More Paris

Paris was full of surprises for me – things I’d not seen or done or noticed on previous trips.  One day Angie and I took the Metro up to the canals which are I think in the northeast part of the city.   We walked along them for awhile, enjoying the sunny day, before having an excellent lunch at a café recommended by a friend of Angie’s.  On another day (several days, actually) I accomplished my goal, weather permitting, of simply stopping somewhere in the Jardin du Luxembourg, which was very near our apartment, for some lolling about.  Folks go on vacations – group, family, single; luxury or budget– with all sorts of agendas, and mine is never the see-it-all, military-precision checklist that my parents had.   No, on my trips I have to stop and smell the roses – or the grappa, the Sancerre, the local boar sausage, the cheeses, the specialty coffee, or whatever else might be on offer, preferably in a café with strategic people-watching advantages.

In Paris, as you know, you can visit the sacred groves of Serge, the valley of the IUNXen, worship with the priestesses of de Nicolai, etc.  This is no surprise.  You know what is a surprise?  Or at least, it was to me – the phenomenal range of things, some of which I never see in stores in the U.S., available at Sephora and Marionnaud.

Everyone in the U.S. knows Sephora, right?   Light Blue and Lola on the left, Polo Black and Dior Homme on the right, MAC and Stila in the middle.  (Skincare in the back.)   I visited two Sephoras in Paris – one on the Champs-Elysees, right next door to Guerlain, and the second on the Rue Rivoli, and the contrast was striking in terms of inventory.

First off, those stores are huge – maybe three times the size of the Sephoras in my city.  I mostly bypassed the makup, which – I assume owing to the exchange rate – seemed much pricier in Paris.  For instance, OPI was roughly $20 a bottle.  Instead, I wandered up and down the perfumed periphery, admiring the jaw-dropping selection.

Sure, they have the usual crap found at standard Sephoras, arranged mostly in alphabetical order.  Stroll along, though,  and what else do you find?  Well, how about most of the Serge Lutens export line?  (I watched women apply them — three or four generous sprays seems to be the norm.)   Oh, look – and here, stacked up like cordwood, are the Van Cleef & Arpels Extraordinaire fragrances.    Yes, they have plenty of Mugler Angel – but they also have the Mugler Miroirs collection, which I only saw in one place in the US – the Saks in New York.

Dior, Dior, Dior – oh, look, here’s Addict and J’Adore and all the Poisons and — holy cow, they have JULES!!!  70 euros for 100ml!  Just sitting there like it’s a bottle of Azzaro Chrome.  They have enough Givenchy Amarige in a single store to kill all the residents of Paris, but they also have Les Mythiques – Le De, Vetyver and the rest, including one I’d not even seen before, Extravagance de Amarige.  No, seriously – what is up with that?  Is that for the people for whom Amarige the original is not quite strangly enough?  That’s like needing the Poison extrait.  (Oh, btw, I asked after Poison extrait at Bon Marche, and we’ll get to that in another installment on the Dior extraits, but she laughed at me.  My Poison Esprit d’Parfum is apparently as far as Dior was willing to go.)  Anyhow, I sprayed on Extravagance and waited for death, but it didn’t come – if anything it seemed like a more fruital variation of the original.   Special note on Organza Indecence, in case you’re bored with stalking vintage bottles on eBay – the Mythiques version of OI seems slightly less intensely vanillic than my older bottle, and the Mythiques has a somewhat richer, (likely faux) sandalwoody base; it’s hard to compare old and new, but if it’s been tweaked, I thought it was gorgeous.  I still can’t decide how I feel about Givenchy Insense, but Angie liked it.

The new Prada infusions I wrote about already.  Their hugely popular things in-store were the new, ghastly fruital Ricci Ricci in the red bow bottle which I think just won a FiFi award?, and go on, it’s all yours, you can have it.   The number one seller in Sephora, and perhaps all over Paris, is the brand new Dior Eau Demoiselle, a familiar fruity musk with a very sweet top.  I’ve smelled worse, it reminds me of a cross between something like Miss Dior Cherie and D&G The One, and really – it’s not that it’s terrible, but you could do so much better, right there in that store.

