Eau several times by then – it’s all over Paris – in an attempt to understand what the heck the man was after with that one. And I guess I do understand – he was aiming for the smell of fresh ironing, a really clean, non-perfumey smell that wasn’t a cologne. It smells vaguely like a Laundromat to me. I can’t help but wonder whether it’s because I’m an American – and thus bathed relentlessly, every day, in every public venue, with “clean laundry” smells – those white musk and supermarket-soap-aisle aromas. Yes, Serge’s Eau is probably the quietest, classiest, most elegant Laundromat I’ve ever been in, but I still don’t want to wear it. I’d take Eau de Lit instead, thanks very much. I still have the feather (!) I sprayed in the store. It conjures up both a very clean linen closet and a sense of air – as if the sheets had been hung out to line-dry in the sun instead of starched and ironed? Extremely subtle and very pretty, 125ml for 62 euros. (Nose: Francis Kurkdjian, aka Mr. Clean Laundry, notes of coriander, vanilla, star anise, sage, neroli, bergamot and white musk.)
And then, of course, before I left, was the question – what to soak myself in? A difficult choice. Liu? Vol de Nuit? Vega? In the end I went with Sous le Vent in all its herbal-chypre glory. And then I headed off to Fauchon for that salted-caramel éclair.
PS. Here’s a link to Angela’s last post on our trip, which also contains links to her previous Paris posts. Say that three times fast.