Tuesday, July 14, 2009

For the Love of Perfume, Fashion and All That is Fabulous: Paris (Part 6 – Last in Series)

Well, as you might remember we had left off excitedly at Montale, but let’s not forget that the particular day was also riddled with pain – foot pain! After some intensive research on the internet (deciphering posts on French forums) we discovered that there was an official Birkinstock boutique at the Marais so the first thing we did on the next day was to revisit the area. (I am convinced by the way that this is probably the only place where one can find German shoe of comfort in Paris!) The Birkinstock boutique can be reached by stepping out on the Saint-Paul metro station. From there, it is just a five minute walk to the actual street, 16 Rue de Sévigné. But why am I giving you directions to the Birkinstock boutique? Because to my surprise, right next to it, on number 10, Rue de Sévigné, I found the most darling apothecary/perfume boutique – Senteurs de Fée! Once I had slipped my feet into the comfort of the Birkies (well, what can I say, some things take precedence over perfume!), I traced my steps back to the Senteurs de Fée and stepped into the fragrant little shop. A beautiful chandelier covered in ivy cast a soft glow over precious oils, soaps, sumptuous creams, ambience scents and yes, personal fragrances. Senteurs de Fée (meaning “Fragrances from the Fairies”) offers about 10 simply packaged fragrances that are absolutely delightful. Lovers of rose will delight in the pure Rose Nectar, a natural Bulgarian rose extract that is deep and fascinating. Other floral offerings include a gorgeous iris (Chant d’Iris) and a beautiful violet scent (Coer de Violette). I was most impressed with Douceur de Musc – a blend of the softest orange blossom and musks that strikes the perfect balance between clean skin and soft animalic undertones, to create a warm soothing layer of fragrance that seems to caress the skin with silken affection. It is absolutely delightful. My second favorite was their amber scent (the name of which I have unfortunately forgotten) in which subdued resins succumb to the embrace of gentle, sweet powder and the glow of ambergris. The end result is very neo-bohemian: velvety and sensuously disheveled, like tousled hair the morning after. This beautiful, romantic small boutique is definitely worth a visit – one of Paris’ best kept fragrant secrets!

The weather was sunny and beautiful and the particular neighborhood of Marais so charming, we decided to forget about our schedule for a while and to take a little walk. A little further down the Birkinstock boutique, we took a right at rue des Francs Bourgeois where yet another surprise awaited me at number 10: a new Guerlain boutique is set to open its doors there soon. Further down the road, at the corner of rue des Francs Bourgeois and rue de Turenne, we found a Bobbi Brown boutique. Being a great fan of sheer lipsticks, I couldn’t resist going in to play for a while with the Lip Sheers and the lip-and-cheek stains.

Next up, we set out to visit Les Nereides. I had quickly visited Les Nereides on my previous trip to Paris two years ago and had immense trouble finding the boutique. This time it was on a new location, their new ‘concept store’ and believe you me, I had just as much trouble (if not more) finding this one as well. But nevermind, it was all worth it. I went inside to sniff perfume (I was not familiar at all with the line’s musk scents, just the Oppoponax, Oriental Lumpur and their Patchouli as of recently) but got completely distracted by the shinies on display! Being a huge fan of their jewelry (see also last summer's list of favorite frivolities, including the most gorgeous earrings and necklace by the brand) I completely ignored perfume for about an hour and tried on this and that on my neck and ears before settling for the most gorgeous fairytale necklace. Pictured above right, it is a gold chain with a freshwater pearl strand, colorful enamel charms (flower, heart and four-leaf clover) and a bird’s nest covered with freshwater pearls containing a light blue enamel envelope. The words “Chance” and “Bonheur” (Luck & Happiness) are on either side of the nest. I don’t think a single piece of jewelry has made me happier. Well, in the last year at least. Having paid a hefty amount for the necklace I felt completely entitled to utter a cluster of words I’d never thought I’d get the chance to while at the register: “I would also like samples of all your scents please”. There, now I can try them all in peace, without contemplating which deserves allocating skin-space to. A review of all the musks is forthcoming – but let me give you a teaser and say, all but one are dirty!

