Sensory overload? Yes and no

I sort of went awol last week. A lot on, being my excuse.

Starting with the more banal … well, work – and when work calls, it calls. Plus, car needed to go for its tax appointment (which entails drive there, bus back, return to garage by bus, and then, finally, home with approved car). All tax returns had to be dealt with. You get the point.

So, what wasn’t banal in the week? you might ask.

I got a serious treat.

A few months ago, I got an email from Portia – yes, our Portia: “I’m going to be in London in a bit and have X and Y free. You wanna meet up?” Hell yeah.

I’ve done meetups in the past with perfumistas I’ve only known over the net, one of which included a visit to Ormond Jayne’s tiny shop near Bond Street and a chocolate fondue at Fortnum & Mason.

But I digress.

I haven’t done a lot since covid that hasn’t included people I don’t know well, so this was a bit of a leap of faith.

Well worth it.

I love day trips to London — the whole ritual of train up and back, plus minor shopping at Paddington Station before back on the train home, and recently rides on the new Elizabeth Line. And whatever other city activities are planned.

Anyway. We decided over the interweb to do Harrods and Harvey Nicks as they both have very decent perfume offerings. I mean, of course this would centre around perfume.

Met up outside Harrods (see pic – I hate most pics of myself, but Portia looks so fetching), hugs all around, and off to the serious business of the Fragrance Hall.

Suffice it to say we smelled a lot of stuff (most of which I’ll talk about next week) but one of the highlights was watching Portia interact with the SAs from various houses. I don’t know what their regular customers are like but they got to experience the full wattage of a generous and highly amusing perfumista soul. Some of it was hysterical (I thought the Themeen SA with his astonishing blue eyes was going to vault over the counter and tag along with us before leading Portia off to someplace dark and decadent).

Once they realised we weren’t going to buy but simply interact most relaxed, talking about best sellers, who generally bought them (and how many at one time – this was Harrods, after all). None pressured us – it was just great interactions.

Then, it was off to the sixth floor ‘exclusive’ offering – the long hall (see pic) with individual small rooms.

More sniffing (in one place we were simply left alone to faff). Two standouts were the Fueguia 1833 kiosk (had never heard of this house) with its huge offering – and weird ‘smelling’ from the fragile upside down chemistry beakers. This was the only place I tried anything on skin: a cocoa fragrance that started off great: dry proper cacoa with some spice and a bit of pong (sadly, this turned into simply overly sweet twitchiness by the time I got home in late evening which cried out to be showered off).

And then off to Guerlain, where Portia had a ‘thing’ with the SA – like watching ping pong: “Have you tried this?” “Yes, I own X number of iterations”. “What do you think of this bottle?” Etc, etc.

I think we managed around close to two hours of perfume before going off to Harvey Nichols for afternoon tea. That was the non-perfume (mostly) chat time – all over the map.

And then another brief trawl through HN’s perfume (I need to sample more Memo perfumes) and back to Harrods for the food hall (“go straight, turn right at Gucci”). Appreciation of the beautiful fruit and veg and a bit of sweet shopping before off to tube, parting at Green Park.

Portia is a hoot – and so full of perfume and other great stories.

Pics are mine or Portia’s

  • Tom says:

    Oh, I am glad for you (and a little jealous) that you got to play with Portia and witness the “Portia Effect.” I have never met anyone who so effortlessly wins even the starchiest person over- when Portia was in LA he had hardened Macy*s SA’s, who eat puppies for breakfast and kittens for tea into smiling, happy people who were genuinely enjoying their jobs perhaps the first time ever and if he had wanted to, he could have led the staff of Barneys out the front door in a Conga line lap around Rodeo and back. Wonderful to behold.

    • cinnamon says:

      I really really love the idea of the Barneys conga lap — and it does seem entirely possible.

  • AnnieaA says:

    Wistful sigh! Glad to hear absolutely everyone had a fun time.

    • cinnamon says:

      It was a good time. I really had forgotten how wonderful it is to do perfume with another perfumista.

  • March says:

    This looks GLORIOUS. Hanging out, sniffing lots of interesting and possibly wonderful things, eating some delicious treats. So glad you got to meet up!

    • cinnamon says:

      It was indeed loads of fun. Was so pleased to spend time with Portia. And so much perfume — it’s been so long since I’ve actually smelled that much stuff. Reminded me of how fun it can be and how tiring after a while. And def want to do another high tea some time soon. They are so pleasurable.

  • Kathleen says:

    Envy your day with Portia and perfume, sounds like a dream. xoxo

    • cinnamon says:

      It was quite wonderful. It’s amazing how time sort of recedes when you’re sampling with someone.

  • Dina C. says:

    Oh man!!! What a blast! So happy for you both. Thanks for the superb photos. I’m utterly envious of the entire itinerary. It all sounds like a day of sensual wonders. That three-tiered tea stand! Yum! All those amazing scents. Big sigh. Can’t wait to hear more details. And I’m grinning at your description of Portia in full perfumisto mode!

    • cinnamon says:

      It was a blast. The sandwiches were long gone which is why the bottom tier of the stand was empty. Portia really is a force of nature 🙂

  • hajusuuri says:

    Having experienced Portia in 2014, I agree that he’s a hoot!

  • SpringPansy says:

    What a wonderful day! It’s always better to sniff with a perfume friend. Plus afternoon tea and stories. Love this!

    • cinnamon says:

      Totally agree doing perfume is better with others. You get completely different senses of things. And high tea. Here, you get cream teas, which are really nice but they aren’t quite as oompy as a real afternoon tea.

  • Musette says:

    OMGOSH! You two must’ve had A Day! I can personally attest to Portia’s ‘wattage’ – it is faaabulous!
    The whole day sounds marvelous!

    • cinnamon says:

      Wattage … Yup … And other things. It was marvellous and Harrods and Harvey Nicks were great places to do it.

  • Maggiecat says:

    This sounds incredibly delightful! Perfume AND sweets AND good company – what could be better? So glad you both had such a goid time.

    • cinnamon says:

      Everyone is coming up with these great words for the day and Delightful is another. The combo of activities just worked so well.

  • Portia says:

    CINNAMON! This is an excellent overview of our day.
    HA HA HA about the SAs. That Thameen boy was astonishingly gorgeous. Even the SA girls were flirty. So much fun. It was exciting to spend some time with people who love their brands and want to share so much info.
    GAH! How good was the Guerlain Harrod’s exclusive?
    I keep thinking about that new Fragrance du Bois extrait that I simply cannot afford this year.
    You were brilliant company too. We had stories, more stories and a few more stories.
    Did your household scarf the leftover high tea sweets that night? I’m betting you were favourite person of interest by far.

    Can’t wait to do it all again one day.
    Portia xx

    • cinnamon says:

      Glad you approve — and seriously glad we managed to do it. There was also the Lutens which I want to smell again. It was so good that the SAs were generally really engaged with us. Oh, and the Canadian guy at Lutens at HN! The sweets from tea last a day — and I only had one of them 🙂 Yes, again one day please.

  • matty1649 says:

    A fabulous day. Portia and Guerlain. What could be better x

  • alityke says:

    What a wonderful day out! I’m so envious. Nasal overload if not sensory.
    I hope you got the samples you were wanting to try

    • cinnamon says:

      Sadly, very few places offer samples any more. I really think they are missing out on the cost/benefit analysis — or maybe marketing and accounting have no imagination. In the end, we had to run outside and just breathe. It was a lovely time — and def makes me want to do it again soon. It’s something I used to with more frequency with fragrance friends.