I have this love of perfume. In a way, I equate it to an awakening.
As a university student, I was feeling broke, so broke you could hardly convince me to buy new socks, and if I did, they’d be simple, cheap, black socks. My girlfriends knew this about me, I would become paralyzed by the idea of buying anything special for myself, especially given my pragmatic nature. One evening we went out and I’m certain they saw me come alive surrounded by such beautiful fragrances. It was a bottle full of white flowers that did me in. It was the first time I was willing to buy myself a gift. I didn’t need it, I was gifting myself something more meaningful, I was telling myself I was worth it.
Several years later I moved to the riviera. A simple car ride could just woo you with the scent of jasmine and orange blossom as you drove the winding roads overlooking Nice and Cannes. I understood why Grasse, the neighbouring town, was the perfuming capital of the world, with fragrances in abundance like this, how could you be anything but inspired? I felt like the universe was lavishing on me a big gift.
When I heard there was a new museum of perfume that had opened in Paris, Le Grand Musée du Parfum, I knew I had to go. I went solo since this was for my enjoyment and I knew I’d need extra time to see every last bit, and I did.
For someone who loves history and science, it’s a great little gem and you can even do it in English if you like. From ritual use in the Egyptian era, to Catherine de Medici who brought her favourite perfumer from Italy to France to mask poison with lavish scents or the famous four thieves blend originating in Marseille as a way to protect them from the plague while they looted the dead.After an interesting history lesson and beautiful artifacts I moved into the next portion of the visit. How does the body process fragrance in the brain? This level even has a few tests to try out. Of course I wanted to know if I had the genetic makeup to smell some very particular scents. For fragrances that can’t easily be distilled or otherwise, they’ll even show you how they create artificial fragrances. Did you know it can take up to 300 molecules to compose the scent of a rose yet you only need 3 of them in order to know you’re smelling a rose?
Finally you can smell and learn about several individual scents that are found in little spheres which are suspended from the ceiling in a beautiful art piece.Of course once you’re finished in the museum, you’re bound to want to find something for yourself. One such place if you’re looking for a boutique experience is Nose. Located a 20 minute walk alway, this shop offers incredible service to help you find something you’ll love. If you have the chance ahead of time you can head on over to their website and fill out their diagnostics which then give you some ideas of where to start. Once you arrive (they ship as well!) they will allow you to smell and rate each fragrance and continue to narrow down what best suits you. I will, however, note that you must give yourself lots of time. You’ll be asking for olfactory overload if you try to rush this and a good fragrance should never be rushed.
Do you have a favourite perfume or a great scent memory to share? I’d love to hear about it.