The next boutique was rather out of the way in the 6th arrondissement. I am talking about Aépure, possibly one of the best fragrant destinations in Paris if niche is what you’re after. Aépure specializes in niche products both in body care and fragrance, the latter being of course of primary interest to me. The boutique features a lot of exclusives, such as Viloresi and Profumum and a handful of small lines I’d never heard of before. The main reason I went there was to get the chance to sniff the whole Parfumerie Générale line at once, something I don’t get the chance to do here in the Netherlands, since most of the places that carry the brand only stock a fraction. Even more distressingly, even the ones that do carry the brand are starting to discontinue it. I do not quite understand this – is it a marketing problem? It is a huge shame that a line of such quality that offers such unique products would be removed from the selection so soon after it was introduced. I do not only admire but also feel quite attached to this line, so I hope things are not as bleak as they seem. For now, it seems that soon there will no longer be a PG stockist here in the Netherlands. I loved with Felanilla, but once again, this is not really a vanilla scent. Felanilla is a combination of balsamic notes over soft woods caressed by a bready accord and orris butter. It is beautiful but not as beautiful as the older Iris Taizo which is the only iris scent that can still take me by surprise. The two are by no stretch of the imagination the same scent, nor does Felanilla feel derivative, but somehow, for some reason, it does seem slightly superfluous. I could not shake this strange feeling when comparing both of them side by side and so I scratched another one of the ‘vanillas’ I wanted to explore while in Paris from my ever-dwindling list.

I turned my attention to the Lost’March line. Being a huge fan of milky scents, I homed in straight for Laan-Ael, a scent famous for being uber-milky. I think Tom said it all when he described this scent as milk-and-froot loops as this is a most accurate description! Laan-Ael smells of milk, green sweet-and-sour apples and cereals and is simply delightful. I would have bought it on the spot had I not already bought Matin Calin, and after spraying it on my skin I realized I had unknowingly made the right choice where a milk scent is concerned: Matin Calin lasts far, far longer. Still, despite not being willing to spend my own money on this, I have to say I’d be delighted were I to receive it as a gift. For lovers of milky scents, this one’s a winner. I was not impressed with the rest of the line’s offerings (at least on paper) and the only other I allocated skin-space to was Aod. Disturbingly aquatic, this actually moved me to try it on skin due to the way its sea-spray overtones where gorgeously infused with an addictive musk. Unfortunately the beautiful musky scent lasts about 15 minutes and then you are left suffering the generic aquatic accord we’ve all come to loathe. I left Aépure empty-handed for one simple reason: I do want to buy another Parfumerie Générale scent, but the only way to get access to the line’s private collection and experimental scents is to purchase from their own online store. So unfortunately, despite wanting to support this new, sophisticated and modern fragrance boutique I preferred to spend the sum online, in order to get a personal password for the private range. Just something you would also probably want to keep in mind when purchasing PG.

After a short break for nourishment at Brasserie Lipp on Boulevard Saint-Germain, we decided to walk all the way down rue de Grenelle which would conveniently take us from Patricia de Nicolai to Maître Parfumeur et Gantier and all the way down to rue Cler and finally to the hotel. A long walk, but oh so worth it! At Patricia de Nicolai I was greeted by Rebecca, one of the most wonderful and knowledgeable sales associates. I went to the shop to buy a bottle of the beautiful Vie de Chateau which Ines, one of the regulars here at Fragrance Bouquet had graciously introduced me to a few months back. After paying I had one of the most pleasurable conversations with Rebecca, which proved not only knowledgeable but also passionate and delightful. I spoke to her of my vanilla quest and she proffered Vanille-Tonka. Upon smelling it, I just had to exclaim: “Mmmm, it’s beautiful, but I smell more Opoponax than vanilla! In fact this reminds me very much of Shalimar!” She looked at me with obvious surprise and asked me if I am working with perfume, at which point I explained that I write this blog. Rebecca herself expressed immense enthusiasm for the online perfume community and professed her love for niche perfumers and how much she had enjoyed meeting Andy Tauer. She went on to tell me that my nose was very accurate and that Vanille-Tonka was indeed more opoponax than vanilla and that they affectionately called it ‘their little Shalimar in the Nicolai house. We engaged into a long conversation about the wondrous Nicolai fragrances (and I have to say that Parfums Nicolai couldn’t have asked for a better ambassador than Rebecca who passionately loves the line) and slowly the conversation turned to the sad state perfumery has found itself with all the IFRA regulations. I can give you two little scoops here today: One is that if you love Odalisque you had better stock up on it NOW. We often speak of the old, fabulous chypres, but we tend to forget the great modern ones. Odalisque is just that: one of the great modern chypres which is currently under threat. Get it now because it is very highly likely that it will change very soon due to the regulations on oakmoss. I am wearing it today and it is quite simply, a masterpiece. I will stress this once more: time is more likely than not running out for this beauty. Get it now, or risk mourning its loss later... The other piece of insider bad news I have to deliver is that rumor has it that vanillin is next on IFRA’s chopping block. On which I simply have no comment. I am in shock and I struggle to imagine what perfumery will be like without it. I hope with all my heart it doesn’t come to that. It is simply too atrocious to contemplate.

