I’m Back! Vacation Round-Up: Camargue & Paris

La Tour Eiffel

Photo: my own.

The best holidays are often the ones that transport you, emotionally more than just physically. Such was the case with my vacation which I ended up extending because…. well, it was Paris, and that pretty much explains everything, no?

As some of you may remember, my trip began with a mystery destination which ended up being the Camargue region in France. It’s somewhat near the Provence area and the South of France, though it is north of St. Tropez, south of Arles, and near Nimes. The Camargue has Western Europe’s largest river delta, filled with marshes, and is famous for its wild-life (which includes flamingos), nature reserves, black bulls, and, especially, its all-white Camargue horses.

Camargue riders in traditional costume. Photo: my own.

Camargue riders in traditional costume. Photo: my own.

Aigues-Mortes city walls and rampart. We stayed in a little hotel down to  the right of the photo, past the greenery and café. Photo: Wikicommons

Aigues-Mortes city walls and rampart. We stayed in a little hotel down to the right of the photo, past the greenery and café. Photo: Wikicommons

We stayed in a town called Aigues-Mortes, a fortified, walled, medieval city dating back to the 1200s but even referred to in Roman times. It is a town whose military significance made it the starting point for King Louis IX of France to launch the Seventh Crusades in 1248. Our group descended upon the town like a horde of ravaging crusaders, though we were hell-bent on having fun and reconnecting with each other, rather than engaging in religious conquest. It was wonderful to see some of my childhood and university friends again, as most are sprawled out all over the world, and a few I hadn’t seen in over 25 years! We got to explore the region a little, from the beaches about 45 minutes away to other parts closer to Aigues-Mortes, ate fantastic food, got very little sleep, and, in my case, essentially survived on double expressos. (No, seriously, I started each day with 5 double expressos, and continued to drink them throughout the day, which should tell you a little about how sleep-deprived I was throughout my trip.)

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There was a costume party one night, where the theme was “Pairs.” You and a partner had to dress as a “pair” of something. I had one of the most boring costumes around, as I went with a concept costume of being the opposite of my partner. In contrast, some people really went all out, and the results were absolutely fantastic despite being almost entirely created from scratch: Salvador Dali and his muse/wife, Gala (sometimes called Gaia) in very surreal, Dali-esque attire with frogs, lobsters, and insects; Agatha Christie (such an unbelievably accurate, detailed Agatha Christie!!) and Hercule Poirot; the team of Clockwork Orange; “a pair of tits” (don’t ask how that was done!); and even “a deer in the headlights,” with actual headlights on the costume that turned on and off when pressed.

Photo: my own.

Part of the feast on the beach in Camargue. Photo: my own.

When our somewhat bedraggled, exhausted, hung-over group finally arrived back in Paris, I made my way to my high school friend’s house where I was greeted with a huge hug and platters of cheese. I had told you before I left of my plan to eat my body weight in cheese — and I think I came close. Judging by some of the photos on my camera, I may have more of an obsession with French cheese than even I had suspected. I certainly seemed quite insane to my friend’s young children who couldn’t understand why I was photographing the dairy products, and making guttural sounds of joy. Another friend definitely thought I was off my rocker with my obsession, but, really, there is absolutely nothing comparable in the United States, even at places like Whole Foods and Central Market. Oddly enough, my camera seems to share my appreciation for cheese and food because the many (many!!!) photos I took of food on the trip all came out crystal clear, while a significant portion of my shots of perfume stores, boutiques and bottles came out quite blurred. (Happily, shots of the Louvre pyramid in early evening came out perfectly, though the lighting accidentally verged on the “artistic” more than on the useful or accurate….)

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

All of this talk about my camera dying and its occasionally wonky, blurred photos is really a warning for when I start posting said photos in an upcoming series I plan to do on both Paris perfume shopping and the food I had on my trip in general. The cheese photos amount to what a friend of mine called “cheese porn,” (they are!), but I also managed to get some lovely shots of: an outdoor Paris market; Ladurée and Pierre Hermé macaron/chocolate shops; pictures of the menus from the French god and “Chef of the Century,” Joel Robuchon, at his Michelin-starred Atelier (which I did not have the fortune (metaphorically or financially) to go to, but which I admired from afar); some tasty Lebanese food at a restaurant with the perfumer, Neela Vermeire; and the incredible feast one Sunday at the beach in Camargue on the first part of my trip. There is also a photo of the giant cheese and ham quiche that my friend made from scratch with the fluffiest, highest, golden, buttery crust, and which turns out to be the best quiche I’ve ever had. (I still dream a little of that quiche!) But, again, my tiny, pocket camera seems to be dying, and it was always obstinate to begin with in terms of lighting issues, so I hope you will forgive some poor photos on occasion.

