Scents of Cities : Poll

A wonderful thing about blogging is that it allows me to meet people from different countries and places. I have become friends with perfume lovers in Japan, Nigeria, New Zealand, and South Africa, to name only a few places I haven’t yet visited. Some of you also live in small towns in the US and you’ve shared your recollections of their own unique scents.  I wish I could visit them all!  We would walk around the streets, spot the blooming plants, pick up pine cones and notice that the diner across the street smells richly and pungently of frying bacon.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran a poll about bottling the scents of your city, and the responses were so moving and fascinating that I thought that it would be fun to compile them into a post. So, let’s create a scented map and describe the places where we live in terms of their smells. If you haven’t participated yet, you can leave a comment here or email me your responses at editor at boisdejasmin dot com.  I will then put together a post with your comments. Don’t worry about duplicating the cities–my New York or San Francisco might smell very differently from yours. Also, don’t shy away from including the less savory smells. The sour run offs from the fishmongers in Chinatown may not be pleasant on a hot summer day, but they are a part of the city’s olfactive profile.

Spring in Kiev, photography by Bois de Jasmin, all rights reserved

My internet connection is intermittent this weekend, so I may be a bit late in responding to the comments.

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72 Comments

  • Andrea: I am going to contribute a scent map of Stanford, CA where I live at the moment:
    In April, when all the citrus tree varieties bloom, the air is filled with their intoxicating smells, mingling with the rosemary hedges, jasmine and some shrub/climber with inconspicuous cream flowers whose name I haven’t found out: in between pink and black pepper and jasmine. Truly beautiful when you stand there, in the main squad, the palm trees silhouetted against the turquoise evening sky, the golden stone buildings glowing softly. The fragrance is so strong that you can almost see it streaming through the colonnades. July 7, 2012 at 9:47am Reply

    • Victoria: I visited Stanford briefly, but I remember the great atmosphere in the town. The relaxed CA attitude is so different from the manic energy of NY, too.

      I will upload a photo of the mysterious white flowers that cover the shrubs around my apartment building. They are tiny and grow in clusters, but the scent is heady and strong. Wonder what they might be. July 7, 2012 at 6:02pm Reply

      • Andrea: Yes, it would be great to identify them…. July 8, 2012 at 6:33am Reply

        • Victoria: Here it is! If anyone can help me identify this shrub, I would be grateful. Hope that the photo is good enough though.
          Mysterious Shrub July 8, 2012 at 5:46pm Reply

          • Andy: It is hard to tell based on this photo alone, but to me it looks like it could be privet or some type of privet-related shrub. July 8, 2012 at 6:45pm Reply

            • Victoria: Andy, I just googled privet, and it looks exactly like the shrubs I see around here. I think that this is it! Thank you very much.

              The scent is wonderful–sweet and warm. It makes me think of jasmine, clove and whipped cream. July 8, 2012 at 6:54pm Reply

          • Andrea: Hello Victoria!
            No! Mine actually looks like Jasmine – but if it is, it must be some poor but very gifted relative….will need to ask the landscaper when we are back. The scent is absolutely unique, but it is such a cheap and common climber/shrub, growing on the fence round the post office, unwatered…..
            I’lll keep in touch about that and meanwhile enjoy all the interesting comments to this topic.
            Right now I’m in Rain – Cut Grass – Phlox – Roses – Hay country (Bavaria, Germany)
            Best, Andrea July 10, 2012 at 2:55pm Reply

            • Victoria: Or if you a chance, take a photo, please. There are so many people here who know their plants! July 10, 2012 at 2:58pm Reply

  • Lucas: That’s a tough one but I think I’ll stick to describing how my hometown smells, so this one goes for Leszno Wielkopolskie in Poland.
    The city shares some different scents. In the Old Town district the most reminiscent scent is a smell of wood and samp soil – people here usually still have wooden windows and some small plantations behind their houses. The city center usually is scentless, but in spring many open-air pubs and cafeterias open in the market square, so while passing you get to smell a lot of coffee and delicious desserts. The part of town where I live is close to the forest, where I go cycling often. The forest has a smell of old leaves, damp moss and pine needles. It’s great to have such a different aromas around the city and surroundings July 7, 2012 at 10:42am Reply

