The problem with staying in a hotel is they want you to leave the room so they can clean it. I took my early morning walk on the beach, but now it´s noon and hotter than hell, and I´m too enervated to deal. The Big Cheese is in Phnom Penh, slaying his own dragons, and here in paradise we´ve devolved into every parental touristic joke – kids watching Die Hard and Napoleon Dynamite on local cable, or the 60-baht bootleg DVDs they sell in the streets, ordering hamburgers from room service and falling asleep by the pool.

I read this book before I left, 12,000 Miles in the Nick of Time, about a nice New York (liberal intellectual) guy and his wife who decide to unplug their three kids for the summer and take them on a slumming-through-India-Asia, etc. tour. Their kids, predictably, think most of their vacation sucks. It´s a hilarious and sad book in many ways – the hapless, well-meaning dad flummoxed by various failures and bad decisions. For instance, Tuol Sleng, the infamous Cambodian school-turned-prison, turns out to be a real bummer. Throughout the book the kids are jonesing for email and a place they don´t have to brush their teeth with orange soda. Our trip is different from theirs in several key ways – for starters, we´re hardly slumming it – but much of the journey still resonates. I bring them to the Land of the Emerald Buddha and they turn their faces toward the familiar – the glow of television, the nepenthe of Sprite. They think Thai food is disgusting beyond words.

Today I´m wearing Laura Tonatto´s Safram. I´m not loving it. I love a note of saffron, although I suppose it can wear out its welcome, and maybe it has. Maybe it´s just too hot to appreciate anything that doesn´t smell like lime ice. Maybe that faint nausea I´m feeling isn´t ennui. I´ve been hitting the local cuisine reasonably hard (we jokingly refer to all the food stalls, collectively, as Scary Noodle) and maybe last night´s $2 dinner wasn´t as fresh as it could have been. Maybe I need to lay off the mango before I turn into one.

From “Saffron is the stigma of Crocus sativus, a flowering plant in the crocus family. Saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, is costly because more than 225,000 stigmas must be hand picked to produce one pound.”

Safram is a linear scent on me. It´s not a foody smell. I can´t find a list of notes, but I swear I remember this as having some sort of spice note, pepper and more herbs, maybe, but instead I´m getting a definite hit of vanilla, like saffron ice cream, and it´s not making me happy. It´s also got a tiny hippie-oil vibe I don´t care for, that murky, mushroomy co-op smell that´s fine in a $8 hippie-oil, but not at the prices the LTs go for. I wish I´d brought along my L´Artisan Safran Troublant for comparison, which I think must be drier than this, but maybe that´s because I was layering it with one of the other Epices in the set, the Poivre? I wonder if that set is still available… yep, there it is on Luckyscent, a bargain at $75. Questions, questions. Like, how can Troublant have rose in it? I´m not remembering rose. Dang, it´s hard being away from the perfume mother ship.

You all have your bottles close at hand. Is there a singular smell – like saffron – that you love as a dominant note or soliflore in one fragrance, and inexplicably dislike in another seemingly similar fragrance? Say that last sentence three times fast.

image, saffron pistils:

  • I love anything with saffron spice in it, has so many uses.

  • Qwendy says:

    Late to the party again! I’m a saffron fan, but both ST and the LT are a bit too linear on me, so I find that it makes it’s mark felt in a more spicy, therefore more satisfying way for me, in scents like Eau Suave and Ta’if and L’Homme Sage. I had to write a blog on perfume and traveling last year while I was out of the country for 5 months, as I was very surprised at all of my senses needing such different things than I had imagined when I was packing up my scents for travel. You sound like a great traveller, which to me means you are willing to leave lots of your “self” behind and just see what it’s like to be where you are, and maybe the familiar things don’t fit as well. Bon voyage, and keep writing.

  • Kyra says:

    Patou’s newer one- Sira des Indes does have a banana note and killed it for me despite the nice champaca. Ayala blogged it for a more professional take, but she clearly does not loathe bananas and I truely do.