I didn’t just eat while in Paris, though I know it sounds that way. I had the good fortune to meet with three perfumers, and I was even invited to one’s perfume studio where I saw the large “organ” of essential oils and concentrates. All of that will be the focus of an upcoming post. I also visited a large number of perfume shops and individual houses. Serge Lutens, naturally, was my first stop and warranted a second pilgrimage as well because, Good God, it’s impossible to decide what to do when faced with an array of bell jars! (No, seriously, it’s not possible in one session!)

In addition, I went to JAR which was a fabulously cool experience, IUNX at the Hotel Costes, Oriza L. Legrand, Frederick Malle, Arabian OudReminiscence, Esteban, Parfums de Nicolai, Etat Libre d’Orange, Guerlain, Sephora, Annick Goutal, and more. I visited niche perfume boutiques like Colette, Nose, Marie-Antoinette (which I loved!), Sens Unique, and Jovoy — and between the lot, managed to sniff perfumes from the well-known and accessible, to less famous or accessible brands like Nu_Be, Lys Epona, Parfums de Marly (except for the ISO E Super-filled Herod which I intentionally avoided), Alexandre J., PhaedonJovoy, and Memo Paris. I didn’t find the time to test all that I wanted to, particularly with skin being so limited, but I sniffed well over 50 perfumes in one day alone. (Thank God for coffee beans!) I took photos whenever possible or permitted of the store interiors and their bottles (and, on one occasion, surreptitiously), but I think my rush to avoid imposing on people or being a nuisance is an additional reason why some of the photos are a bit blurry. (Yes, I’m frustrated over that!)

Perfume shopping in Paris is an utterly unreal experience. Paris itself can be a sensory overload, especially if you are a hedonist or lover of aesthetic beauty. When you throw nostalgic memories of all the years that I lived in Paris — then add in the sheer excess of amazing perfumes from every nook and cranny you can behold — into that mix, you can imagine the result. My senses were inflamed to the point that I think they almost imploded from a surfeit of beauty and joy. It’s a lovely problem to have, but it also means that I’m not sure I can do the whole Paris experience justice. I don’t have a single photo, nor even a series of words, that can convey what it was really like. I will try, though, with a series of posts about the various perfume boutiques I visited, and what the shopping experience is like in such places as, for example, Jovoy, JAR, Marie-Antoinette, or Guerlain (which was consistently my worst time in Paris). I will also have a post on the three perfumers I met. And, finally, I will have a very photo-heavy food post, unless you’d be more interested in reading that first. The post may not involve a lot of textual explanation, and perhaps it may not make total sense beyond just a plethora of “food porn” photos, but I hope it will let you visually live vicariously through some of the things I saw and/or tasted while on my trip. (I’m warning you, though, there are well over 25 photos of cheese alone!)

I didn’t get the opportunity to visit any museums, though one of the reasons why I had extended my trip was to do precisely that. In the end, events with friends really dominated the schedule, and I was glad for that because I had the chance to spend a lot amount of time with some people who matter very dearly to me. I did, however, end up at the Louvre at closing time one day, and it was a sight to see. Even at the late hour, the palace’s enormous square was filled with people. The four pyramids (three being quite small) were beautiful in the late afternoon light. (Some thumbnail photos are below which you can click upon to expand to full size on a separate page.)

One of my very favorite memories of Paris will remain an almost private concert I stumbled upon at the Louvre. While walking around one of the furthest pavilions of the palace, I heard the strains of some exquisite music, and I followed the sound to a wild-haired musician playing the cello in one of the passage ways. He was incredibly talented, and I just closed my eyes to listen to the sounds of Bach (and other composers) that floated over me. Whenever I opened them, I could see the baroque majesty and grandeur of the Louvre in front of me. The musician was a funny chap who was eccentric as hell, didn’t take kindly to requests (no Saint-Saens or Pachelbel), and extremely opinionated on various parts of the United States. Having brief conversations about Tucson, Arizona and Wichita, Kansas (??!) in the middle of a passageway of the Louvre built by Catherine de Medici while someone is tuning their cello is…. unexpected, to put it mildly. But it was incredibly enjoyable and memorable, from start to finish. In fact, I ended up staying for almost an hour, joined occasionally by a few, passing people who eventually moved on, but also one Scottish chap who stayed throughout and, like me, finally moved forward to sit at the base of one of the big columns in the passage. It was really just a concert for the two of us — and the Louvre herself. (I have a small 30-second video that I took with my cellphone, but I decided not to include it here as it’s only the end part of one piece and really doesn’t do the whole experience justice.) I had a few other “concerts” in Paris — like a performance by a classical, 7-string ensemble in the metro station — but nothing quite compared to that eccentric, grey-haired, opinionated cellist in the Louvre.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

