Paris and Perfume – Part I

Paris is pretty much all that I thought it would be… and more… and less.

We arrived on Monday morning in the rain. After waiting for an hour in a gorgeous cool, not cold, rain, the driver who was to have my name on a card – nowhere to be found, us thinking we had been ripped off for a very expensive ride – finally appeared, and we went careening through wall to wall Paris traffic to my uncle´s house.  My uncle has lived in Paris since the 1960s, after meeting his wife while stationed in France He had offered to meet us at the airport, but Miss Independent decided no, we could make our own way.  Tres idiot.

Everyone tells you the first day you arrive in Europe, you should stay up all day, don´t go to bed until as late as you can that night.  Great advice, if you can sleep on a plane. I can´t sleep on planes.  I even had a sleeping pill, and I dozed off and on for maybe an hour, but that´s not even close to enough sleep to keep me functioning.  So I had a little coffee with my family while Diane crashed, only to find myself crashing about two hours later.

Monday was shot for perfume shopping.

Tuesday, my cousin Caroline and her daughter, Alice, accompanied us on our shopping expedition… I think more to make sure we didn´t get lost navigating the Paris metro than that they wanted to go perfume shopping. They were great guides.  Getting around on the Paris Metro is a snap.  Every time I look at that grid, I get goose bumps.  The streets above through Paris are a mess, streets change names every few blocks and curve and end and look like it was made by ants on speed, but the metro system below is cool efficiency, laid out in a grid that will get you anywhere in Paris.   I mean, take a look at that to the left — gorgeous symmetry. For some reason, that duality tells me more about Paris and its people than anything else I´ve learned.

We went to Serge Lutens first.  I´m not sure what I was expecting – anything from warm French hospitality to an upturned French nose.  What we got was something in between that I´m still not sure how to interpret.  We didn´t buy anything there then since we have a good number of bottles to get and have to transport it back on the metro. That´s at the end of our trip.  But I did notice that people aren´t on the Metro laden down with shopping bags like we were. What up with that?  Don’t Parisians shop for more than one bag of things at a time?

After meandering and getting lost multiple times, we found our way to Montale – nothing new there, but they are expecting a new scent in late November or early December –  and Parfums de Nicolai – great candles! – and Annick Goutal – whoa there, Nelly.  The new incense trio will be released at the end of November, and they had testers in the store.  Absolute gorgeousment.  I don´t have details because the shop was full and we didn´t get notes as our concern was when and how we could get our hands on them to take home and play with our other perfumes. They do not know when they will be released in the U.S., but they will ship if you give them your Fed Ex account number.  Fed Ex shipping from France is a minimum of $100, so this does not look like an inexpensive proposition.

Can we just talk about how difficult this internet stuff turned out to be? I was thinking there would be wireless everywhere, but I saw not one internet cafe sign, maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place. I’m sure they were there. We were staying in a residential area, the 16th, and I just figured there would be someone’s wirelss to grub onto. But no. So I planned to post this stuff while I was gone, but….  Je suis idiot… again.

At the end of the day, we stopped at Arabian Oud, which I wasn’t familiar with.  Mahmoud and Mohammad took great care of us, Caroline, Alice and I collapsed in their chairs to rest our barking dogs while Diane smelled everything in the store.  You know what, almost everything smelled great. At the risk of torching Montale lovers, I have to say, I much prefer the Arabian Oud.  Montales are very nice, I´m not saying they aren´t, but to me, they always seem to blend together in my head, and the bitterness in many of them makes them difficult to wear on any regular basis.  The Arabian Ouds have a richness to them, less bitterness in the oud, or it blends together more smoothly.  I can´t exactly put my finger on it.  Also, they sell the individual essences that make up their perfumes in small bottles. I have a bottle of the most feral jasmine I have ever smelled (yes, March, I´ll send you some).

Day 3

Department store day. We headed off on the metro on our own, north to Printemps and Galleries Lafayette on Haussmann.  What a knot of people that was.  Printemps has the Caron urn parfums, the reissued Montaigne (in edp instead of edt this version) and in parfum, the Stephanie Aignans, and much more. The real prize here was Berdoues Violettes de Toulouse… in extrait.  This is one of my favorite violet scents of all time in the edt, but it just doesn´t last. In extrait?  Oo-la-la.  And for 42 euros for 15 ml.  Bargain of the century and just perfection in violet.  I´m not sure it´s available outside of Europe yet, but if you see it and love violet, snap some up.