After exiting PDN, I found myself going up and down the street, looking in vain for Maître Parfumeur et Gantier. I vividly remembered the MPG boutique being right next to the PDN from my previous visit and I simply couldn’t understand why I had trouble finding it. My eyes finally settled on what they’d been missing: the MPG boutique had closed down. The once lively, well-lit space was now dark and deserted. A sign on the door directed customers to their other boutique on rue des Capucines. Unfortunately, when we visited the other boutique on rue de Capucines on our last day, we found it deserted and closed down as well. We realized then that the new boutique on rue de Richelieu behind the Palais Royal gardens - the one that we had passed on our first day - was the only MPG boutique in Paris now. Unfortunately, by the time we came to that realization, it was too late to pay a visit, the shops were closing. I have to wonder now, what is happening to this beautiful brand? Why are all their boutiques closing down? At least the fact that they have opened a new one is heartening, but I can’t shake the feeling things aren’t going too well…

Exhausted we continued down rue de Grenelle, making our way to the hotel, but there was one more surprise waiting for us. Right across Barbara Bui on rue des Saints-Pères, we stumbled upon the perfume boutique of a brand I’d never even heard of before: MEMO. We walked in, forgetting the tiredness of the day due to the obvious excitement of a brand new discovery. MEMO is the brainchild of Clara Molloy a publicist whose many travels inspired the personal fragrances and ambience scents of the line, actualized by nose Aliénor Massenet. I have not yet had much experience with the personal fragrances (all of which are on my desk awaiting full review) but I was mightily impressed by the ambience scents! Kinky Kyoto combines the fresh green scent of bamboo with the warm scent of incense, Lost in Mykonos (the one closest to my heart and the one I simply can’t get enough of) combines the anis-heavy scent of Ouzo with spearmint to re-create my most delightful memories of a Greek patio decorated large pots filled with bushy, fragrant spearmint and glasses of ouzo on ice while everyone is happily talking and enjoying the lovely breeze of the evening (aaaaaaaaaaah, SOON) while St. Moritz Fizz fills the air with simply one of the most fabulous smoky scents I’ve ever smelled! It combines the dark scent of burning wood with accents of fresh fir and incense. I look forward to testing the personal scents on skin and reviewing them here soon, but so far, I am really, really impressed by the candles and room sprays.

The next two days in Paris were spent sightseeing, laughing with my boyfriend and enjoying the good food and the hospitality of the people, who once again broke down all known stereotypes and treated us with smiles, warmth and immeasurable friendliness and politeness. I couldn't have had a better time, in fact, despite having just come back from London, in my head I am still in Paris. Paris, je reviens!

Images: Senteurs de Fee shop front, new Guerlain boutique at the Marais, my Nereides necklace, Aepure, the very poignant “Slave Market” by Jean-Leon Gerome, Lost in Mykonos candle via MEMO's website.


17 comments:

Ines said...

Your Paris diary has been such a lovely experience to read. :) I enjoyed it so much - and I love the necklace (I adore pearls).
Thanks for the Odalisque tip - I will definitely make sure I have a bottle soon.

Jenavira13 said...

Glad to know I am not the only one who didn't get much vanilla from Vanille Tonka, I'm surprised they didn't have you try Vanille Intense.

Divina said...

Ines the funny thing about pearls is that I used to hate them when I was a teenager... And now I *love* them. Most of my favorite jewelry is with pearls!

Divina said...