While friends, Paris, and perfumes took up my days, my nights were varied. It was always spent with friends, but sometimes it was quiet, and sometimes it was not. One evening was spent watching Les Saveurs du Palais (or “Haute Cuisine“), a film about the female, personal chef of French President, François Mitterrand. One night it was dinner at the hipster Hotel du Nord (which is not an actual hotel) on the canals of St. Martin, one night it was me cooking for my hosts. Another night was dinner at the Fish Club which entailed different sorts of fish tapas, followed by a visit to the private, uber-exclusive, members-only club, Silencio, designed by David Lynch. The first part of my visit to Paris coincided with the end of Paris Fashion Week, so for a day or so, some portions of the city were filled with tall, sylph-like, haughty fashionistas and Silencio was no exception. It was quite a sight, though less so than at the painfully stylish “it” spot, the Hotel Costes, where I met one perfumer for tea. (More on that in an upcoming blog post.)

My favorite evening excursion, however, was a motorcycle ride through Paris near midnight, ending up at the base of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a beautiful structure by day, but, somehow, the full enormity of the technical details and artistry shows even more at night. I’ll leave you with one, very large photo I took, and hope that it can convey just a microscopic millimeter of the magic of Paris at night.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

  

74 thoughts on “I’m Back! Vacation Round-Up: Camargue & Paris

        • Oh, I’m so glad you think they will be interesting. It’s certainly not my usual thing, but I hope people will find it useful, especially if they end up going to Paris later themselves. What surprised me is just how different the feel and experience of shopping from one store to the next. Some of them were not unpleasant, but definitely unappealing, while others were full of warmth and passion.

          I’ve also come back with so, soooooooooooo many samples to test out properly, as well as to review, and an even more expanded wish-list of things I want or plan to get. My main problem with perfume shopping in Paris is that there never, ever seems to be enough skin for all the glorious treasures that one ends up discovering! Even when almost every socially-acceptable inch of me was covered, along with parts of my clothing, there were still things I wanted or needed to get on my skin, but couldn’t. I thought of you during my daily dilemma with skin space. You and Hajusuuri! 🙂

          • You know, dear… Let not having enough skin space for perfume testing in Paris be our biggest problem 🙂

            I’m not sure how useful your tales will be “for the generations to come” 😉 (I mean, those who find your blog searching in Google for a specific perfume) but we, your current readers, will definitely enjoy stories about your experiences.

            (I want to go to Paris again 😦 1.5 days weren’t enough!)

    • Thank you for the kind words, C. I thought of you a lot in particular while sniffing/testing certain things! And my bottle of Oriza L. Legrand is really due to your comments before my trip on the line, the store, and how I really should visit it!

      • Oriza was a huge surprise for me. Nowadays when a new line is released, i’m lucky to find one gem amongst a string of duds. Oriza was just the opposite for me. Of their 7 releases, only one (Deja la Printemps) came across as a bit iffy and even that one wasn’t too bad. I thought that you might like them, as our likes/dislikes are very similar. Did you manage to get a squirt of Diaghilev in Jovoy ?

        • Such amazing stuff, Oriza. Utterly unique in smell, and enormously sophisticated, nuanced and rich.

          Another brand I fell for hard was Arabian Oud which had 2 perfumes that I utterly lust for, and a third that I really liked. Unfortunately, they didn’t have samples of my favorite one, so I can’t do more than just gush about it, but I got Kalamet which I liked a lot. Very high quality fragrances and/or perfume oils. Jovoy had some beauties, too. And, yet, one of my favorite perfumes that I got was an almost accidental, hesitant buy involving a Fragonard perfume. It’s nothing unique, revolutionary, or complicated, but definitely an incredibly easy, versatile, almost cozy scent. I was also surprised to really like a perfume by Esteban, and I got samples of almost the WHOLE bloody line! Enough to be able to share some, too. The other big hits for me were upcoming, about to be released fragrances from LM Parfums. Hard Leather was glorious! Absolutely spectacular, animalic, but rounded, warm, opulent leather.

          I did give Diaghilev a sniff and I liked it. However, it actually wasn’t my favorite from the Roja Dove line. Fetish was, and I got samples of both the men’s and women’s versions. I think I have another Roja Dove sample, too, but I’m not sure.

          I also loved a fragrance by Grossmith, and one by Parfums de Marly, though not the Herod. (Bloody ISO E Super. Gah!)