Mariage Freres has a store in both Printemps and Galleries Lafayette, as well as free-standing stores in several places.  I picked up some of the incense, the Noel and Russian teas, the amber candle, and.. I adore this store. I know they likely get their incense from Shoyeido and teas from a more commonly known tea company, but they are wonderful and feel so French.  Lovely place and one-stop shopping for all of your tea, incense, candle needs. They need to open a full shop in the U.S. Of course we also stopped into Laduree for Macaroons.

Can I stop for a minute and tell you how bad my French is?  Before I went, I did the first course of Pimsleur, which gives you a limited vocabulary and construction of present tense simple sentences.  Helpful to be sure, but my French receptive skills are nonexistent. I pick out a word here and there, but it just sounds like a bathtub of vowel sounds being whisked down the drain.  During my time in Paris, some words are emerging out of the vowel soup, but it´s only a slightly less murky soup. Despite that, I did seem to be able to communicate at about cavewoman level, but that was better than not at all. 

Day 4 – holyday 

All Saints Day is a holiday in France, so only some shops were open, but most of the big ones were closed, so we played tourist.  I´m Catholic and Diane is Jewish, so we decided to do just a split religious tour of the city. Notre Dame is stunning and must be seen if you are here.  There has never been a time that the inside of a soaring old cathedral fails to raise my spiritual temperature by about 90 degrees. I could spend days just prowling through old cathedrals and visiting sites of the incorruptibles. Did I ever tell you about my meeting with St. Charles Borromeo? Remind me to tell it sometime.

Then we headed off into the direction of the Pletzel in Marais for a falafel (yum!) and then off to an old Synagogue that was closer to the Eiffel Tower.  A nice, slow, relaxing day. Perfect.  (to be continued next Tuesday)

  • violetnoir says:

    Patty–I am so sorry that I am late to this, but keep the posts on Paris coming, babe!

    For now, all I will say is: Viva la France, viva Paris!

    Hugs and love!

  • Flora says:

    Oh, how lovely your trip sounds so far! So much to do!

    However, This is what I got out of your post: Blah blah blah Arabian Oud blah blah blah……I think I need me some of that.:x

  • Dusan says:

    I’ve missed you, my lovely one! Super to see you’re back with great stories and sniffies.
    What’s the name of that feral jasmine one, btw? A buddy of mine (he frequents the Posse, name is Rob) sent me a few Arabian oud oils a while ago — they kick ass, literally, they’re *that* potent– so wonder if these might be the ones you tried.
    Love you, sweetie, and can’t wait part deux.
    Rest up! 😡

  • chayaruchama says:

    You were sorely missed, pretty lady !
    I hope you have a chance to rest up…
    [I’m with Jindra, btw- I hope you had FUN, in addition to running yourself ragged…]
    Kisses.

    • Patty says:

      Thank you, my lovely friend!!! STill trying to get on regular time, to little avail. Missed you guys terribly and wished we could all be traipsing over Paris together! The Osmoteque visit would have just blown y’all away, it was just the best.

  • Catherine says:

    I have been eagerly waiting your return, for I so love anything having to do with Paris.

    I remember my first trip–I had just gotten engaged, knew absolutely no French, and the family spoke no English. The first verb I ever learned through listening was “traverser”–well, after being instructed to say “je l’adore” to everything given to me to eat!

    And your observations about the metro are so perceptive. The funny thing is that its perfection can lead to laziness. For a year I lived in the Marais while researching a contemporary artist. The Marais is only ringed by metro stops. Some of my friends would complain if they had to meet me at my building–“It’s so far to walk!” LOL

    You do sound tired. But I always say–any vacation requires a vacation afterwards, just for you.

    • Patty says:

      I asked my uncle how he long it took him to be fluent, and he said about 8 months, but not that long to start responding to simple questions, but that long before he felt like he could participate in a conversation without having to think about every word he said.

      Marais is the only district that had holes, from what I could see. Do you know why? I thought that was weird.

