Smelling in Geneva

Magpie at a fountain in Old Town, Geneva | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

Magpie at a fountain in Old Town, Geneva | Illustration by The Perfume Magpie

 

Recently my travel bug has been nudging me to leave the confines of my office walls and see somewhere new again. I think EasyJet employs a psychic to target people like me; timely I found an email waiting in my inbox with great flight deals. Normally emails like this will go straight into the bin but this time, the bug made me click the link. The return flight to Geneva was too cheap to ignore. All the excuses popped up in my head; I have never been to Switzerland so it will be a good experience, I haven’t seen snow for a good few years, Geneva is only a short flight so it won’t affect my work schedule, etc. When I came out of my hypnotic daze, my mini holiday was already booked and confirmed. Go with the flow, seize the opportunity, I say.

Travelling is smelling. I enjoy smelling everything; the air of new places, the aroma of local food, and the scent of each shop I walk in. A lot of them are pleasant, some not so, but every single smell is a strand of memory.  They will be woven into an eternally complex tapestry of life experience and stay with us forever. The olfactory sense, the most primitive of our five senses, produces memories that are incredibly powerful and everlasting and smells can rekindle all the experiences as vividly as the first time when we encounter the same smell elsewhere later in life. As we headed for the airport, I promised myself to be conscious of smells for next two days to add a few more strands to my unfinished tapestry.

When I settled myself into my seat on the plane, I had to ask myself why I made that daft promise. I mean the “conscious smelling” thing. Monsieur 21C, who sat next to me for the duration of the 1-hour-40-minutes flight, smelled out-of-this-world awful. Whatever perfume he was wearing, whatever he had been doing before boarding this plane, he smelled putrid, overpowering, and absolutely torturous in the confined space. Sadly, once a perfumista, always a perfumista. While a part of me was thinking about pulling down the oxygen mask above me, another part of me started analysing his perfume. The dominant note was tobacco but it was too acrid. Also there were cinnamon, cumin, oakmoss and some woody notes…  A dash of rose? Maybe. OK, it shouldn’t smell too bad BUT WHY EVERYTHING SMELLED SO SOUR AND FERMENTED ON HIM!? I’ve smelled perfumes that had past its time and had turned but this was on another level. It’s got to be something to do with his body chemistry. I had never appreciated the arrival of inflight coffee so much in my life. I buried my nose in the cup as long as I could for the rest of the flight.

To my relief, once in Geneva, my olfactory experience improved significantly. The city was filled with a lot of pleasant smells – fresh bread and croissants from the boulangeries, damp streets, grass, malty aroma from the brewpubs, leather, coffee, sweets, and cold air. One of the smells I truly enjoyed was the crisp air in the falling snow. It was a pure bliss.

Now, this is a so-called perfume blog, let’s move onto the subject of perfumes. I did, of course, try some perfumes while I was in Geneva. In total, including the time at the airport, I tried 14. Most of them were “nice” but nothing outstanding. I felt most underwhelmed by Poison Girl. It’s not a bad perfume but it’s so caramel sweet with syrupy jam, just like other trendy perfumes on the current market. Definitely a younger sister of La Vie Est Belle.

Perfume Related Places I Visited In Geneva

Bongenie: Rue du Marché 34

At Bongenie | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Bongenie | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Sniffing... | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Sniffing… | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

I didn’t check if there were any worth visiting perfume stores in Geneva before the trip. But the goddess of scent was smiling on me. While we were walking around the streets of the old part of the city, I spotted something pink and green gleaming in the store window. I backtracked a few steps. There I saw Candy Aoud and Fruity Aoud by Roja Dove. I’m sure you can see what was going on in my mind. Yes, I was thinking, “if they have Rojas in the window, what else is in this shop.” Inside? It was Seventh Heaven. I was so dazzled by the huge selections of perfumes and I just staggered from one shelf to another like a drunken bear. For those who are used to visiting good perfume shops, this might not be anything out of ordinary but 400-500km radius of where I live, there are no perfume shops carrying anything other than mainstream designer brands. Actually this was the first time I saw Bond No. 9, Goutal, Juliet Has A Gun, Il Profumo, Amouage, Creed, Monegal, Malle, Roja, and so on all under the same roof. Ladies at the store were so forgiving and let me loose to spray from bottles to my heart’s content. Among the perfumes I tried there, I rather liked Ashlemah and Lazulia by Bvlgari (Love the bottle!).

 

Mizensir Genève: Rue Verdaine 4

Mizensir Genève | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Mizensir Genève | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Do you know this brand? In the heart of the old town, I stumbled across this charming little shop. They specialise in home fragrances and candles but recently released nine Eau de Parfum as well. Apparently Mizensir is the only manufacturer of perfumed candles and home fragrances to have an in house nose to create the fragrances for each product. I was pretty surprised to hear that the nose in question was Alberto Morillas. I love many of his creations such as Penhaligon’s Iris Prima, By Kilian Voulez-vous Coucher Avec Moi, and Acqua di Parma Colonia Intensa. The shop had a lovely atmosphere. Also having a friendly good looking guy was a huge plus. I’m going to talk more about their home fragrances in the next post.