The Van Cleef Oriens is a not terribly interesting fruitchouli-musk, not overly sweet, and I admit my inner magpie is deeply covetous of the bottle.  Again, my apologies for no images on here – but if you google it that giant gemstone thing on the top is in fact the cap and weighs a ton and in its own odd, luminous kitch way is kind of fabulous.

What else do they have?  Well, how about Chloe, new and old, right next to each other?   Or all the Cacharels I never see on a shelf (Anais Anais, Lou Lou, etc.)  The John Galliano I didn’t even know about.  I’m a huge fan of the bizarre Diptyque room spray with his name on it, and I was a bit disappointed in his fragrance, a much more conventional woody-spicy with what I think was rose.

I visited several Marionnauds, which I’ve seen elsewhere in Europe.  I’m not sure we have an equivalent store here; they’re smaller than Sephora and less splashy, and they tend to be tucked into the odd corner here and there in downtown areas.  Even those stores, though, are full of treasures I have never seen on a shelf in a “regular” perfume store in the U.S. – how about some Rochas Femme, Madame, or Eau? Remember Guy Laroche Fidji?  We were just talking about it on the Posse a couple weeks ago.  It may not be what it once was, I couldn’t say, but it still smelled gorgeous, a green floral.   One of the stores had the Ego Factos, which were fun to sample – Poopoo Pidoo never quite lived up to my rice-steam expectations (I wonder if I’m anosmic?) but I liked Sacré Coeur, with Chablis, leather, citrus and patchouli.  The L´Eau d´Issey Fleur de Bois (LE?), “where wood and water meet,” was the predicably aquatic nightmare on my skin, fun in a kind of horror-show way, like drowning in an endless sea of watery mimosa, although the bottle is very pretty.

The two biggest revelations for me of this extended browse?   The first is Eau de Rochas, thanks to Angie, who got it down and sprayed it.  Here’s a link to her review, and she’s right – it’s a great cologne and I think she totally hits it in her description.  While it’s plenty citrusy and tart up top, it has a musky warmth at the bottom, a “soft landing” as she describes it, that makes it stand out.

The second, in the how-have-I-missed-this department, was Dior Dune, demonstrating that no matter how hard you sample the perfumes, there’s always a new/old discovery just around the corner.  I’m hardly unaware of Dune, and how LT describes it as something like massively depressing (which tantalizes me) and then gives it five stars.  In fact, I am certain I must have picked up Dune and sprayed it on at some point.  But the Paris Marionnaud was perhaps the first time that (the Ego Factos having been something of a simple-smell flop) I put it on and really paid attention.

Dune’s a floriental with notes of bergamot, mandarin, palisander, aldehyde, peony, broom, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lily, wallflower, lichen, vanilla, patchouli, benzoin, sandalwood, amber, oakmoss, and musk.  I didn’t find it menacing, although I agree with “dissonant but interesting” from The Guide.   It was like seeing a lady on the street who is so eccentrically dressed I can’t stop staring.   The top was sharp and resiny/green on my skin, leading to a drydown that was warm and rich and unfamiliar and more than a little strange.  I only got that one shot at it, but  I came home and bought what I think is a vintage bottle on eBay.  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

  • Winifreida says:

    This is not a perfume expense story, but an expense story nonetheless. Japan has a reputation for being really expensive too (somewhat warranted). Anyhoo, the OH and I went there skiing last year, before our knees finally give out due to old age.
    The old duty free thing has changed in Australia now, you have to go into the bowels of Kingsford Smith and sign quintuplicate papers etc to take stuff out duty free, and not bring it back.
    I was in line after a Japanese girl. She was exporting, well a probably 10k large and stunning Hermes bag. Then she took out a slightly smaller Hermes bag from within it, and then from within that, a third Hermes bag….
    We Aussies were getting the evil eye ‘exporting’ our ski gear for a couple of hundred bucks!