  • Judith says:

    Your trip sounds fabulous! I am sooooo jealous (even though I just went; I want to go BACK!). I am iffy on feral jasmine (sometimes like, sometimes not), but I am DYING to smell the AG Incenses. I need to keep repeating: “NO MORE LEMMINGS (for a little while, at least).”8-|

    • Patty says:

      It starts out really feral, but has a much nicer drydown, so it may work for you, but if you’re iffy on it, I’d say tread with caution.

      The AGs are really lovely. I tried, in horrible French and English to get them to make me samples, and she offered me samples of Eau de Sud, etc., which was mos def not what I wanted. Harumph!

  • Silvia says:

    If you only knew how much I had been looking forward to this post, and now there is a Part II, happy days, spare no details.

    Paris is so close to us in London, we really should be there every second week-end. Not quite, at least not me. Thanks for bringing it all to life.

    I keep meaning to check out the Arabian Oud shops here, although every time I walk past, they threaten to spray some ghastly white musk floral and I run a mile. The gems must be inside.

    Violettes de Toulouse sounds a real steal, well done.

    Enjoy the week-end !!!

    • Patty says:

      Thanks, Silvia! I think it’s like anything that’s close to your backyard, you just think you’ll eventually get around to it!

  • dinazad says:

    Patty, dearest, did you have FUN? Because this instalment strikes me as more stress than enjoyment, and I do hope you had lots of enjoyment! Missed you.

    • Patty says:

      Oh, my Lord, yes!!!! It does sound a bit like a run around Paris, which we did. But I had a lot of time with my family there, who I haven’t seen in over 20 years. So it was fun AND hectic, which is a great thing!

  • carmencanada says:

    I am waiting impatiently for the Osmothèque installment, since we’d already met by then (so you couldn’t report) and I’m dying to know what I can expect when I’m able to afford it… Now for all you people who haven’t met Patty and Diane in the real world, I can tell you they’re absolute dolls, smart, adorable, funny, quirky, enthusiastic and well, just all round great to have around.
    Divina, the Arabian Oudh shop is on the rue de Marignan, in a street that runs diagonally from the avenue Montaigne (right at the level of the Caron shop and the Dior shop, but across the street), to the Champs-Elysée. To my great shame, I’ve never been. I find the assortment of unknown scents a bit daunting from my experience at a similar shop, Al Kureishy, in Beirut. Of course, it always takes a foreign visitor to help you discover your own city!

    • Patty says:

      It wound up not being as much as we thought it might! We had been told 150 per person, but it was 150 for the group. Not sure if there was a miscommunication somewhere, but the best 50 euros I ever spent and a bargain at 150 euros apiece!

    • Divina says:

      Thank you so much for the info!

  • Divina says:

    So lovely to read…But *tilts her head to the side* where is the Arabian Ouds shop? Please do let me know, would love to visit next time! I am really looking forward to the next instalment, especially looking forward to reading what you liked most, what you hated, what lived up to your expectations, what didn’t, what surprised you…just everything about the way Paris made you feel. I don’t think I can wait till Tuesday! *hugs*

    • Patty says:

      Carmencanada gave you the directions to the Arabian Oud shop. They are really nice in there, and I think it’s so well worth a trip.

      I’ll get into the what I loved and hated next time or the time after, depending on if I have two or three posts in total.

  • March says:

    Squueeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

    :d

    I missed you so very, very much. Next time I’ll go with you. I can’t wait to hear part two. You also have me salivating over the Most Feral Jasmine (bring it ON, baby!) and the new Annicks.

    BTW after several trips to Yurrup I’ve decided that whole stay-up-all-day thing is bogus, and I can’t sleep on the plane either. I go by the hotel, drop my crap off (usually too early to check in, often I’m arriving at 7am), stagger around in a coma for 6 hours and then take an hour-long power nap at 3ish. Then you’re good to go until 10 or so, and you crash and get up on the right schedule the following day.

    • Tigs says:

      Can *anyone* sleep on a plane? I can’t and I can normally sleep standing up, leaning against a pole on a commuter train. I’ve never met somebody who sleeps soundly on planes. The thing that drives me most crazy is the increased level of “announcements” lately, so that even if you do manage to fall asleep, they come booming and crackling across the P.A. to tell you they’re reducing altitude to a certain number of feet to avoid a patch of turbulence or something.