    • Victoria: Lucas, the scent of wood, especially damp wood after the rain, must be so good! It makes me wildly nostalgic for my grandmother’s house, which is made out of wood and brick. The wood is now very old and it has this particular scent. Your town sounds wonderful. July 8, 2012 at 6:56pm Reply

  • Andy: It’s funny—I thought I had commented on the earlier post—but it turns out I had enjoyed reading all of the comments so much that I had been satisfied! So I’ll comment now. Like another commenter in the previous post, I too live in southern New Jersey, but the more suburban setting of my town smells less idyllic. Right now, the predominant underlying scent everywhere is the sweet smell of freshly mown (dry!) grass—sweet and coumarin-like. The farmer’s markets smell vegetal and sweet, reflecting our local bounty of sweet corn, tomatoes, peaches, and blueberries. Hot, freshly laid asphalt adds an inky-dark odor, mingling with the exhaust fumes of cars. July 7, 2012 at 10:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Andy, isn’t the scent of dry grass or hay so wonderful? Luca Turin described it as a scent of sunshine in one of his pieces, and I cannot agree more–a happy, uplifting scent. July 8, 2012 at 6:57pm Reply

      • Andy: It IS wonderful! And I love that description of it as the scent of sunshine, as it seems that hot, sunny weather intensifies the aroma dramatically. July 8, 2012 at 7:18pm Reply

  • Roberta Vommaro: I am originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, though now I live in Vancouver. One of the first things I notice when I go to Rio and get out of the airplane is the smell. The first smell is really not pleasant: as soon as one arrives one has to cross a bridge over the ocean and the smell is not pleasant at all. There is a strong saline smell mixed with dead fish and seaweed (yes, I know, kind of gross). I used to joke around as a kid saying that the city should put some perfume along the bridge so the smell wouldn’t “scare the tourists away”. Once you drive further away from the airport things get better. Rio has a smell of sun and beach that is hard to describe; it is fresh and “sweet & sour”, a mix of salt, sweat, sunscreen and the smell of clean clothes under the sun. There is a fruity smell all over the city: not necessarily fresh fruit, but the smell of fruit under the sun… a little sour. Frangipani flower is one of the main smells in the neighborhood I grew up – I remember picking up the flowers that had fallen from the bushes to smell when I was a very little kid. Some parts of the city smell like tropical forest (you don’t actually have to drive all the way into the woods… there are “small forests” everywhere). No forest that I have been to in North America smells quite like this. The smell is dense, lush, fresh, earthy, dark, profound. Needless to say: I miss my city. July 7, 2012 at 11:50am Reply

    • Victoria: Roberta, thank you very much. I haven’t been to Rio, but reading your description I feel as if I were there. Even those unpleasant smells after a while become so integral to how we remember our hometowns.

      Do you go back often for a visit? July 8, 2012 at 6:59pm Reply

      • Roberta: Hi Victoria,
        Yes. It’s true, the unpleasant smells are also part of the experience.
        I try to go to Rio once a year, but it’s not always possible.I’ll be back there in August for a visit (it will be winter, my favorite season there). I’ll let you know if there are any smells that I forgot to mention. 🙂 July 9, 2012 at 10:18am Reply

        • Victoria: Roberta, please do! I don’t think that I can make it to Rio anytime soon, but I will enjoy it vicariously through your stories. 🙂 July 9, 2012 at 3:37pm Reply

  • (Deborah) Annie Oney: Cape Cod . . . summers here are all about the sun baking pine needles on sand, with the sweet overlay of wild bay and sweet fern to carry one off to the remembrance of wild and free summers as a child. Then the on-shore winds that sift salt into the mix. Sailing in the bays when a fog rolls in mutes everything, like a soft dry down of the day. July 7, 2012 at 11:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Deborah, I visited Cape Cod a couple of years ago, and how I loved the scents! And the houses with their grey wooden paneling. I had such a wonderful time there with my family. July 8, 2012 at 7:00pm Reply

  • Jillie: I was once a Londoner – I’m sure I don’t need to describe the smells of that great city – and now I live in beautiful countryside near Reading (a town that has just been passed over for city-zenship!). Again, I won’t describe Reading, as it is like all other sprawling entities, air full of grease from frying burgers, fumes from cars, spices from the curry houses, coffee from all the cafes and vapour from planes flying over to Heathrow, which isn’t so very far away.