          I had the chance to sniff the new, just released Histoires de Parfums fragrance, Ernest Hemingway. Hm.

    • Hi Julie, welcome to the blog! As for the perfumes explored, between the ones I bought and the numerous bags of samples I have, you’ll certainly get a lot of reviews for different things! Big brands and small, expensive and inexpensive, I tried to cover a wide range, so I hope you like some of what I’ll be focusing on. 🙂

  1. Welcome home Kafka! I’ve missed you and I’m now waiting with baited breath to hear any opinions you have on the perfumes that I’ve raved about! I do hope you weren’t disappointed :/ 🙂

    • Thank you for the warm welcome back, Susie. I tried the Von Eusersdroff Patchouli and thought it was pretty. I didn’t get the chance to try it on the skin, because I was out of available locations by that point, so I really hope to get a sample to test it out in person one day. I enjoyed the Jovoy Gardez Moi as well, and thought of you! I ended up getting samples of a heavier, more masculine, oriental Jovoy pair, however, as that is more my style, but Gardez Moi was lovely!

        • I’m afraid I can’t remember what my second Jovoy perfume sample was, or even if I got one. Everything is a little bit of a blur, I’m afraid. But the name definitely sounds familiar and, you know, I think I liked Rouge Assassin from what I smelled of it. No, now that I look at their list on Fragrantica, I think it was Private Label which I got a sample of. My first one was the patchouli Psychedelique, then I went for Private Label, if I remember correctly.

    • Awww, thank you. I smelled some perfumes that made me think of you, especially some offerings from Arabian Oud. Two of them are high on my list of things to get. I also got to smell Safranil — and chuckled nonstop about your comments about it. My God, even a tiny drop of the 10% mix was like a super potent blast that overwhelmed much else in its path. Definitely NOT my cup of tea!

  2. Now I can stop checking to see if you’re back, because you are! Sounds wonderful and refreshing and I’m sure the Hairy German is ecstatic you’re home! (How much penance will you have to do I wonder?) Looking forward to all the gastronomic and olfactory recollections once you’ve recuperated! Delighted you had such a glorious time and looking forward to being delighted once again with your reviews!

    • I missed you, my dear Two2aHorse!! The Hairy German was initially ecstatic, then aloof, and haughty, and then demonstrated his true feelings by violently attacking my suitcase with bared fangs. I suspect he blames it for my long disappearance. The amusing thing is that he was so extensively pampered by my parents, my own return is probably a bit of a let-down for him. I’m certainly not giving him whole pears and sweet apples as hourly snacks! lol.

      I thought of you at Oriza L. Legrand, but also at a few other places in Paris, and I hope I have some upcoming reviews to tempt you. Alas, one of my favorite stores — Arabian Oud — didn’t have samples available of everything, but I’m telling you: FABULOUS stuff. Absolutely FABULOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Dearest Kafka
    Safe home across The Pond from The Old World.
    What adventures, non?
    Oh, and The Dandy adores the Camargue and Aigues Mortes in particular – very square – and I remember salt beds everywhere and flamingoes too.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Oh, how wonderful that you know Aigues-Mortes! I never managed to see a flamingo, alas, but I saw a lot of the horses and even inadvertently ate some Toro/bull. I wasn’t thrilled with that, though I realise the hypocrisy involved. Anyway, it’s a cute town, but I think I liked the beachy part of St. Marie de La Mer a bit more.

      And thank you for the welcome back, my dear Beau! 🙂

      • Dearest Kafka
        Yes St. Marie de la Mer is lovely.
        I adore Nimes, such a civilised and yet relatively undiscovered town and a marvellous base for discovering practically everywhere by car or train.
        So lovely to have you back.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

  4. Fantastic. The thrill-to-bursting joy of this post is palpable. I remember last time I went to Paris I was really the same ( I practically fainted at Guerlain when I saw the selection, and am curious to hear about what went wrong there ). Also Serge Lutens … I actually cried a bit because the Palais Royal was so beautiful in winter.

    I look forward to hearing about it all, and as an ( extremely jealous ) David Lynch fan, I need to hear more about Silencio.

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it, dearest Ginza. Here’s an article on Silencio that may whet your appetite: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2011/aug/31/david-lynch-disco-paris It’s really beautiful inside, and eye-catching.

      As for Guerlain, that will be covered in one of my compilation posts on Paris perfume shopping, but let’s just say that my experience was pretty much unappealing in all FOUR places/locations where I went, by and large. The main Guerlain store on the Champs Elysees is closed until next month for renovations, but I went to two separate Guerlain stores elsewhere, and the huge Guerlain counters in two Sephoras (one being the one where people were directed to, next to the C/E headquarters, while the renovations take place) — and I was singularly unimpressed with the customer service and their attitude. Given the other places I went — like JAR, with its *substantially* more expensive perfumes — and their huge courteousness or warmth, there really is no excuse. Only one Guerlain sales lady out of the many in all the 4 stores had a decent attitude.