      • meg says:

        Your problem was the the typical Franco/American cultural disconnect. Smiling at strangers on the street is not done in France. Anyone visiting Paris for the first time should read Polly Platt’s “French or Foe” or “Savoir Flair” – it wouldn’t hurt to read both. I had been to France several times before I got those books, and I can’t say that I had really bad experiences, but, thanks to Platt, I understand sooo much more and have consequently had nothing but wonderful interactions with the French. And my French is not that good, but they love that you make a (polite) effort and then put you out of your misery by speaking English.

    • Patty says:

      You do have to go. You would have just been in heaven at the Osmoteque, what a gas that was.

      Okay, your style sounds more like mine. Now I’m all screwed up in reverse, not enough sleep.

  • Sariah says:

    Love Paris, love the metro, sounds like the 2 of you had a wonderful trip. Must check out some of those Arabian Ouds – do you happen to know if there is a store that sells that (or similar) in the US?

    • Louise says:

      There’s a few online sites, including Arabianoud.com (same people), but, surprisingly, none in NYC, where you’d expect one. Let me know if you’d like to sample the 2 blends and pure oil I got in London (and you know TPC will have some new treats verrry soon.!

    • Patty says:

      None in the U.s. that I know of, but I know they said they will ship to the U.S. They do have a store in London as well.

  • Marina says:

    Welcome back, Patty! I wish I read this wonderful report last night, so I could dreams of shopping in Paris (instead of dreams of being scared by a bumblebee, what’s up with that, eh?). But OK, I’ll be daydreaming instead 🙂

    • Patty says:

      Bumblebee? Yikes! Well, I can’t sleep worth a darn, fall asleep at 8p and wake bakc up at 2:30a. My sleeping routine is all out of whack. :((

  • Suzanne says:

    Welcome back, Patty. So exciting to hear about your trip! Love your honesty in telling us all that was great and all that was a little less than great. Can’t wait to hear more!

  • Elle says:

    Wonderful to see you back! And sounds like you had such a fab trip! Why do I not have an uncle in Paris? Why did *I* not fall in love w/ and marry someone in Paris? Sigh. Such poor planning on my part. And, yes, Mariage Freres should definitely open a full shop in the US.

    • Patty says:

      Well, it’s lovely to visit, but I couldn’t live there. I like city life only to a certain extent, and then I want my own city that’s not quite so crowded.

  • Anne says:

    I can hear/read the “so much to tell! -ness” in your voice/writing. Can’t wait for part deux, and trois and quatre….. The Posse held strong in your absence, to be sure, but you were missed so welcome, welcome, welcome home! :)>-

    • Patty says:

      Thanks, Anne! I haven’t even got to the good parts, Osmoteque, having the run of the essences upstairs at Patou (unattended, wheee!!! With Carmencanada!), and more! I’ve only got like 200 orders to catch up on first. 🙂

  • Maria says:

    Welcome home, Patty! I’m sure that deep down some Parisians found you tres charmante. Well, they SHOULD have. :-w

    Diane does love those Arabian ouds. I imagine some more will show up in the Perfumed Court. Hmm. Suddenly I hear my little batch calling my name.

    • Maria says:

      Say, Patty, when is the next meeting of the Pefume Posse Club?

      • March says:

        Next week — I’ve got Thurs, Patty’s got Friday, we’re doing Foody. I think I managed to avoid the horrifying ones…:-$ when we were first formulating the list I whimpered in pain at the names.

        • Maria says:

          Last night I tried on the last of the bunch. Let’s say I’ve discovered some things about myself. 😮

    • Patty says:

      Thanks, sweetie! My pronunciation did improve, and I felt a little more confident in just asking if they spoken English and how much things were, and getting amounts and times in French. So I wasn’t completely an asshat American. 🙂

  • Louise says:

    Welcome home, Patty! Such an important first trip-Paris is so wonderful, and just gets better each trip. Your French will improve, and so will the French…or impressions thereof.

    The metro is just the tip of the French duality that you caught on to so quickly-think-kindness/indiffence; elegance/earthiness; reverence of philosophy/slapstick humor. And on and on. We Americans surely have these dichotomies, but the length of French history has ripened them. To my delight.

    The Arabian Oud shop (I went to the London branch) is great-and I agree that the blends are lovely and much smoother than Montale (loved, too). Glad you had a chance at their hospitality. I got some pure oud there and scared March with it when I came home.