 

Flea Market of Plainpalais

Eau de Cologne Impériale | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

Eau de Cologne Impériale | Photo by The Perfume Magpie

On the edge of the old town, we found this flea market. When I come across flea markets, I tend to pop down for a wander to see if any of the stalls happen to have old perfume bottles. Indeed they did. Among boxes after boxes of old household items and some peculiar art objects, I spotted some empty bottles; mostly Soir de Paris and Samsara. There were a few minis and some relatively new partial bottles but they were not what I was hoping to find. Eventually among the junks I spotted something made my heart skip. A Guerlain’s bee bottle. OK, it was a little dirty and the stopper was well stuck but I really wanted this bottle of Eau de Cologne Impériale. I assumed that the perfume itself would have already turned but the bottle itself would be a charming display on the dresser. Haggled? Not half! I also talked the stallholder into throwing a mini bee bottle in to keep it company. When we got home, my partner somehow managed to get the stopper out without breaking it. I didn’t expect the perfume inside to be intact but to my surprise, a bright summer day like lime scent rose up and enveloped us immediately. It smelled so drinkable. I guess I have to keep this lovely little find somewhere dark to protect it from going off. Now I need to find something else for my dresser.

The flea market takes place in Plainpalais on Wednesday and Saturday mornings.


Our time in Geneva involved lots of walking. We were there only for two days and most of our time was spent exploring the old town wearing our shoes out, listening to the sound of the city life, admiring the snow-capped mountains, smelling, and indulging in beer and chocolate while people watching. It was a little break happened on the spur of the moment but we loved it.

Do you travel just for adventure or always with a purpose and a plan?

19 thoughts on “Smelling in Geneva

  1. Oh wow Yukiko, thank you for sharing your trip to Geneva with us. As i read i was imagining the scents you were experiencing. How lovely to peruse the lovely perfume shops and the final find at the market.. I have not travelled abroad for a few years, just in my own country to the wilds of Donegal. Ususally my travel is planned a little in advance. If its not too far, it becomes a just wait and see what happens, but if it happens to be european or USA, then there is much more planning involved and itinerary’s typed up and much googling done etc. This year i intend to check out markets, vintage shops and charity shops for hidden treasures! Thanks for a lovely blog post as always. x

    • Thank you Patsi! I’ve been pretty lucky so far and found some treasures over the years. I would definitely browse around markets and those shops. Never know what you’ll find! Find some little goodies and please share them with us! 🙂

  2. Oh, nice find, but brilliant illustration. I love the way the magpie looks extra sensitive and thoughtful.
    I have done that several times, bought something that I thought was off in order to display it, it never has been off – I guess magpies and aquarians are just born under the lucky-perfume star 🙂 For display I use nearly empty bottles and a very cheap vintage Nuit de Longchamps in Opale glas.

  3. I’m not spontaneous at all, so all my trips are carefully planned long in advance. Though I wish I could do something like that – just decide and go…

    Thank you for sharing your trip with us and congratulations on your find!

    • Thank you Undina! My travel style is half and half, actually. If I were to go somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit, I tend to plan my travel itinerary far in advance in detail. But some other times, I just love spontaneous no plan trips; just grab a bag and go. One of the things I love on my spontaneous trips is asking local people where they recommend to eat, drink, and visit. 🙂

  4. I’ve become much more spontaneous about travelling over the last year and it’s totally paid off. I now have the bug!

    What a great trip you had and I love to think of you lurching around that perfume shop like a drunken bear 🙂

    I love lime so I’m so pleased the Guerlain juice hadn’t turned.

    • Yay for your bug! Spontaneous trips are fun!
      I guess the reason ladies at the store didn’t bother me was they didn’t want to deal with a mad woman. Probably I looked kind of dangerous. 😀
      The Guerlain bottle was a good find, especially I bought it rather cheap. I can’t wait to wear it in the warmer weather!

  5. This is such a lovely post! I completely agree that travelling is about scent, some pleasant and some not so much. Speaking of which, I’m sorry about your seatmate on the plane, how unbearable!

    I don’t like having strict plans in place when travelling. I prefer to have plenty of time for what you did – wandering the streets and browsing through shops. And there’s nothing better than sitting at a cafe and doing a bit of people watching!

    • Thank you for popping by, Caitlin! Another point for people watching! It is a great pastime, especially in unfamiliar places, in my humble opinion. I have guessed that you are a people watching kind of person from your blog banner. 😉 I’d love to know your travel & scent experiences!

  6. Late to this post but what a great read now I have caught up with your trip. Loved the ambient scents of Geneva, which offset your horrible experience on the plane – I wonder what that ghastly scent was. I have been to Geneva a few times – most recently last summer – but sadly had no time to go sniffing, so if I ever find myself back there, I will know just where to go. That first perfumery in particular looks like an absolute Aladdin’s Cave – loved the Bvlgari bottles in the window! A lot of my travel historically has been for work, ie planned, and my holidays have been a bit of a mixture. Always love to visit new places, funds permitting, as well as going back to favourite haunts.

    • Hi Vanessa! Yeah, I do wonder what that scent was too. I never want to encounter it again though. I really liked the Bvlgari bottles. I was kind of surprised they were much bigger than I thought. You always seem to be travelling around a lot. Is there anywhere you haven’t been to?

  7. It was really beautiful what your wrote about scent and travel. I think travel is important because it gives us a lot of new sensory information whether that’s visual or olfactory. I think that travel also makes us appreciate the scents of our own home more!

    • I totally agree with you on travelling and coming home! Travelling is always exciting and sometimes full of sensory overload and then the joy of coming home after that! I especially enjoy the smell of kitchen cupboard full of herbs and spices. 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s