Whether during down-time moments of aimless wandering or on serendipitous detours from charted commutes, chance encounters with perfume have been abundant during the last few weeks in Paris. Of course it has much to do with being in the heart of a large city that welcomes a regular influx of tourists with (at least temporarily) loose purse strings. Still, perfume is a French cultural phenomenon worthy of an essay in Roland Barthes’ Mythologies. Perfume can be an idea. Or part of an ideological system. It exists (sniffed or not) as a physical object to be handled, and as a carefully staged object of desire. Physical flânerie makes my mind wander, then linger on my ambivalent attitude about shopping and the acquisition of “stuff”; on the relative nature of luxury; on the luxury of time that has allowed me this flânerie. And on how blogging offers me a sort of writers’ flânerie. A license to associate and digress and parenthisize. To not fret about where I end up. To use incomplete sentences.
Because I’m here primarily to work, I have made a concerted effort to stay focused, which means to not schedule in visits at all of my favorite perfume shrines. But in Paris the siren song of perfume penetrates the air at every turn, lilting from the scarves of passersby, cajoling from the walls of the metro, beckoning from bus stops on every corner.
|Sadly, I had no time to stop in at Les Filles de la vanille|
|Had never heard of this. Wish I could have tried it
(Reinaldo Alverez, Eau de noces)
|On the way to a wedding.|
|If you are really in a hurry, and you don’t mind the rain, you
can make a surgical perfume strike outside Galeries Lafayette.
|On the way to consult archives: Sephora in the iconic Samaritaine building|
|OK, busted. I had to revisit the scented columns.|
|More refuge from the rain, but we skipped the perfume at
Hôtel Costes and went straight to the kir and fizz (see next)
Here are a few perfumed postcards from a part-time flâneuse who did veer off the plotted course now and then to chat and sample some fragrances:
charming little perfume sampler
|Familiar red facade|
|The highly photogenic Jovoy space|
|Inside the BHV|
|Not Paris, Reykjavik!|
Photos my own.