  • sariah says:

    Yay for Dune! Be warned – it’s a sillage monster.

  • Adrianna says:

    March, I want to hear the Poison extraits story! I have a sealed 30ml esprit de parfum of Poison sitting on my shelf and I am too scared to open it. Is it really that bad?? That dated?? Should I just stick it on ebay and get rid of it straight away?? Lovely writing, encore, s’il te plait!

    • March says:

      Oh, no no — the Poison esprit is great stuff! I have a bottle too. Mine is very very strong to my nose, although a commenter on here not too long ago described it as a skin scent and thought I was nuts. 🙂 It’s only great if you love Poison (which I do) — it’s condensed Poison, more or less. But they didn’t make a parfum, which I was curious about (confirmed by the Dior SA. It came up and will probably make a post only because they had extrait testers of many Diors.)

      Wait … you have a 30 ML BOTTLE?!?! Damn. That’s probably worth a fortune. Just saying. I love me some Poison, I wear my vintage EdT.

  • karin says:

    I had a bottle of Dune years ago. Don’t remember how I acquired it. Did I actually buy a bottle of it for myself??? I remember it as such a strange scent…and I ended up giving the bottle away.

    Which brings me to my biggest regret – giving bottles away over the years. I frequently used to purge possessions, and perfume was one of them. Now that so many scents are reformulated, it kills me that I did this! And I didn’t even have the decency to give bottles to fellow perfumistas – I actually gave them to Goodwill!!! Oh well. Can’t cry over the past, right?

    Can’t say I’d want that bottle of Dune, though. 😉

    • March says:

      Well, I can’t condemn you for donating to Goodwill… and I know the impulse to purge like that (I wish I had some bottles back too. Like a couple of vintage Diors.) They don’t take up too much space (heh) so there are other things more tempting to get rid of. Like some family members. In the meantime, my Dune has shipped! Fingers crossed…

      • karin says:

        Family members!!!!! Good idea!!! :d Next time, I’ll try that instead of the perfume.

        Good luck with the Dune! Hope you like it!

  • Rappleyea says:

    “They have enough Givenchy Amarige in a single store to kill all the residents of Paris…”=))

    Wonderful leisurely sniffa through Paris…. Thanks!

    • March says:

      …. so you caught that. Amarige is not my favorite scent. /:)

      I’m probably going to blather a bit more about Paris because it’s fun.

  • Erin T says:

    I have always thought that Extravagance d’Amarige is one of most extravagantly misnamed fragrances in history. The thing smells pretty much exactly like waxed tangerine peel, and is, as LT writes, fairly quiet. I always recommend it to perfume lovers who like the waxy citrus in Dior Escale a Portofino, and it’s especially suitable for those who find the musks in the latter a bit heavy/laundry-ish, I think. E d’A is avaialble a fair amount here in Canada, both in its original bottle at discounters and in the Mythique bottles at the Bay, our big department store. Amarige d’Amour was also lovely, a sweet, little fresh flowers posie that is unrelated to the original. (Amarige Mariage or whatever it was called should definitely be avoided, though – magnolia toothrot, that one was.)

    They *still* had the TM Miroirs?! They’re discontinued at all the places that carried them here, and I had heard from SAs they were discontinued everywhere. That turns out to be another industry fib, I guess. I ended up loving those scents; I own three now, Vanities, Envies and A Travers le Miroir.

    • March says:

      Now you’ve really made me want to retry it — your description of waxed tangerine peel and that part of the Portofino intrigues me. I’d never even heard of Amarige d’Amour! Gah, that Mariage was hideous…

      Yup, still the Miroirs. I’m glad you found so much love there … honestly, I think I must have been anosmic to some component (not that I had endless chances to try them, since they were in NYC.) I really wanted the one LT describes as hazelnut.

      • March says:

        Uh, what I meant was, I really wanted to LOVE the one he describes as hazelnut.