    Here, though, we live on the top of a wooded hill and the trees breathe sweetly. The ground is soft with all the heavy rain, and I can smell damp earth, mushrooms and a very slight undertone of decay. But the best at the moment is the perfume from the honeysuckle scarmbling over the arbour, better than even my favourite bottled fragrances.

    It’s strange, though, that I sometimes still hanker after the odours of my city life – the wet pavements, faint cigarette smoke, car brake fluid and all sorts of cooking….. people living life! In that respect, maybe all cities are the same. July 7, 2012 at 11:56am Reply

    • Victoria: “People living life….” Jillie, you put it so well! I had a chance of living in a small town where everything was just perfectly groomed and yet somehow a bit sterile, and I missed the messy vibrancy of the city. In the city though, I crave some peace and quiet. I guess, one has to compromise. 🙂 I’m still inching a bit more towards the city. July 8, 2012 at 7:02pm Reply

  • Nikki: I lived in Alexandria, Egypt. The scents there are quite interesting, they reflect the history of the city:

    streets smell of gasoline and dust and garbage,
    the promenade on the ocean has fresh winds coming from the Mediterranean where the sunken lighthouse of Pharos was standing. The Necropolis of old Roman tombs smells of charcoal and smoke as the employees perfume the air against mosquitos. The city center smells of the remains of the French influence in sweet vanilla and almond and buttery scents of the last patisseries standing…The tight market streets smell of leather and darkness. The cars smell of fresh jasmine hanging from the mirrors…scents of fish fried with onions reminds me of Cafavy, the Greek poet who lived under the Ottoman rule in Alex. July 7, 2012 at 1:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Nikki, you had some incredible experiences! And now you’ve made Alexandria come alive before my eyes with these descriptions. Have you read Claudia Rodden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food? It’s a cookbook, but it has some lovely passages about Egypt of Rodden’s youth. July 8, 2012 at 7:05pm Reply

      • Nikki: I have the book by Mme Roussant about her lost Egypt with recipes. It is about the Jewish diaspora after King Farouk was disposed. Her recipes and stories of life in Egypt in the forties are quite mesmerizing. They lived in Heliopolis in Cairo in a beautiful villa which is now in ruins. I often feel that Egypt was beautiful when influenced by Europeans in Alexandria and Cairo, the buildings and remaining patisseries show the high level of culture at some point. Now it is in ruins with garbage everywhere…I will look for Claudia Rodden’s book. thank you. July 9, 2012 at 10:24am Reply

        • Victoria: I have that book too and I love it! She writes so deliciously and seductively. I also have her book about Paris, and to this day I make my tomato salad with shallots and tarragon the way she described. So good! July 9, 2012 at 3:38pm Reply

  • EauDeMode: O, Kyiv, my favorit city 🙂 July 7, 2012 at 3:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: There is always a special place in my heart for Kiev! July 8, 2012 at 7:05pm Reply

  • Holly Dugan: Alexandria, VA (USA) is in the midst of a heat wave. Bug spray, honeysuckles, basil, and blazing hot cement. July 7, 2012 at 3:31pm Reply

    • Victoria: Stay cool, Holly! The reports of the heat waves across the US make this summer seem particularly brutal. July 8, 2012 at 7:07pm Reply

  • Maria: I think the shrub is Korean spice viburnum.

    Blossoms in late April and May. Luscious gorgeous scent. July 7, 2012 at 8:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Maria, I realized that Korean spice viburnum is another shrub I couldn’t identify. Thank you! July 8, 2012 at 7:07pm Reply

  • rosarita: Your blog has been on fire with wonderful posts from you and Suzanna both, V! Thanks for all the hard work!