  • Kyra says:

    Further evidence that I have the soul of a librarian- someday I hope to have my fragrance notes so well databased that I can instantly answer questions like this. I can say that I have learned not to be certain that any given note will make or break a fragrance. Except I don’t think anything could make me like banana.

    • March says:

      Banana! That turns up as a regular joke. Really. Eeeeew. Who wants to smell banana in a fragrance? But watch, there will be one out there (if there isn’t already) that makes me eat those words.:-“

  • Lavanya says:

    This reminds me of my cousins when they used to visit us in India (maybe 12-15 years ago)..My uncle was all about showing them the culture- we visited temples, historical monuments,sang indian classical songs…but my younger cousin (who happened to be a boy) just hated it- the food, the heat..and just couldnt wait to get to an air conditioned room and eat some good ol’ pizza(or the spiritual equivalent of that)..

    As for notes: I love tuberose-the flower, and except for SL TC (and I remember liking Carnal Flower), I havent liked any tuberose solliflore- e.g Fracas

    Also, I thought I didnt like leather- but I dooo likee Tabac Blond…(and Daim Blond)
    and Rose- I am not much of a rose person- but once it gets a little dark or spicy- then oh yes!..I like Andy’s Le Maroc and L’Artisan’s Voleur de Roses…havent tried any of the Rosines though..

    • March says:

      Well, I can understand your feelings about tuberose. I think some of it is the same problem with rose. There’s a natural floral smell, and then there’s the thing they try to kill you with in the fragrance.:d

      I like those dark roses, too. Please consider trying SL Rose de Nuit if you haven’t.

  • Gaia says:

    Travel and being away for too long is hard for me. I need my stuff: my bed, my perfumes and the cats around me to feel like myself. Too much of the unfamiliar gets overwhelming and I start missing things like cheesecake or the Turnpike.

    I tend to have a problem with big flowers. I think I only wear rose in Le Maroc and gardenia in Monyette. Anywhere else they rarely work for me. I usually dislike peach but Daim Blond is lovely. On the other hand, I love patchouli, but Prada and Angel are awful on me/for me.

    • March says:

      Ah, yes — but they are awful on you TODAY. How will they be in six months?!?!:d That has been one of the greatest surprises for me in my perfume travels — how something I loathe absolutely (Prada!) morphs into something I need a bottle of. Still waiting for it to happen with, say, Angel though — :-&

  • CH says:

    For me, it’s amber. Since “amber” comes in so many forms (ambergris, ambrette seed to name a few) I approach scents with amber carefully. Try as I might to like Lonestar Memories, the amber screams on my skin. It Parfum D’Hermes, the amber seems to dominate everything. Yet, in Ta’if by OJ, it is beautiful. The ambrette seed in Miller Harris’ Fleurs de Sel is more salty and aromatic as opposed to a classic amber scent, and I like it.

    Ylang Ylang is another that I don’t like, for the most part. For me, the note interferes with other notes with it’s sweetness. For me, it does not blend well with much of anything except other florals (and it still dominates).

    • March says:

      Wow! You’re buried in AMBER in Lonestar?!?!? That’s so wild. On me it’s all dust and dirty boots and intense leather and red chile. It’s my Brokeback Mountain fragrance.;)

  • Amarie says:

    Travelling makes you re-examine the world and how you and those nearest and dearest interact with it.
    There are some really great earlier comments, and I think they have pretty much covered what I would say. Louise is right- try and fit in heading out with the Big Cheese.
    I too have a problem with some of the floral notes: rose, LOTV, jasmin, gardenia. Recently a dear lady sent me a bundle of floral samples, and it has been so interesting to explore which ones I like/ can tolerate/ can’t stand. I think that it is dead winter helps as well. I even found some new loves: Michael Storer, and L’Artisan’s.
    I have tried so hard to love my bottles of Caron Acasiosa (jasmin) and Diorissimo but it just wont happen. :(( I live in hope that magic might happen one day.