      • Ann N. says:

        Erin T. is spot-on with her description of the Extravagance. It’s bright and fresh, quite lovely, I think. I’m just now rediscovering it myself. Poor thing, by virtue of its name, it just got flattened by the steamroller that is Amarige and never got the love it deserves. It can be had fairly reasonably on eBay though …

  • Gretchen says:

    I am regretting that I didn’t shamelessly beg to join you all when you first announced the Paris trip.

  • Claudia says:

    Dune was one of the first FBs I bought after embracing my inner perfumista. I think it is easily the weirdest scent I have ever smelled and I am addicted to it. Whenever I spray it on myself I think “God, what have I done? It smells like creosote.” And a few seconds later I am in love again.

    • March says:

      Oh! Well, now I am looking forward to my bottle even more! You never know … sometimes I get those impulse bottles and think, wth was I thinking?!? This could be one of those times… 😮

  • dleep says:

    I am so envious. Those Sephoras sound awesome!

    • March says:

      Really, I feel like if American guys and girls could browse that every day, it would change the perfume world as I know it. 😡

  • Nina Z. says:

    If someone wants to swap for an almost full bottle (or decants of) vintage Dune EDT, contact me on (NinaZolotow) on MUA. My friend wants to get rid of her bottle.

  • Robin says:

    It is understandable to me that Sephora in France has a better selection…I’ll bet they sell a lot more perfume vis a vis the makeup than Sephora in the US. But you would think we could have one such store here…instead, the NYC flaghip Sephora is a huge mess…one of the worst I’ve ever been in.

    • March says:

      The only time I went into the NYC store it was such a madhouse (I don’t know if they were having an event?) I turned around and ran, so that’s interesting. I’d have expected it to be better.

  • Nava says:

    Well, your description of the Paris Sephoras makes me green with envy. =:)

    Here in Toronto, they are the equivalent of a pillaged US Target store, and it’s depressing to go near one. The ones in NYC particularly the huge one in Times Square), and the couple that I visited in the Vegas hotels were probably the best I’ve been in. Alas, they are a French company and they only sell the best stuff to themselves! :d

    • ScentRed says:

      I agree, our Sephora store’s can’t hold a candle to what March describes. However, after tripping over several 18 year olds spritzing up before going to the club on Saturday night, I was surprised to find Serge Lutens at the Eaton Centre Sephora. Yes,4-5 real-live Serge perfumes lined the bottom shelf (honestly, they were covered in dust being so close to the floor – and neglected). Mind you if I’m shelling out for Serge, I’d take the subway up to Andrews where they’ll package it up with a swishy attitude, a big bow, lots of tissue and a pretty bag – make me feel I’m getting my money’s worth 😉

      I did end up buying a bottle of Tocca Bianca at Sephora. It was an impulse buy that I took home to my husband and said it was his gift to me for leaving me for a business trip in the middle of our renovations…he’s so thoughtful 🙂

      • Nava says:

        I have to get over to Andrews and the other Yorkville haunts. It’s been too long. I think the Eaton Centre Sephora is the best of the bunch, with Yorkdale coming in second. I don’t know why they bothered opening here if they were planning to keep them so sparsely stocked.

        That is a very thoughtful guy you’ve got there. 🙂

      • March says:

        Heh, your husband got off easy with that bottle.

    • March says:

      I wonder why their stores are so terrible over here in some places? Ours are okay, but nothing fabbo, and Robin at NST weighed in that the NY flagship is awful.

  • Cheryl says:

    Love waking up in the morning and reading about Paris.

  • mals86 says:

    MY local sniffage possibilities are a) Belk’s and b) a really lame TJ Maxx, so it’s quite possible that the selection in a French Sephora would cause my brain to implode.

    I do love just meandering around a foreign city and taking it in.

    I’ve been considering getting my paws on Extravagance for some time, given that it’s described as a green floral, but have yet to do it. I hear it’s nice. And I’m thinking I need some more Org Ind, but haven’t been able to find it online except for You Must Be Desperate ebay prices. Has Givenchy tightened distribution on it now that it’s Les Myth, or am I not being patient enough?