    I live in a small rural community in the US midwest. The rural part overtakes the whole town sometimes, when manure is spread over outlying farm fields and the wind is right. There are four distinct seasons and corresponding smells to go with them. I will choose autumn, my favorite time of year. My town is also known as “the Maple City” because of the thousands of maple trees everywhere. They turn the most gorgeous, spectacular fireworks of colors in October, and the smell of the dry leaves is especially poignant. It’s a dry and tangy scent that mingles beautifully with the apple & pear harvest, chrysanthemums, late marigolds and dry grasses and weeds. Scuffling along the streets in my neighborhood, kicking at the leaf piles carefully raked to the curb, brings back the nostalgia of childhood, exuberance of living in the crisp air, and a soft inevitability of the coming winter. July 7, 2012 at 9:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much! So happy to hear that you’re enjoying the latest posts. We’re definitely having fun writing them. 🙂

      Autumn is my favorite time of the year too, so your description of autumnal scents made me very nostalgic. Wishing I could find those scents you are describing in a bottle. July 8, 2012 at 7:13pm Reply

  • Janine: Big Island Hawaii – at elevation, the ocean 10 miles down slope. The smells of this day: a thick, earthy sweetness that feels like cashmere wrapping around me, running through me when I breath. Predominate is a melange of grass, abundant in the nearby fields with a thread of minty eucalyptus oil from acres of forest upwind. This is mingling with the neighborhood bloom of gardenia, jasmine, magnolia trees, syringa hedges (these smell similar to sweetpea flower), cypress trees, banana plants, avacado and citrus. Below these trees are the fruits that have fallen and now rotting on the ground, and deep in the forested lot nearby comes a strong odor of … wild pigs (oh no!), providing an unexpected animalic sweetness that actually merges well with all the floral greeness. Always in the background is the heaviness of composted leaves turning to soil – a result of months of winds, rain, and of course, sun heat. Too, the vapors of wet asphalt reach upward, and this provides contrast with the under canvas of wind-driven drizzle smelling keenly of vast sky. This is not a scent I have smelled anywhere else in the world. It is coming downward from the sky around this speck of land, centered in the vastness of the ocean. It is purer and cleaner than anything I know. But it has a distinct identity and scent too. Yet I can not begin to imagine how a gifted perfumer would interpret this, but successfully providing the earthbound layered notes would assuredly turn heads! July 8, 2012 at 1:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Wish that someone could capture this scent, Janine! The way you describe it, it sounds so lush and vivid. The scent in the warm climates is always stronger, very unique. July 9, 2012 at 3:40pm Reply

  • Kaori: Tokyo: We have had so much rain this year. You can spot hydrangeas from place to place and waterl lilies on a pond. You smell earthy and greenish rain!

    In less than two weeks, the rainy season will be over and summer starts.

    Kaori July 8, 2012 at 1:39am Reply

    • Janine: Kaori, your sentence – “You smell earthy and greenish rain!” – paints the most incredible smell picture. Wonderful! July 8, 2012 at 5:14pm Reply

      • Kaori: Janine,
        Thank you for your comments. It isn’t so muggy this year, so rain is ok with me. Hawaii is a wonderful place to live! My cousins visit there every year:) July 8, 2012 at 9:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: I agree with Janine! You paint such a wonderful picture. Earthy and greenish rain… what it smell like vetiver, I wonder? July 9, 2012 at 3:41pm Reply

      • Kaori: Hopefully :), Lalique Encre Noire, which becomes my summer staple. Sycomore would be too dark for this season… July 9, 2012 at 10:52pm Reply

  • Judith: I’m originally from Jakarta – Indonesia, grew up in Perth – Western Australia, spent my twenties in Brussels – Belgium, and now living in Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia.
    The smell that I associate with Jakarta (or Indonesia in general ) is that of clove cigarette that we called “Kretek”. The clove smell is unmistakably pungent and spicy, made more prominent by the semi-treated tobacco that supports it. It’s a love it or hate it odour. I LOVE it. It never fails to remind me of my late Grandpa. Whenever I smell this odour I can see his tall and skinny frame stooping over an opened book or newspaper, with a burning cigarette and a cup of hot black coffee in near vicinity. Aahhh…childhood revisited. July 8, 2012 at 6:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Your comment made me smile, Judith, because I know exactly the smell of clove cigarettes you are describing. The only time I tried smoking was those cigarettes, until an older and wiser friend grabbed them from me and said that I’m not to get into the smoking habit. I’m still thankful to her. But those cigarettes smelled so good! July 9, 2012 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Natalie: I love this idea, Victoria! I can’t wait to see the map!