  5. Yay! Kafka is back! I missed you so much! I am looking forward to your posts – all of them, including the cheese porn but please warn me before you talk about goat cheese (totally icky for me – I’m picky, what can I say?). Oh, and inquiring minds want to know which The Precioussssssss you got :-)…all in due time of course, no sense in revealing too soon! Mwah!

    • Thank you, darling. I thought of you a lot, especially while at Serge Lutens (which I was lucky to find easily and without problem, while remembering your travails!).

      I actually ended up with TWO Precioussssssssssssssssssssssssssssssses….. and there is a story about one of them! My original choice will amuse you, but you will have to wait and see. 😉 😀

  6. Welcome back Kafka! I look forward to reading about every little bit. It’s been way too long since I’ve been to Paris (and it was with my ex, bleh) but I want to take my family there in the next few years. DH *needs* to see the Louvre and Versailles and I need to see the perfumeries 🙂

    • Oh, I can’t wait until K. gets to see Paris! As for you and the perfumeries, I think you need to schedule at least a week to cover even a 1/4th of them! Paris is a surfeit of riches when it comes to perfume shops, and I think you’d be in heaven.

  7. Back in town! Excellent. How was the Zola reunion? O, just read he attacked your suitcase for making you disappear, LOL’s. I love Estaban’s incense sticks so keen to hear how they handle the ‘fumes. The sparkling water at dusk photo is beautiful and the others have such mood. Cheese please as well as perfume in Paree.

    • Oh, how cool that you know Esteban! I’d never heard of them before, and I must say, I quite like a few of their scents. They’re easy, uncomplicated, very French, and very affordable. There is one of them that I absolutely adored from the start, so I’m excited to cover that one. As for the photos, I’m so glad you liked them! 🙂

  8. Kafka! you´re back 😀 , I had been checking your site often to see any updates and finally you´re back 🙂 . I had never heard of the Camargue region before, but it sounds like you had an amazing time 😀 I like your photos and the cheese one looks really nice. I´m looking forward to knowing more about your trip, perfumes and experiences, also your encounter with that musician at the Louvre is quite amusing, and that photo of the Eiffel Tower is glorious. I just bought a new camera myself today, because my last one is five years old already…(of course that doesn´t mean I won´t use it I´m capable of taking 1000 pictures in less than one week mind you, so I will be using both cameras, and my video camera) unfortunately I will only have 11 days in Paris in early to mid November (hopefully tourism will be low then) after that I will move to another country of Europe which I´m originally from for 6 months and then I will have to decide in which part of the world I want to stay in. Your trip by motorcycle to the Eiffel Tower by midnight sounds like something out of a movie it sounds so romantic and dreamy. Your costume party sounds like it was fun, very imaginative, the last time I wore a costume I was a kid lol so it was ages ago. I hope the Hairy German wasn´t too angry with you for your absence, and if he is maybe some treats could help, like the dog food equivalent of chips or cake? 😛 .

    • Vicki, I thought of you and your upcoming trip while in Paris. The giant Sephora on the Champs Elysees has your name all over it! lol. And, by the time you’re there, the renovated Guerlain headquarters will be open right next door. I can’t wait to see what you think of it, and where you end up choosing to live after your 6 month stint elsewhere. 🙂 And congrats on your new camera! I’m like you and quite capable of taking a 1000 photos a week — which may explain why my camera is dying out. lol. As for the Hairy German, I’m trying to bribe him with his favorite foods: celery, bananas, and sweet fruit. (He goes NUTS for celery! Isn’t that crazy??!) Unfortunately, he’s still giving me the stink eye…. It may take him another week. lol.

  9. Welcome back! 🙂
    Turns out the trip wasn’t to Croatia… 😦

    But it certainly sounds like you had the time of your life! Looking forward to hearing more.

    • Thank you, dear Ines. No, alas, no Croatia, but the Provence-adjacent area was really quite cool. And Paris was definitely an experience. It always is, but even more so now, when it is such a drastic change from my current life and the culture here. Visually, there is such incredible beauty and history — EVERYWHERE — that it’s quite a shock to the system after the visuals of where I live now. I really need to move back home where I belong, because my current location really isn’t me — at ALL! 😦

      • Oh, I’m sorry to hear where you live doesn’t really suit you (btw, I have no idea where you actually live).
        I love my country, but if I could move to Paris or Rome, I’d do it in an instant. 🙂

  10. Yay! You’re back! It sounds like you had an amazing time. It’s great that you were able to extend it a bit too. I’m looking forward to all your posts about the food and the fumes. Bring on the cheese!