    • March says:

      Winter definitely helps me with the bombastic florals, although there are folks on this blog who really, really like them in the heat. If it works on your skin then, it can REALLY work. Jasmine, for instance, I like in intense heat — that seems like a hot-weather smell to me, you know? But I share your issues with the others.

  • Kim says:

    I’m a newbie – I assume LOTV is Lily of the Valley aka muguet des bois?

    If so, lily of the valley (LOTV)/muguet des bois would be the note I would pick. Lovely and wonderful in the garden, great as a note in a mix such as in Tolu by Ormonde Jayne (surprisingly, the muguet really pops beautifully on my skin) yet can be horrible on me in others (Diorissimo on my skin stinks AND gives me a headache!).

    When traveling, I think the search for the familiar can also be a response to the stimulation of the novel experiences – there is only so much one can take before needing a break! (Kind of like with perfume sampling?)

    • Maria says:

      Welcome, Kim! You are correct. LOTV is lily of the valley. At first the acronyms, especially of perfumes, had my head reeling, but I can recognize them most of the time now. Very apt analogy between travel and perfume sampling!

      • March says:

        Maria — your comment reminds me, I had the funniest email exchange with Ina at Aromascope recently. We were discussing L’Artisan and she used some abbreviation and I was racking my brain trying to figure out which scent she’d referred to.

        Then I realized the abbreviation stood for “Just Let Me Know” or something similar./:)

    • March says:

      Kim — welcome! Yeah, our arch-nemesis LOTV. Several of the Diors have LOTV and I admire more than love them.

      And your comment is so apt — I think a mistake I made is failing to bring some FAMILIAR fragrances, not just new ones to sample. What was I thinking?

  • Teri says:

    My husband used to say that he’d happily travel anywhere in the world so long as he could sleep in his own bed every night.

    As undoubtedly wonderful as it is to travel to someplace so very different from our home turf, it does unsettle us somehow, sending us in search of the familiar (like Sprite or American movies or cuisine with names we can prounounce). The year my son was four we took two trips – one to Disneyworld and one to Yugoslavia. While he remembers enjoying Disneyworld, it is the trip to Yugoslavia he remembers in detail. Someday your children will regale their own children with tales of their adventures in Southeast Asia. That’s when you’ll look back and know it was all worthwhile.

    Peach is a difficult note for me in fragrance. If it’s a predominant, noticeable peach, like in Mitsouko or Petit Cherie, I can’t tolerate it. But as a well-blended component, it adds a lot to a number of fragrances I wear regularly.

    • March says:

      Now, that cheered me right up. All their friends are scattered across various beaches, camps and amusement parks in the U.S. this summer. I’ve done Disneyworld and am not interested in returning.

      When I was their age, my not-very-adventurous parents screwed up their courage and took my sister and I on a cruise to Africa to see the solar eclipse (my father’s an amateur astronomer.) I was baffled and a little scared for much of the time we were in Senegal — I had never seen poverty like that, obviously, and and at the same time it was so beautiful. That trip is still vivid all these years later.

      Peach. Funny. My skin eats it up in Mitsouko and many other scents. But peach makes me gag in any sort of tropical-frappe fragrance production.

  • Lee says:

    For me, it might be gardenia, or versions thereof. |Sorry, fans.

    • March says:

      Gardenia. A flower I adore in person. Not so much in perfumes. I think we should all just wear the actual flowers behind our ears (you too, honey.)

  • Mike P says:

    The trip sounds funny – hey, atleast you’re having one of those ‘American tourist moments’ and YOU KNOW you’re having it.

    I smell saffron in the top note of Paprika Brasil by Hermes (Hermessence) but in PB it has a realsitic pimento edge to it that I really love, but then don’t love in Piment Brulant or Safran Troublant (L’Artisan).

    • March says:

      Mike — I’m over myself today. Had a massage (I know, I know — you feel my pain!) Booking my tickets to Siem Reap for next week. Angkor Wat, here we come!

      I really need to revisit Paprika Brasil.