    Oh-there are internet cafes, tucked in weird places (cafe basements, bookstores), often unmarked, and especially in the student quarter and the Marais. You mostly have to ask (next trip?), but maybe it was good to get away from the ‘net for a bit?

    Happy return to family and rest.

    • Patty says:

      They are frightening, no? The ouds. The black musk I snagged, just opened it, and I’m still reeling! Lord, I think it mated during the plane ride home, it’s just noxious at this point, but once on the skin, a pleasure. Hubby called it “bottled f**k.”

      I noticed lots about the French, some of it surprising and lots not, the same and not.

  • Lee says:

    So you were staying out by the Bois de Boulogne, Patty? I hope you didn’t go exploring by night – who knows what you would’ve stumbled across…

    I know the east side of Paris (Marais, 1st 10th 11th Rive Gauche) much better than where you were, but you probsably experienced more of an authentic Paris…

    Like you, I can’t sleep on planes at all, so I struggle with the staying awake thing. You have my sympathy as you go through all of that in reverse. May your sleep be back to normal as quickly as a cancan.

    • Louise says:

      Whatcha mean, Lee? The BdB has some lovely ladies there, all very friendly.

    • Patty says:

      Yeah, near the Bdb, but closer to the Seine — it’s a private area that used to be a private estate that they sold off in parcels for houses, apartments, etc. Uncle Frank drove us through the BdB one night, and they were speaking in French, until they got to the “transexual” word. Lovely ladies, to be sure. 🙂

  • tmp00 says:

    Divalano beat me to it, but FERAL JASMINE! :(( FEARL JASMINE, SWEETIE!!

    If I had an Uncle in Paris I’d move in.

    Heck, I’ve thought of just moving in with Lee. All that sniffage…

    • Patty says:

      If you saw the size of the apartments in the 16e, you couldn’t find a place to squat. Every time we told people where we were staying, we’d get… wow, you’re in the most expensive place in Paris, which isn’t quite true. Marais and the 8e, I think, are a lot pricier, but most of the apartments are postage stamps.

      But! they do have a place north of Bordeaux that’s a lot bigger, and I could take a train into Paris! 🙂

    • Lee says:

      I’m worried for you. I’ve worked out, given the current exchange rate, that even if you sold all your worldly goods, you’d only have £2.57 to live on when you get here…

      • tmp00 says:

        Yes, I know. :((

        However, that exchange rate also means that you and a few friends could pool your lunch money and buy the Beverly Hilton.

  • Divalano says:

    “feral jasmine”

    *swoon*

    thank you for posting all that, I’ve never been … it sounds just wonderful!

  • Camille says:

    Welcome home, Patty!!

    The Paris metro is wonderful, isn’t it? Love your observation about its contrast with the world above and what that says about Paris. I’m enamored of all of it. 😡

    Sounds like you had a wonderful time–looking forward to the next installments!

    • Patty says:

      Had a great time! The metro is perfection. I already loved the NYC subway, but just the depth of the metro amazes me. There are so few holes in coverage, where you can’t find a metro stop within four blocks, is amazing.

  • Joan says:

    Bonjour Patty:

    Enjoyed part I – looking forward to Part II…….

    • Patty says:

      Part II has all the really interesting stuff in it! Trip to the Osmoteque, what Fath Iris Gris really smells like (swooning just thinking about it) Candide Effluve reissue and vintage differences at Guerlain. I still have a hard time figuring out how we got so much in!

  • Tigs says:

    Thanks for making the effort to find the wireless – I had trouble finding Internet cafes in Paris, too. Surely they must be there somewhere? The Arabian Ouds info is very interesting. Looking forward to the next installment…

    • Patty says:

      Okay, I don’t feel quite so dumb now. Every guide book says they are everywhere, and I saw not one sign. So goofy!

      The Arabian Ouds were just very graceful and elegant, not the harshness I have been associating with the ouds via Montale. I think which you prefer will depend on taste. The black musk essence… ToDieFor

    • March says:

      They’re in the 5th (the student quarter) where I stayed, which makes sense, but still there aren’t a ton of them and they aren’t necessarily open late. We are, after all, talking about Paris — they don’t toe the line. I was heartened to see that although the sign on the Starbucks door said open at 7am, at least when I was there they weren’t taking the chairs down and unlocking the door until something more civilized like 8:30ish. (And yes, I got my coffee elsewhere, why go to Starbucks in Paris?)[-(