    • Wow, who knew that so many people shared my obsession with French cheese?! If only you’d all been there when my friends were giving me sideways looks and grinning in amusement. lol. 😀 And thank you for the warm welcome back, my dear Poodle.

  11. Nice to see you back, Kafkaesque. Curious to find out which Arabian Oud scents you actually liked. Two favorites? Can you reveal them now, or will there be a post dedicated to the visit to this otherwise confusing house? Looking forward to hear more about…everything.

    • First, welcome to the blog, Bruno. Second, you’re totally right about Arabian Oud being confusing! I thought it was just me, so I’m glad to know someone else feels the same way. Their website isn’t really straight-forward or well-organised, and the Zahra site in the U.S. which sells their line is a complete hodge-podge. Even in the store, it was quite overwhelming, but they have some very good sales assistants who know the line well and were able to advise me based on my tastes.

      The scents from Arabian Oud that I really liked were 4 in specific, but with Taj Mahal (a perfume oil) being the real star. It’s spectacular! Oddly, it’s not even listed on the company/brand site, or if it is, I certainly couldn’t find it. Making matters more complicated, the notes listed on the Zahra site don’t seem to really mesh with what I remember sniffing. That said, I was completely exhausted and dazed at that portion of my trip and when I visited the store, so perhaps it’s a memory thing. Regardless, Taj Mahal completely took my breath away! It’s cost in Euros was 66/114/204 for tiny amounts of the oil. Maybe 4 ml, 6, and 8 — or something around those quantities. There is a site in the US which sells 6 ml for $371! http://zahras.com/Perfume/Catalog/ArabianOud/default.htm I don’t know where you’re located, but the store said that people can call them for orders and shipment.

      In terms of the other fragrances, I really, really liked Kalamet, then also Dinon and Ghroob. Kinda in that order. In terms of a post, I will definitely have one on the store, or, rather, a review of Kalamet with discussion of the store, but it’s almost impossible for me to review the other scents because I couldn’t get samples. I was lucky enough to get a small, almost full, tester, sample of Kalamet with about 4 ml, but they didn’t have samples of any of the other ones. And I can’t really test on memory, especially given how exhausted and sleep-deprived I was at the time. Still, I was enormously impressed with the brand’s overall quality and richness. 🙂

      Do you have a favorite thus far from Arabian Oud? What has been your experience (if any) in shopping with them or using the website?

      • Thanks for the welcome, Kafkaesque. Usually just enjoy your comprehensive posts without commenting. Read and learn.

        I am very intrigued by Arabian Oud, but so far I haven’t tried any of them, the confusion being the main obstacle. From all the reading and research I’ve done, Kalemat (Kalamat?, Arabic spelling is never conclusive) seems to be definitely on top of my to-try list. Along with Woody, and (not by Arabian Oud) Raghba. So I was looking for some confirmation on your part. And I got it.

        The whole story actually starts with the Amouage attars, especially Tribute and Homage, which are simply brilliant. (I tried these. And I am sure you agree.) So one cannot help but wonder: what else is there? And…could it be more affordable? 🙂

        • I hope you will feel free and comfortable to continue commenting. I truly believe that perfume is an experience that is infinitely enhanced by sharing the experiences, the feel, or the emotions. 🙂

          Have you tried Chergui by Serge Lutens? I ask because, on my skin, Kalemat often reminded me of an extremely concentrated version of that. Not fully, but enough times. At first, I kept thinking, “this is so similar to something. Dammit, what is it?!” Then, after about 20 minutes, it hit me. There are differences, and I plan on doing a full side-by-side test to compare the notes (as opposed to the really obvious issue of concentration and feel), but Chergui is what came to mind in my initial wearings.

          As for Raghba, I’ve tried it and have a sample. (It was one of the many things whose review got pushed aside by my trip. Well, that and the fact that I had about 50 samples before my trip, and things are constantly moved around on the schedule.) I don’t know your tastes at all (though I hope I will one day), so I don’t know how you feel about gourmand fragrances, raspberry notes, and the like. For me, Raghba was nice, but nothing that moved me deeply. I’m not judging by the standards of something like Amouage, by the way, but the standards of a comfort scent. I love my cozy comfort scents, and despite Raghba’s fantastic price, for ME *personally* it wasn’t all that special or appealing. It’s nice. Perhaps I need to love raspberry or sweet scents more, so the situation may be very different for you.