    San Francisco: damp leaves, sea salt, jasmine, magnolia, woods, wet concrete

    Denver: dry grass, aloe vera, a hint of agricultural fertilizer July 8, 2012 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Natalie! Your description of SF really reminded me of my visit. Sea salt and jasmine…. July 9, 2012 at 3:46pm Reply

  • moi: Albuquerque, New Mexico, smells like:

    Lilac, Spanish broom, bearded iris, sage, pine and juniper, dust, fireplace smoke, road tar, ozone, and roasting green chiles. July 8, 2012 at 12:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds very good! Can I come and visit you? 🙂 July 9, 2012 at 4:25pm Reply

  • sib: Castellón – Valencia, Spain, didn’t smell quite well today: humid, hot salty breeze over dusty ashen pines.
    But in may, a morning in any of its parks, smells like Diorella…no joking! July 8, 2012 at 4:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sib, May that smells of Diorella–sounds like a paradise. 🙂 July 9, 2012 at 4:26pm Reply

  • Sofia: Ah…Stockholm in summer…Asphalt and new-mown grass. Always with a tinge of something lush and watery and strangely spiced with edgy honey. July 8, 2012 at 5:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: That scent of asphalt and grass is such a quintessential summer in the city aroma for me. I wish I could bottle it. July 9, 2012 at 4:27pm Reply

  • Austenfan: It does not really smell where I live. At least not around my house. In the woods it smells mostly of wet earth and rotting wood. Great actually. Near the Oosterschelde it smells of seaweed and salt water.
    I spent a year in the South of France. Provence smells of the Garrigue and Maquis, which is wonderful. Watching the Pagnol films I can almost smell them.
    Another scent-place association I have is with Phoenix,Arizona. In the evenings you can smell the bitter orange trees in bloom. A truly wonderful and haunting smell. July 8, 2012 at 6:13pm Reply

    • Nikki: Phoenix in spring is/was amazing with so many orange trees lining the streets! Camelback road was one big orange grove, alas, a lot have been cut down in last years. March was especially fragrant! The other scent in the desert is of creosote bushes releasing their oil after the rains in summer, that scent is great! July 9, 2012 at 10:28am Reply

      • Austenfan: I only spent 6 months there. Autumn, winter and early spring. I do remember the smell really well, not surprising as I lived quite close to Camelback road. What a pity they cut so many down. To me it really was one of the nicer things about Phoenix. July 9, 2012 at 11:55am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, which Pagnol films do you like? July 9, 2012 at 4:28pm Reply

      • Austenfan: The ones I was thinking are not the ones he directed himself, but films based on his novels. I am very fond of La Gloire de mon Père and Le Château de ma Mère, and also really like Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. I just love to hear the southern French accent in them.
        (When I returned to Holland in 1987 my French had a very strong Provençal accent.) July 10, 2012 at 11:02am Reply

        • Victoria: Gotcha! I love Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources, but I haven’t seen the others you mention. The Provencal accent has so much warmth, and I enjoy hearing it.

          On a related note, I just discovered that my Netflix subscription doesn’t work in Europe, so I’m exploring other ways to watch movies. July 10, 2012 at 11:32am Reply

        • Austenfan: I hate typing mistakes.
          I meant ” the ones I was thinking of… ‘

          And I should have said: “I had a strong Provençal accent speaking French.. ” July 10, 2012 at 3:56pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Not unlike most major cities NYC is no exception to the profusion of scents and offensive pollutants that assault our senses daily. The cultural diversity offers up so many food odors depending on the neighborhood one walks down: curry, yeast, garlic, onions, coffee (the ubiquitous Starbuck’s). Noxious fumes from cars & public transportation, horse manure droppings, body heat, sulphur, rotting garbage awaiting p/u. Conversely, flanked by two rivers, the Hudson and the East River can arouse the senses to another level — calm. That and the Union Square Farmer’s Market,in particular, sporting its fresh greens glistening in the baking sun. But the best scent is when exiting/entering the subway one falls upon the beautiful lavender display that permeates and draws one in lovingly propagated & owned at the hand of Serge (Greenport, NY) a French-American that offers up a bit of Provence in NY. July 9, 2012 at 10:38am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re making me so homesick, Nancy! I miss the Union Square market and the lavender stand. July 9, 2012 at 3:43pm Reply