    My sister wore Dune, so I am forever debarred from using it. She is oddly territorial about her fragrances, and although she’s moved on to Coco Mlle, Dune is still off limits to me until the sun explodes. So I’m pouting a little, but since we’re a) no longer teenagers, and b)the Dune ban doesn’t exactly leave me barefoot and starving in the streets with regards to perfume, I’ll just deal.

    • March says:

      I’m giggling about your Dune story. People are so territorial about their perfumes … (where’s whistling guy, I need him!) Unfortunately I can see both sides of this argument. You’re right, though, it hardly leaves you option-free.

      The OI/Les Mythiques — I’d always thought the “original” OI in the weird bottle had been discontinued, but had been told several times no, that it was just hard to find. Then Les Mythiques were at our local Nordstrom for what I thought was a very brief period of time when they first came out, and I haven’t seen them since. It does seem odd to me that, as there isn’t apparently a true scarcity of the frags (not like Chaos before the re-release) they are hard to find and rather expensively priced. The Mythiques version was quite nice. Extravagance I’d like to smell again when I’d not bathed in 15 other scents.

      Cities are for wandering. I love my urban vacations.

    • AnnieA says:

      My sister was like that about the colour purple, which was HER colour when we were growing up. Now that we are on opposite ends of the continent I find myself wearing a fair amount of it…

      • March says:

        Okay, I draw the line at lifelong dibs on color. [-(

      • mals86 says:

        Annie – HA! Poor you, missing out on the purple. Luckily, my sister and I have different coloring, so clothing color was never an issue. I’m jealous of her hair (wavy bronzy-copper) and she’s jealous of mine (straight dark blonde)… oh, that whole appearance issue between sisters is nuts.

        • AnnieA says:

          Both hair types sound nice! BTW I wonder why parents have the compulsion to categorize their kids — at least ours didn’t go with Pretty vs Smart, which is way too common. This is making me think of perfume at home: just the odd bottle of Avon when we were growing up…

  • Shelley says:

    );;) 😕 ;))

    …oh! Wait! I’m supposed to shake up and wake up!! Sorry, it was just so easy to settle in and enjoy reading your account…

    So, I am to understand Sephora had Miroir on the wall? Ack! Would love to just wander into my local mall and give those a spritz. And Jules. And and and…and say, am I to understand that you are suggesting that Extravagance de Amarige would be, erm, over the top? You, who might be game for Poison Extrait Concentree? 😉

    Dune. Dang. I’ve been trying to find some o’ that on and off for a while. Sounds…interesting. Am looking forward to hearing how your purchase turns out. 🙂

    • March says:

      Why, yes I am! I find the idea of an Extravagance of Amarige to be Too Too Much. (yes, me of the Where’s my Poison Extrait? :-w ) But it wasn’t Amarige Extreme, it smelled different.

      Dune I am pretty sure I wasn’t ready for 5 years ago, but I am now.

  • DinaC says:

    Wow, color my envious of the well-stocked Sephora experience. Pretty neat. Most of those perfume names were new or unknown to me, but I recognize Dune. I remember it as one I could never stop sniffing when I would give myself a squirt from a tester. Never owned it…maybe it was too austere? Now I’ll have to search it out and try it again. I’ve seen it in my local Ulta recently. They never seem to get rid of anything.

    • March says:

      It was definitely too something. I know I’d sniffed it too, and found it both attractive and offputting. I dunno. I’m ready for another go at it. And you’re right, it is one on my list that does pop up at Ulta and the odd Macy’s.

  • Louise says:

    Oh, I really did come home tooooo soon!

    I remember when Sephora was exclusively French, and how excited I was when they first opened in NY. There were a few exciting discoveries back then, but now I believe the French and American (and other?) Sephoras are separetly owned. I still enjoy my local Sephoras, mostly because they aggregate some less-usual cosmetic brands. For perfume-feh >:/

    Oh, and sometime when your sniffer is clear from these wretched allergies, I have a bit of Dune parfum for you to test-really wonderfully odd-8-}

    • March says:

      Well, yeah — after all, you and I had our first date in Sephora! 😉 (remember how I accosted you?) And I go there because there are things I don’t see stocked anywhere else here as far as I know, like MUFE. But the selection — wow! You’d have been in heaven.