          I hope that helps a bit with the stuff on your list. Kalemat/Kalamat/Kale-however you spell it (you’re right about the alternative spellings) is a super scent that I absolutely adored. Arabian Oud’s Taj Mahal is a very different scent (floral-woody), and that one is on an Amouage level of epic gorgeousness!

          As for the Amouage attars, I’ve reviewed Tribute, but not Homage. From what I sniffed of it in Jovoy, it’s nice, but my heart will always belong to Tribute. I think Tribute is the BOMB!!! Perhaps my all-time favorite Amouage fragrance, and simply spectacular! Alas, the prices and batch issues……

          • Yes, I did try Chergui, and have been thinking about it lately a lot, actually. For some reason. I guess you read a review here and there and you end up wondering whether you are missing something.

            The truth is, Serge Lutens never really drew me in, although his scents are very likable. Some of my SL favorites would be Borneo 1834 and Cuir Mauresque… No surprise. This already tells you something about my tastes: patchouli, leather, spices. Gourmand (like in PG Coze or Musc Ravageur) can be great, and I tend to like raspberry notes, especially when combined with leather (MB Charles Street, for example), but I agree, it can get way too sweet.

            As for Tribute, not only does one (who has enough buying power) have to worry about the batch issues, but also about the supposed discontinuation of all Amouage attars. To panic or not to panic? That is the question. 🙂

            I have read about people combining (layering?!) Tribute and Homage, and as crazy as that might sound, I actually would not dismiss the idea entirely. The Tribute smoke and the Homage florals are very compatible. No surprise people tend to “improve” the bad batch Tribute by adding more rose oil to it.

            In any case, looking forward to hearing more about the topic. (By the way, great review of Tribute, thanks. I don’t think there is a way to write about it calmly. 🙂 )

          • We all have some houses that we can theoretically like, but aren’t really or truly moved by. 🙂 Serge Lutens is one for you, and I can respect that. He’s *definitely* not for everyone, and we’re all different in what appeals to us on a deeply personal, gut level. 🙂

            As for Tribute and its layering, yes, one of my readers noted precisely what you mentioned in the comment: Homage is a great way to improve the bad batch problem of smokiness. I certainly don’t dismiss the idea, and actually quoted someone in my review who first suggested it. (I don’t suppose, by any chance, that you might be that original Fragrantica commentator whom I quoted? LOL!)

            Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the review. As for issues of calmness, you will soon discover that I’m rarely calm if I love (or loathe) something. If I’m calm in reviewing something, it usually means that I’ve been bored to death…. 😉 😀 And, honestly, isn’t boredom the absolute worst thing of all in a field that is all about sensations and passions?! I consider it one of my greatest insults for a perfume.

          • My dearest, I really wanted to reply to your third comment to Bruno, but alas, there are limitations to nested replies! Anyway, you are accumulating quite a collection of T-shirts! This new one will have “CALM” in a circle with a slash through it 😉

          • You know, if you ever want to send me a birthday or Christmas present, feel free to choose one of these perfect t-shirt ideas. Can we start with the sandalwood snob one? 😉 😛

          • LOL and Happy Birthday, Dear Kafka! There’s a third t-shirt…front: “Perfumes Wanted”, back: “Iso E Super Need Not Apply”..just you wait!

          • Hahaha, you have a real knack for this t-shirt logo thing, cherie. If you ever decide to give up your current job, I know what you should pursue! *grin*

  12. Sounds like a truly amazing adventure, and one that you’ll remember for the rest of your life! Welcome back! 🙂 I’m sorry Guerlain was disappointing, but in some ways it’s not surprising to me that a house that is arguably a shadow of its former self still has delusions of grandeur. Sort of reminds me of Baldini in the book Perfume. 😛 Or maybe of Baby Jane.

    • Ha, Baby Jane! I compared them more to acting like they held the key to cancer and AIDs all in one. *snort* Even by Parisian standards, their hauteur and frozen civility were too much for my tastes. I actually found a few fragrances that I really, really liked from them, but I was so turned off by the attitude — especially of the Guerlain vendeuses in Sephora, who are actual Guerlain employees, not Sephora ones — made me decide to spend my money elsewhere. I doubt they care, but now, neither do I….

  13. How can one not have an incredibly wonderful time on vacation when there is cheese involved! It sounds like you had a wonderful time and which was well deserved. You have been so incredibly prolific this past year so you needed to take break! I have to admit that I’m selfish and am glad that you’re back because I can’t wait to read your upcoming posts!
    xoxox Steve

    • Awww, sweetie, thank you so much for your kind words. And my God, who knew that so many of you shared my passion for French cheese?! You know, for my birthday, I’d asked for a big platter of them but, apparently, 8 out of 10 things on my list are banned in the U.S. by the FDA! Stupid government, doesn’t it have anything better to do than worry about pasteurization and the age of cheese???!!!