  • mysterious scent: What my childhood town smelt to me? I love this topic!
    In Winter, it smelt damp earth, hot chilly pepper and turnip stew.
    In Spring, it was orange blossom and roses.
    In late Spring and Summer, it was gardenia, tuberose and champaca!
    In Autumn, it was ginger flower and mandarin.
    Guess which part of earth I came from?
    I am so home sick! July 9, 2012 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Someplace in Asia? India? July 9, 2012 at 3:42pm Reply

    • Lynn Morgan: Bali? July 9, 2012 at 6:04pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: On one of my cranky days, Los Angeles smells to me like the exhaust fumes of cars I covert but cannot afford, (Aston Martin, Z-4,convertible Porsche) someone else’s money, silicone, desperation and shattered hopes and dreams. When I am in a good mood, Los Angeles smells like orange blossoms, jasmine,an ocean breeze, sun warmed skin, the faint, distant whisper of desert and sage brush, and my persistant, on-going fantasy about the back of Matthew MacConnahey’s neck. And points due South. Hoever, thanks to Le Labo, Los Angeles does have a fragrance portrait: Musc 25. Inspired by an Oscar night party I was not invited to, it smells of soft, white flowers, transparent white musk, and spilled semen. I kid you not. It is the essence of innocence defiled, and it says a lot about the town I love and adore, even though it has beat my ass and left me for dead more times than I can count at this point. The City of Fallen Angels. July 9, 2012 at 6:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Love this image, or rather i should say, images! LA is a city I visited only once, but I remember its many contrasts. July 10, 2012 at 3:01pm Reply

  • Wesley Parker: Ah! What a lovely project. I am now living in Shreveport, Louisiana – which is my hometown. But I spent 15 years in San Francisco (until last summer, when I moved back to Louisiana) and how different they smell!

    In summer, Louisiana is SO HOT and SO HUMID. The humidity is like a great wet dog that jumps on you, and it makes everything smell so differently than in San Francisco – where the air is much more transparent and light. Anyhow…as to how things smell…

    In Louisiana – right now, in July – often it smells of hot asphalt and road tar, and also everywhere the smell of cut grass, wet and damp – a bit rotten or even fermenting in the hot, hot sun (yuck). Vegetal decay.

    But! On the plus side: it also is becoming thunderstorm season – so the air is often full of ozone after a rain! And then you get this wonderful smell of ozone + mineral cement + wet, woody-earthy pine straw (reminiscent of vetiver?) – which is actually so good! It’s a little like Chanel Sycomore 🙂 But with more wet, more mineral.

    Just a month or so ago, all the white flowers were blooming – and the air was positively dense with magnolia, gardenia and sometimes jasmine – especially at dusk. The scent would get caught in the heavy, humid air and just seemed to HANG THERE all around you. It was really quite lovely, but gone now.

    San Francisco smells nothing like this – it is so much more transparent – shot through with a cool, gray light. And the city smells totally different depending on which part of it you are in. Out by Ocean Beach – YES, all sea salt air and jasmine and a bit of vegetal green. Always, always with a cool tone. This reminds me of “Ael-Mat” by Lostmarch, very much.

    All the neighborhoods are so different: In Chinatown, and also on Clement Street – you get the wonderful kaleidoscope of smells from the Chinese community. The briney, fishy smell as you walk past the fishmongers, a blast of dusty Asian spices as you walk past the apothecary shops with their dried wolf berries and squid and all other sorts of beige-ish dried things. Super sweet melon fruit scents as you walk past a shop that sells bubble tea, and if on Clement Street – the smell of pastry as you walk past Genki, a crepe shop, and then Old Books as you walk past Green Apple books. I miss it!