Hi Jen! I am pretty sure Vanille Intense is just Vanille Tonka amplified (ie. more concentrated). At least that is the theory behind the "Magnifiques" collection, they are just amplified versions of the old scents. I don't remember if I tried it - I tried a number of the intense scents and they all were very true to the predecessor. Still I would prefer the original for the ones I love (like Sacrebleu.. speaking of which, this one was not my cuppa when I first got to know it.. but now I looove it!)

PinstripedZebra said...

You should do that more, I mean traveling and then making a great report about it! This was just perfect to read and I am so sad it is over!

Paris was fantastic, I can't wait to return there. (Next year again?)

I am awaiting the first installment of the London trip though..;)

//Z

Aimée L'Ondée said...

Divina, thanks so much for the true dedication you've shown to detailing all the perfumes on your trip! It's been a pleasure to read, and a definite motivation for me to make a trip of my own to Paris soon. I'm intrigued by the dirty Les Nereides musks, now. Do tell!

ScentScelf said...

Add me to the list of those enjoying your travelogue/shoppinglogue. Do you perchance have Siwa among your Memo personal scent samples? I have one here next to me, and find it a perfectly happy comfort scent...but don't want to say much more until you've had a chance to sniff yourself!

Flora said...

Oh Divina, what an adventure this has been! Trying to track down all these little places, I would get so lost.

I do worry about the MPG line, I love it so.

I am SO very frustrated about the IFRA situation, it is intolerable . I wish more perfumers would fight back harder. I guess the money must speak loudly when it comes to the big companies, since it benefits them to the detriment of the niche houses. Now I really want some of that Odalisque...

Karin said...

Divina, thanks so much for your Paris posts - I've loved reading them! I commented on a couple of your entries, so won't repeat myself here, but just wanted to reiterate how much I've enjoyed your posts...really made me want to get over to Paris again soon and check out some of those fragrance shops (which I've never been to BTW...oh, what fun it would be...)!!!!

Divina said...

*Poke* Yes, Z, I would love to! Only question is... who is gonna fund all those trips! LOL!

Divina said...

Aimée dearest, so lovely to read your comment! Hihihi, the Nereides musks are indeed dirty.. and you know I love dirrrrty... BUT, lemme spoil the surprise a bit and just say this is not the kind of dirty I like! Promise to review them soon!

Divina said...

ScentScelf I've been talking about how much I love your blog while on the Sniffa and I found more fans of yours there! Yes, Siwa is in the samples (got all of 'em, they have a neat packet with the whole range) and darn, even though the notes are super intriguing this goes on fairly linear on me and keeps going like that :( Do you actually get any whiskey, popcorn etc? Cause I don't. Who knows, maybe I applied too heavily. I will go a bit lighter next time and hope for some more development..

Divina said...

Hello Flora darling! There are still some perfumers who fight and don't give a damn (hope I get the chance to speak about one of them before I leave for my last vacation of this summer) but unfortunately most comply :( *sigh* I am with you on MPG, I truly love the brand and I hope nothing's wrong...

Divina said...

Karin, first of all let me apologize if I have neglected to answer any comments lately. I normally reply each and every one, but it has been so crazy with all the travelling lately and trying to catch up and write everything that I know a couple of entries did not get full attention in the comments section. I still *READ* everything however, that I promise!! Paris definitely has to be experienced! It was my second time and I want to keep going back.

Karin said...

Hey D., no need to apologize! I can't imagine how anyone finds time to blog let alone answer posts. :-) I'm SO grateful for you and all those bloggers out there who are devoted to writing and sharing their experiences. So much fun to read. Thank you!

AnnYM said...

Dear Divina,
Think this may be my first post on your blog, but we've corresponded via email earlier this year on the JL Scherrer fragrance.
Thanks to you, I've rediscovered some beautiful chypre scents, which now includes Odalisque. I had a sample vial recently ordered but untried lying around until I read your Paris post. How lovely it is! There is something in it that evokes happy childhood memories from, literally, half a world away. I'm now intent on discovering more of the PdN line as I really like her "touch."
I just love Paris (last visit, 2002). Thank you for the trip down memory lane!
Scented Hugs... Ann

Divina said...

Dearest Ann, so lovely to hear from you again! I am sorry for the late reply here in the comment section, but I just came back from a 3 week vacation in Greece. I am very glad to hear you've found a new love in Odalisque! Yes, it is definitely worth getting acquainted with the rest of her line - she is amazing!! Vie de Chateau and Eau Turquoise are heartilly recommended!