      Whenever we leave Paris we come home too soon. 🙁 And I’d love to sniff the Dune parfum, it must be very odd indeed.

      • Rappleyea says:

        But if you hadn’t come home when you did, you wouldn’t have been able to come home at all! 😮 Depending on your $$$, that might have been okay though.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    One of my American friends was very surprised to hear me say “Sephora” and learn that it was in fact French! Yes, whenever I am in France I always visit Sephora and Marionnaud and also Nocibe which can be good. However, with the current exchange rate with the pound sterling, everything in France is hugely expensive and far more so than in the UK – Guerlain for example is so far much cheaper in the UK.

    I’m glad you also had the chance to see more of the unknown Paris – canals etc!

    • March says:

      Hm, it’s unusual to read the words “so much cheaper in the UK”! :d And I know for years recently, folks from the UK have come to the US to go shopping, as the exchange rate was so advantageous. Hard going the other direction, though …. not that any of us is going anywhere, with the volcano.

      I really wanted to see more of Paris this trip, and the canals and other bits were a start.

      • Lee says:

        Is Canal st Martin still boho chic or just chic now? And did you hang out in hipster places on the rue Oberkampf?… I saw Bob Geldof and Peaches flolloping around there a couple of years’ back.

  • Winifreida says:

    Wonderful travelogue March, I think its one of the most interesting things about going places – the little differences in the shops, and the way people go about things like food, transport, etc.
    In Australia, if anything, our couple of big department stores have destocked perfumes if anything.
    A few selling niche are starting to rear their heads, but at OTT prices due to lack of competition I suppose.
    Were the perfumes expensive in relation to the cosmetics?

    • March says:

      The perfumes were, I think, a bit more expensive than they were in the US, if you did the Euro conversion — for instance, the SL bottles were a bit more, I think. But those are things I can actually get here. I was amazed to see all those things, like Jules, that I didn’t even think still existed!

      And you are not the first Australian reader to lament the lack of perfume options.

  • I guess I tend to take the Sephora here in Paris for granted — and try to avoid it as much as I can because of the crowd and noise. They’re not all as well stocked as the Champs-Elysées one though: my neighborhood Sephora only got the Lutens exports last year, and does not offer a full line of most brands, especially the older scents you refer to. Just saying in case the volcanic ash settles and other people actually make it to France! The Champs-Elysées flagship store next to Guerlain is the one where you’ll find everything.

    • March says:

      D, it was a huge shock for me to see those things in that store, and it certainly makes sense that the one on the Champs-Elysees would be the big one. The one near Notre-Dame, which we went into simply because we were wandering by, was still pretty darn big, though. And they had much of what I listed above — you simply never see those brands in the US Sephoras, which (for that reason) we consider more middlebrow. Quite a treat!

      I wouldn’t have minded being trapped in Paris one bit. :d

  • lemonprint says:

    That kind of makes me sad, because you know the Sephoras here in the States would probably stock at least some of that stuff if Americans bought it. But they mostly don’t. It’s a shame.

    • March says:

      Well, color me stunned. I actually knew that Sephora was a French chain (or at least there first), but didn’t expect quite that disparity in inventory.

  • Musette says:

    I love Jules! I love you because you introduced me to Jules. I was wearing it on one wrist and Eau Noire on the other, wonder how the same house could’ve produced such massively different scents. Jules is a delight. Eau 😮 is like a Slo-Poke dropped in an ashtray – except there’s too much Slo-Poke, not enough ashtray.

    Sephora in Paris sounds delightful! Boar sausage:x (and I don’t even like sausage all that much). Coffee 😡 Sancerre 😡

    Paris 😡

    xoxo >-)

    • March says:

      I love your description! Jules still smelled pretty darn great, too. It’s one of those scents that I sniffed a sample of and thought, man, how do I get my hands on that?