I can’t speak for the aromachemicals (whether natural or synthetic) that actually make up Tihota, but I can tell you what it smelled like to me. It smelled extremely high-pitched, simplistic and synthetic. Having quite a bit of experience with really good vanilla absolutes (which are subtle, complex and range from smoothly, softly sweet to dry and unsweet) I was highly disappointed with this one, especially considering its extravagant price. Tihota (to me) gave off wafts of ethyl vanillin and coumarin, was extremely sweet with 20-fold intensity and remained unchanging, like a huge block of synthetic flavor on my skin. I could have cried.
Swallowing my disappointment, I composed myself and started looking around. This was after all, one of the most fun places I’d visited last time. More disappointment: My overwhelming reaction was “Boy has this place changed!” and not in a good way. Two years ago when I was last in Paris, Sephora was a wonderful, wonderful playground, where you could find all sorts of delicious little treats no longer found on regular department store perfume shelves and mess around without being bothered for hours on end if you so wished. Most of the hard-to-find goodies are gone, which gave me a jab of pain. Gone are the never-before-heard of Montanas. Now you can’t even find a tester of Parfum de Peau. Gone is the variety of Molinards. The list goes on. But it’s not only the older, now forgotten by most, perfumes that have gotten the boot: to my surprise, Bond No. 9 is no longer sold there either, making the fabulous Chinatown a vague dream. To add insult to injury, the art of allowing the customer to peacefully look around is also lost to Champs Elysées’ Sephora: you can’t go for five minutes without being accosted by a polite but rather hard-pressing SA. Consequently, it was hard on my part to fight the urge to run away. Unfortunately, it was even harder to resist returning almost daily. Oh, the lure of all that beauty loot!
Undeterred by any and all perfume related disappointments and feeling no tiredness, we decided to take on the long (yet oh-so-wonderfully encrusted by all brands fabulous) walk down Rue du Fauburg Saint-Honoré and its extension, Rue Saint-Honoré. My heart oohed-and-aaaahd at all the amazing shops and I positively skipped and hopped from one side of the street to the other, bemused boyfriend in tow. We skipped the Comme des Garçons perfume store which was close by because I am quite familiar with all (or almost all of the brands’ offerings) and continued straight down. Upon spotting the Giuseppe Zanotti shoe boutique I grabbed the boyfriend’s arm excitedly and exclaimed with a voice tinged with passion and love normally only reserved for him: “Oh, P., it is my favorite shoe designer in the whole world!”. A handsome young man was outside the door smoking just as I was exclaiming the very words. He threw his cigarette on the pavement and turned to me with a smile: “Please come in, mademoiselle. Anything you buy is 40% off for you!” How could I resist? Paris had started enfolding me in its magic embrace yet again.
We reached Rue Castiglione where I briefly entered Annick Goutal to try Musc Nomade, the only one from Les Orientalistes which I had not smelled. For some reason, even though the rest of the perfumes are available in different shops that sell Goutal in the Netherlands, only the official boutique in Rotterdam carries Musc Nomade and I’d so far hadn’t taken the trip to go and smell it. I guess it took Paris to get me to explore it! Now, I know the Orientalistes line has been highly lauded on blogs and forums alike and it has many, many fans, but I have to come out and say that I’d so far been less than impressed with it. All of the Orientalistes I’ve tried fall flat on my skin and remain impermeable by light, as though they’re somehow murky. I am a complete musk nut, so I was hoping things would be different with Musc Nomade, but they weren’t. I found it completely forgettable and ephemeral. I wish to reserve the opportunity to test them further because I somehow do not feel inclined to give up on them just yet, but up until now, no, I am not enamored to say the least.