    And yes, always, always the smell of cement and car exhaust – especially if a large gas-powered bus drives by. Positively choking.

    I lived near Buena Vista park – and would go on walks there in the morning. It was beautiful, and you could smell the deep woodsy mossy green of it – punctuated by the crisp evergreen of the large conifers – and also sweet flowers when they were blooming. During the wet season it smelled wet, and during the dry – dry. And of course it would occasionally be punctuated by the poweful, startling, animalic smell of a homeless person since they did live up there in camps (no offense intended, but it is a true smell of the park).

    And I probably don’t need to describe to you what Neiman’s and Saks smell like 🙂

    I miss San Francisco! Sorry this is so long – I could go on and on. July 9, 2012 at 10:54pm Reply

    • Victoria: Gosh, please don’t apologise for such a moving and heartfelt piece about your favorite city. I really felt transported there. Made me wish I could visit again. July 10, 2012 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Fabrice: Hello Victoria
    The shrub on your picture is a Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) and this is their full bloom period in Paris as well. A beautifull smell indeed, quite animalic from close, but sweet and delicate in a distance, filling the air around. This smell is now mixing with the linden blossoms. Both smells are giving a powdered sweet and nostalgic felling to the city, especially with the chilly temperatures and pouring showers we are experimenting after 40 days of everyday rains. This is for the best part. The worst when no blooms are around is the smell of an empty dirty home aquarium during clean up.
    “Rain, go away, go away”…
    In the comments of the post I red about a heat wave in the US and I saw on TV the tar melting on Chicago’s streets. That must be quite a brutal smell compared to our aquarium linden blossoms, but WE WANT SUN AND HEAT TOO ! July 10, 2012 at 3:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Fabrice. I will always associate this summer with the scent of linden and privet. And I agree with you, as much as I hate the heat, the lack of sunshine has been seriously getting me down. Well, at least on Saturday we had a proper summer day. July 10, 2012 at 3:06pm Reply

  • Sofia: Hi Victoria! I hope I’m not too late for your map! 🙂 I’ve been very lucky to have lived in loads of countries (8) and visited tons of places more so I would love to have my share included. I had commented on or previous Bottling the Scents of Your City, and I had said that in Seville it smells of oranges and jasmine (and horse poo), Borneo has a beautiful green tropical rainforresty smell, and Barcelona smells of tapas and pan amb tomaquet 🙂 Apart from that I would love to add a few more points were I find the smells rather distinguishing (and do excuse me if I relate to food again!). I went to Cologne in Germany and I found it rather funny that in front perfume shops it smelt enormously of, well, colognes!!! However, when not in front of perfume shops it smelt of smoked sausage everywhere else!! Where my parents live in Cadiz (South of Spain) it smells of the sea and fried seafood. The countryside of Valencia smells of lemons. Cambridge (UK) smells of wet grass and dry books. Lille (North of France) smells of rain and delicious bakery shops. Perth (Australia) smells to me of “sunshine”(if that is a possible). Precisely in the road behind my office in Barcelona (called Carrer de Avila) it often smells of roasting coffee because there is a coffee factory! My office (in Carrer Ciutad de Granada) smells of toothpaste (mostly mint) because thats what I work with! In front of where I live, it smells of green, mud and musk, because I live next to a park and the zoo! I hope this helps you!! X July 10, 2012 at 5:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: Wow! Thank you, Sofia. So many scented memories and vivid descriptions. I associate Barcelona with grilled bread (from pan amb tomaquet!) and roasted hazelnuts for some reason. I fell in love with Barcelona after a single bite of pan amb tomaquet and a sip of café con leche. 🙂 July 10, 2012 at 6:16pm Reply

      • Sofia: If you remember the smell of roasted hazelnuts, i would imagine you came here somewhere in the period of beginnings of Autumn and Christmas, which is when they typically roast hazelnuts in the streets. That does smell nice 🙂 July 10, 2012 at 6:31pm Reply

        • Victoria: You know, it was in the summer, but I kept walking by a small roaster shop and the scent was filling the alleyways around it. I ended up buying a big bag of hazelnuts. Hmmm, I just realized that I finally finished them this morning! 🙂 July 10, 2012 at 7:28pm Reply

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