      BTW, I totally thought of you as Jardin d’Ecrivains was one of my perfume buys. I so badly want to buy your bottle of Orlando, but I am going to need to save up for a month or two after the ruinous excesses of my Paris shopping!

        • I bought George Sand, lol!! It was damn close between George, Wilde and Orlando. Gigi was GORGEOUS and neck-and-neck with George for a while in the lead, but ultimately, I decided that white flower bombs weren’t quite as unusual or original. George certainly is. My problem with it is the first 20-35 minutes is almost difficult in its intensity: both smokiness, ashiness and a strongly medicinal touch. But then….. then, suddenly, BOOM, it blooms on me beautifully.

          Honestly, sometimes, I wonder if I shouldn’t have bought Orlando or Wilde instead, but I think George Sand is original and different enough for me to be happy (or happier?) with it in the end. I am completely obsessed with getting Orlando now, though. (I was given the remnants of the Wilde tester with my purchase, so I have the equivalent of a small decant of that.)

          I tried the new Dame aux Camellias and it’s okay. Not me. And not like the rest of the line, I think. If you don’t end up selling your Orlando bottle in a month or two, I may come to you to buy it.

          Then again, I suddenly remembered this amazing floral scent from Arabian Oud and a gorgeous Parfums de Marly scent that I lust for (Safanad), so perhaps I’m a little fickle in my attentions. lol. I really need to make up my mind. But really, Orlando blossomed beautifully on my skin, and smelled really lovely. It’s surprising how its memory has stayed with me as that type of perfume is not to my usual tastes. I don’t know why I was so captivated by it. Must be a skin chemistry thing!

  14. welcome back!! those cheeses look just fantastic. (i am both a huge dairy-product aficionado and lactose intolerant… makes things very difficult for me.) do you prefer laduree or pierre herme? i have only tried pierre herme’s butter caramel macaron and was a bit let down… but this was in hong kong, not paris, so perhaps that is why it failed to meet expectations. on the other hand, laduree’s macarons never fail to disappoint for me. :^) and your experience with the cello performance sounds wonderful. i’m so excited to read your upcoming posts!

    • Lactose intolerance?? Oh, you poor thing! That must be incredibly tough and frustrating for a dairy-lover! As for the Ladurée vs. Pierre Hermé issue, I know people who fall on both sides. Some are like you and prefer Ladurée, but I personally preferred Pierre Hermé. The outer shells were like air for me, while the Ladurée ones were substantially thick and solid, in a way that I didn’t enjoy quite so much. The ganache fillings seemed much more concentrated with the Pierre Hermé one, too. More of a burst or explosion of flavour, if you will. I had 2 macarons from each line, so I tried to have a solid comparative basis, but I know many people who adore Ladurée with a passion. Perhaps it really depends on the location and type? 🙂

  15. Welcome home sweetie!
    I missed you!

    I’m terribly sorry but I’m too tired to read anything after 12 hours in the lab. Will make up for it as soon as I have more time…

    • Awww, so sweet, Lucas. Thank you, my dear. And, please, absolutely NO worries about reading. If anyone understand mental exhaustion, fatigue, and sleep-deprivation, you KNOW it’s me!!! *hugs* cheri!

  16. I’m so glad you had a wonderful time, and equally glad that you’re back to share your experiences with all your devoted readers. (And as for Guerlain–you may be a better person than I am, but I find that a little something to complain about just adds to the fun.)

    • Heheheh, the Sulking German is a perfect moniker for his current mood. That or the Pouting German. 😉

      I’m having cheese for dinner. If only you could come on over and have some with me, darling.

  17. Welcome back, Kafka! I have been anxiously waiting for your return! It sounds like you had a great time! (I’m in exclamation point overload!) 🙂

  18. Would you kindly consider me fashionably late (perpetually so, alas) and please accept my heartiest congratulations on your fantastic trip and truly making the most of Paris (and Aigues-Mortes)? Welcome home, dearest Kafka, it’s great to have you back and now I’ve got lots of reading to catch up on. I’m going to read everything out of order, though, because I’ve got to read your Victoria Minya piece first!!!! xxoo

    • It’s so lovely to see your sunny, smiling, sweet face again, dear Suzanne (how is that for consonance and alliteration?)! Thank you for the warm welcome home. I missed you! xoxox

  19. Pingback: Holiday Travelogue – Part I: Camargue & Food | Kafkaesque

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