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August 08, 2005

Perfume Shopping In Paris : Part II


Please see Part I.

From rue de Rivoli, we turn onto rue Castiglione and find ourselves in front of Jean Patou boutique. The store is unexpectedly outfitted in tongue-in-cheek mod décor, which gives it a very lighthearted feel. Although the selection is only of the most popular Jean Patou fragrances—thus, my hopes of finding a bottle of Moment Suprême are dashed, Neela and I enjoy smelling the absolutes that comprise Joy and 1000. I am glued to a bottle of jasmin de Grasse, and Neela starts to look worried that I might do something impetuous. Unwillingly I separate from it and instead settle on a bottle of Joy EDT, a mist of jasmin de Grasse and rose de mai on a naughty civet base.

We walk down rue du Faubourg-St. Honoré past elegant boutique windows and sparkle of lights inside. We make brief stops at Longchamps, Lanvin, and Hermès boutiques. Although the tour has already taken up a couple of hours, Neela makes it feel not so much a shopping spree experience as an intimate process of discovery. For this reason, she insists on charting her tours on an individual basis, for either one individual or a small group of friends. During our walk, Neela mentions other interesting perfume places I can visit when I have more time, like Miller et Bertaux store and Parfumerie Générale with its "cosmetics bar" among others.

Walking into Caron boutique makes me feel as if I stepped into a jewelbox, with its glittering décor of mirrors and gilded ornamentations. The extrait de parfum of most fragrances are contained in sumptuous Louis XV-style Baccarat crystal urns, which is why some Caron fragrances are called urn perfumes. The fragrances come in a variety of sizes, with a number of refillable options. The large boutique on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, across from Jacques Chirac’s residence, is a joy to behold, since it feels like a private boudoir filled with an assortment of colorful trinkets, charming perfume bottles and bowls containing weightless down puffs in delicious shades. The charming sales associate dressed in a rather theatrical outfit sprays my neck with Tabac Blond, and I am almost tempted to buy it on the stop, but Neela suggests to wear it a while longer and possibly return tomorrow, which is certainly a good idea with any perfume and even more so with classical compositions. Selecting the right fragrance is a very introspective process, during which one should forget about marketing, fashion trends and outside opinions. If a scent touches something inside one’s heart, if it makes a wave of pleasure swell up, then it is the one. Some times perfume is a love at the first encounter, and others it is a courtship slowly developing into a lifelong attachment.

The final stop is for tea at Ladurée, a location of my favorite macaroons in Paris. Champs-Elysées with its magnificent broad sidewalks radiates west to the Arc de Triomphe. It is indeed busy and touristy, with people either walking rapidly on their way to work, or strolling leisurely absorbing the rhythm of the place as people are wont to do when they are on vacation. I have spent too much time in London and New York to be able just to stroll, but I try to slow down as Neela and I walk towards Ladurée. As we chat over our Darjeeling tea and rose cream macaroons, I remark to Neela that even though I have already spent a significant amount of time in Paris, I nevertheless managed to discover some special aspects of its perfume treasures with her help. I feel drunk on perfume and on Paris, and I cannot help agreeing with Hemingway, who said, "If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." I would just note that revisiting Paris always heightens its appeal.

Photo: Jean Patou boutique, rue Castiglione.



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