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I Love Paris When it Sizzles....

I have been in Paris for the last week. In August most Parisians quit the city for the mountains or the sea. Small shops are closed for holidays and the city is a little quieter. Some people feel it lacks the excitement of other times of the year, but I love being in Paris any time even in August.

Exploring the market at Bastille, eating at Chez Julien and then catching a late set at Duc de Lombards – this is living! And part of the fun involves perfumes - shopping at Guerlain on the Champs Élysées, sampling new scents like De Bachmakov right at The Different Company store, getting samples of Bas de Soie and seeing the new labels on bottles of Serge Lutens fragrances at Les Salons du Palais Royal.

The thing about Paris that keeps me coming back is that it keeps changing. Like all great cities, it keeps the old while embracing the new, so that it is familiar and different at the same time. But what never seems to change is people’s attitude towards the smells of life in the city.

North Americans really don’t much like natural smells – the smell of animals, people, food, living. We cover them up with things like deodorants and scented shampoos and conditioners. We scent our clothes with scented detergents, dryer sheets and fabric softeners, we scent our rooms with plug-in air fresheners and we spray away dog, cat and cooking smells.

What I notice when I am in Europe is that the usual cacophony of ‘odour eliminators’ - the Fleecy/Febreeze/Glade trio - isn’t as prevalent because people here aren’t concerned with covering up the perfume of life. I’m not suggesting that Europeans aren’t concerned with personal hygiene or with keeping their homes pleasantly scented because they are, but stand on a street corner in Paris in the summer and you get cigarettes, sweat, cheese, coffee, pavement, stone walls, animals, engine oil, grass all in one breath – it’s all there and each scent is much more amplified and distinct than I am used to at home. I’m not the first person to make this observation, I know, but it always surprises me anew when I am here.

I think it’s one of the reasons I am drawn to niche scents – especially the ones that smell of people and of life. The ones that have some tobacco, or some dirt, dried fruit or sweat in them. To spritz and experience, trigger memories or be transported – now that is really living, no matter where you are!

Oops--s/b "Immortal"!!

Of course, I meant "immortal immortelle". Sometimes when I'm smelling my spelling gets a little sloppy...

Re: Oops--s/b "Immortal"!!

I'd rather smell than spell any day!

Mais oui!

Agreed! So it's an hour later with Eau Noir and Sables--and now they are almost identical! Sables started out dry and lonely and warmed up to a kind of scotch-in-the-desert scent, while Eau Noir quieted down--the families left the restaurant and I'm sitting alone with the yummy smelling waiter...

Re: Mais oui!

I envy you!

Imortal immortelle

Right now, I'm sniffing two related scents on my arm: Eau Noir by Dior (the sample I purchased here!) and Sables by Annick Goutal (a sample a kind friend shared with me). Both feature immortelle--but each uses it in an incredibly different way. With Sables, the idea is supposed to be that the scent smells of hot sand--and it does, dry and dusty after an opening that is a bit burnt sugary in a good way. It's lovely--but a bit lonely-smelling. A bit like you're alone in the desert.

And then there's Eau Noir, where the immortelle is wrapped in a fenugreek curry-like scent that smells like you're standing in the middle of an amazing Indian restaurant filled with loud, big families with a whiff of yummy sweat from the handsome waiter...

So what does this have to do with this post? Well, I like Sables a lot (and think it's full-bottle-worthy)--but Eau Noir is dirtier and more alive and frigging amazing. Like you say in your post, it smells of people and of life, which makes it so much more enticing.


What a wonderful post--I feel as if I was standing on that street, head tilted back, sniffing along with you. Can't wait to read about what's new.

Re: sniff-along

What a lovely comment - thank you for taking the time to write it. Scent links us all, in body and in spirit. Where do you get your greatest 'scent' fix?