Thursday 8 May 2014

Visit to Paris

For someone who is a fan of perfume, Paris is probably the top destination; some might even argue that it is the spiritual home of perfume.

Some readers may be surprised that I haven't been to Paris on a perfume jaunt, considering it is only two and a half hours away from Kent, where I live, but for one reason or another, the last time I visited the City of Light was in 2005, almost ten years ago.

Anyway, my family and I spent a few days in Paris at the start of April, ostensibly to celebrate my wife and younger daughter's birthdays, both of which are in early April. I'm not going to go into any detail of our holiday, save to say that we were based not far from the Eiffel Tower, and did the usual touristy things that most visitors to Paris do, taking in a lot of the famous sights, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacre Coeur and Mont Martre, Musee d'Orsay, etc, etc. We did a lot of walking too, strolling along the Seine, the Tuillerie Gardens, Ile Saint Louis and so forth.

As a perfume fan, there was no way that I was going to visit Paris without at least some perfume experiences, and I managed to slip away from the family twice to visit the flagship Guerlain store on the Champs Elysees and Serge Lutens at the Palais Royal.

Starting with Guerlain, it was a pleasing experience to be shown around the store. When I arrived they were conducting a skin clinic of some sort, and I thought they wouldn't let me in to that part of the store (there is a more bog standard sort of Guerlain shop right next door that you first enter) but a sweet lady took me upstairs to show me around. The decor is very impressive, and I loved seeing some of the rare bottles behind the glass, some dating back to the eighteen hundreds, which is rather impressive. The lady wouldn't let me take any photographs, which is a shame, although I can understand why, and she struggled to speak English, and my French was even worse, so most of our discussion was conducted with signals and slightly embarrassed exchanges! I'm glad I went, although I have to confess that I am not a Guerlain obsessive. The prices of some of the more exclusive perfumes are astronomical. I had my eye on Arsene Lupin but couldn't commit to buying a bottle.

My second visit was to Serge Lutens, in the Palais Royal complex on the other side of the Rue de Rivoli, close to the Louvre. One thing that surprised me was how big the courtyard and gardens are. I was expecting, for whatever reason, a tiny, dark cloister, shaded by trees, tucked away mysteriously, to be expected from a man like Lutens. In reality, it is not quite like that, but the area is a delight anyway, and quiet compared to the mania just across the road and elsewhere. The Lutens shop itself was small, dark and quite mysterious, painted black and kitted out in a lot of purple. When I first entered the store I was the only person there, and I struck up a conversation with a charming lady who spoke decent English, so we were able to talk about the perfumes at some length. You may have guessed it by now - yes, I did shell out 150 Euros for a bell jar of perfume! I feel guilty paying that sort of money for perfume, but my reasoning was that the bell jar is iconic (although overpriced really) and I don't know when next I will return to Paris, let along Serge Lutens, so I wanted to be able to say that I bought it from the Salon itself. I purchased Muscs Koublai Khan, my favourite musk perfume.

On the subject of MKK, I must say that I am surprised by how subdued it is dabbed on from the bell jar, which has no spray nozzle. I don't know if MKK has been reformulated, because it lacks some of that famous animalic kick it had from a few years ago in my opinion. When I got home I decanted some into a spray bottle and I must admit that it performed much better sprayed, and had more character, but still lacks a little something compared to years gone by. It is still a lovely perfume mind you.

I could have visited a lot more perfume places, but time was limited and I could desert my family for so long. I thoroughly enjoyed Paris itself, and don't regret my visits to Guerlain and Serge Lutens.

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