  • Elle says:

    Travel slump? 🙂 I agree w/ Maria – I think you may be surprised at what your kids will eventually look back at w/ nostalgia and appreciation.
    I inexplicably love LOTV in PdN’s Eclipse and Ellie, but am not exactly fond of it as a dominant note in any other scent. I’m also very ambivalent about peony. I enjoy it in PdN’s Rose Pivoine, but make the sign of the cross and back away when I smell it in most other scents.

    • March says:

      Scent twin!:x I’m always astounded when I sample something blind, check the notes, and then realize that part of what I’m loving is LOTV. In large doses, it makes me gag as much as rose does. In fact, a rose/LOTV scent would be my own personal hell.

      Peony? Huh. I have to think of some scents it’s in. I hadn’t paid much attention to it one way or another.

      Eclipse is so beautiful.

  • Louise says:

    Sounds like you and the Cheese may want to get the sitter, and head out (or send the kids out) for a bit when he gets back. We took J. to Italy and France when he was 11, and while he certainly immersed himself in the delights of Tuscan beef and Parisian museums, he complained plenty. But as Maria notes, I am amazed at the details he remembers and loves recounting.

    Not that I love and hate? I think vetiver is the one. I don’t really ever hate it, but I don’t “get” it in many fragrances, and then fall in love with it yet again. Le Labo’s inspires deep passion in me.

    Rose-ugh, just can’t do it. Love the flower, never met a rose fragrance I can abide.

    • Louise says:

      Damn, “note” not “not”!

    • March says:

      Well, that’s so true. I know in my heart that the kids (well, at least the big girls) are getting a lot out of this. We wanted them to see some of the world that was different, and not too scary, and know that they could deal. They certainly are getting the bargaining thing down to a science!

      I think we are going to head back to Bangkok earlier than planned. We had to guesstimate the trip, what would work for everyone, and I’m thinking finishing up in the big city will be a grand finish.

      Le Labo Vetiver! Vetiver is my nemesis in many scents, and I love Le Labo with a passion (although the Cheese hates it, it’s one of the few he’s asked me not to wear around him.) It’s just the stinkiest thing.

      I’m thinking I need a bottle of Guerlain Vetiver too. I smelled it at Sephora right before I left, for the 45th time, and realized I had fallen in loooooooooove.

      Another rose hater. Huh. It’s a difficult note, that’s for sure. But I predict there’s a rose out there for you somewhere, waiting to sneak up on you on thorny leeetle feets.

    • Maria says:

      Louise, have you tried Parfums de Rosine Ecume de Rose? It has a lot of freshness to it and is lovely. I admit I’m crazy about rugosa roses, the type the scent is based on. In fact, I have a few rugosas on their way to me right now. @};-

      • March says:

        My favorite Rosine! And if I like it, there’s hope for other rose-haters. Of course Maria’s the real indicator…:d

  • Maria says:

    March, I think we all need to be able to touch home base some way when we’re out exploring the world. It’s left over from when we were infants and beginning to explore; we needed to know we could run back to Mom or take her her substitute with us, for example, a teddy bear. I was terrified of the world because my home base was not reliably where it was supposed to be. Anyway, what your kids are doing with television and Sprite is not all that different from what you’re doing with your laptop. :-” (Not that we don’t love your reports. Thank you for them!)

    Another thing about kids–they always complain when they’re eating and when they’re in a group. They may surprise you years from now, talking wistfully about the noodles they ate while watching a perfect orange sunset.

    About liking the same note in one fragrance but not in another, rose springs prominently to mind. Pleasure or headache, “life is beautiful” or “get me the heck out of here.”

    • March says:

      Maria — hey, I’m not using this as a crutch!:-” Okay, maybe I am. It’s fun to keep a toe in the waters from home. And you’re right, what they’re doing is a completely normal reaction. Just like what I’m doing…

      Rose. Shudder. That’s funny, that’s the note I was thinking of specifically when I asked my question. How can it be so right in a few fragrances, and so headache-inducing in many others?