Our next perfume-related stop was Colette. I now wish I’d taken more notes while there, because aside from the perfumes I specifically went there to explore, everything else seems like a blur. The collection of perfumes on offer at Colette is very intriguing, several of which I’d never had the chance to sample before. Unfortunately, the reason for my blurred memories is not due to the variety, but due to the terrible ‘service’. A tall, vaguely pretty yet stoned-looking lanky youth made it his mission to follow me around and hover (I kid you not) right above my head throughout the expedition. With my every move observed and with every single attempt to make a grab for a bottle intercepted (druggy-boy insisted on spraying everything on a blotter himself and blocking me from doing otherwise throughout) my stress levels rose to the point where I have no clue any more what I have sampled aside from the original two I went there to test. The most unbelievable part however, is that he was completely untrained!!! It was obvious that resistance would get me nowhere, so I decided to at least engage him in conversation about the two perfumes I went there to test. These were Le Labo’s Paris exclusive for Colette (a vanilla, yes, still on the quest) and Indult’s C-16, a re-created Tonkin musk fragrance. “Can you tell me a little bit about this one?” I asked. Silence till the crickets started chirping. He looked at me positively dumbfounded. “Err…. It is by Le Labo”. Okaaaaaay. “Anything more?” “No, I am sorry, I do not know.” Fine, then why follow me around, weirdo? I thought I’d have some more fun: “This one, (pointing to the Indult) I know it is an exclusive for Colette, featuring a specific note. Could you tell me which one?” His already half-closed eyelids looked like they were gonna close up shop for good. “Uh, eh… It’s just a special for Colette, I don’t know.” Alrighty then. With slow yet deliberate movements he lurched over to a girl behind the Labo counter. After a short conversation he returned to me. “Musk. It’s about musk.” “Ah, thank you.” He resumed following me with regained determination. It turns out I am completely anosmic to C-16 so I cannot tell you what it smells like. I offered the blotter to my boyfriend. “Do you smell something?” Some intensive sniffing ensued. “Maybe. But it’s very faint.” Maybe? Like the emperor might be clothed but he also might not? I guess we’re both anosmic to it, strange considering “re-created” would have me think there were enough musks employed for us to be able to detect at least some of them! Le Labo’s Vanille 44 in turn, should come with a byline: “Not really a vanilla!”. The overall impression is interesting, as this is a very salty scent. Salty subdued amber, soft woods, a lick of musk. It’s alright. It’s interesting. I do not need a bottle. It doesn’t smell like perfume, nor like anything you’d scent….well, anything with. It is just super strange. I’d take a sample, for further exploration! I have a feeling wearing this as a personal scent could be quite delightful when wishing to not actually smell like perfume, but as though you yourself are exuding a salty, sun-warmed skin scent.
Our long walk finally took us to Les Jardins de Tuileries from where we took the metro to go to the Marais to visit Merci, hoping to smell Dans les Foins. I’d never smelled the perfume, but I love-love-love the candle. Unfortunately as we disembarked I suddenly (and inexplicably) came to the realization that I had not packed flip-flops with me. I’d packed 2 pairs of ballerinas, 2 pairs of high heels and a pair of wedges but no flip-flops. Why is this important? Because I have this err…idiosyncrasy where I refuse to walk on hotel room carpets (or indeed to enter the bathtub) barefooted. Slight panic as I begin asking passers-by where I might find flip-flops nearby. What the hell is the word for flip-flop in French anyway? The best I could do was explain in broken French that I am looking for shoes you use at the beach. Noone has a clue what I am talking about. Drugstores and pharmacies prove fruitless. Right as the stores are closing I duck under the closing security roller shutters of a shoe store where I spotted a single pair in white. They have no other color (not that I much cared at the moment) and they are for kids. Employing my very own brand of French again, I enquire what the largest size available is. Trente-huit, 38! Hurrah, my size. I pay for a pair without trying them on and leave, but not before asking what in God’s name the particular ‘type of shoe’ is called. I get a strange answer, sounds like “tongo”. Thongs? Close enough I guess. Outside the shop I muse about what the shoe might actually be called with the boyfriend. He shoots me an amused look: “And what do you care? You got them now, you won’t need to ask for them again!” Little did he know about the Birkinstock odyssey that was to follow two days later… (…to be continued)
Part 4, with visits to the Arabian Oudh Shop, IUNX, Lutens and much more will be posted on Wednesday, see you then!
Images: Indult's Tihota, Fabulous S/S 2009 collection Zanotti sandal adorned with malachites and detail of same shoe, Femmes d'Alger by Eugène Delacroix and lastly, Vanille 44 via Colette's newsletter