Perfume Shopping In Paris : Part II

Please see Part I.

From rue de Rivoli, we turn onto rue Castiglione and find ourselves in front of Jean Patou boutique. The store is unexpectedly outfitted in tongue-in-cheek mod décor, which gives it a very lighthearted feel. Although the selection is only of the most popular Jean Patou fragrances—thus, my hopes of finding a bottle of Moment Suprême are dashed, Neela and I enjoy smelling the absolutes that comprise Joy and 1000. I am glued to a bottle of jasmin de Grasse, and Neela starts to look worried that I might do something impetuous. Unwillingly I separate from it and instead settle on a bottle of Joy EDT, a mist of jasmin de Grasse and rose de mai on a naughty civet base.

jean patou bar

We walk down rue du Faubourg-St. Honoré past elegant boutique windows and sparkle of lights inside. We make brief stops at Longchamps, Lanvin, and Hermès boutiques. Although the tour has already taken up a couple of hours, Neela makes it feel not so much a shopping spree experience as an intimate process of discovery. For this reason, she insists on charting her tours on an individual basis, for either one individual or a small group of friends. During our walk, Neela mentions other interesting perfume places I can visit when I have more time, like Miller et Bertaux store and Parfumerie Générale with its “cosmetics bar” among others.

Walking into Caron boutique makes me feel as if I stepped into a jewelbox, with its glittering décor of mirrors and gilded ornamentations. The extrait de parfum of most fragrances are contained in sumptuous Louis XV-style Baccarat crystal urns, which is why some Caron fragrances are called urn perfumes. The fragrances come in a variety of sizes, with a number of refillable options. The large boutique on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, across from Jacques Chirac’s residence, is a joy to behold, since it feels like a private boudoir filled with an assortment of colorful trinkets, charming perfume bottles and bowls containing weightless down puffs in delicious shades.

The charming sales associate dressed in a rather theatrical outfit sprays my neck with Tabac Blond, and I am almost tempted to buy it on the stop, but Neela suggests to wear it a while longer and possibly return tomorrow, which is certainly a good idea with any perfume and even more so with classical compositions. Selecting the right fragrance is a very introspective process, during which one should forget about marketing, fashion trends and outside opinions. If a scent touches something inside one’s heart, if it makes a wave of pleasure swell up, then it is the one. Some times perfume is a love at the first encounter, and others it is a courtship slowly developing into a lifelong attachment.

The final stop is for tea at Ladurée, a location of my favorite macaroons in Paris. Champs-Elysées with its magnificent broad sidewalks radiates west to the Arc de Triomphe. It is indeed busy and touristy, with people either walking rapidly on their way to work, or strolling leisurely absorbing the rhythm of the place as people are wont to do when they are on vacation. I have spent too much time in London and New York to be able just to stroll, but I try to slow down as Neela and I walk towards Ladurée. As we chat over our Darjeeling tea and rose cream macaroons, I remark to Neela that even though I have already spent a significant amount of time in Paris, I nevertheless managed to discover some special aspects of its perfume treasures with her help. I feel drunk on perfume and on Paris, and I cannot help agreeing with Hemingway, who said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” I would just note that revisiting Paris always heightens its appeal.

Photo: Jean Patou boutique, rue Castiglione.



  • Anjali: How lovely! A Movable Feast is one of my very favorite books, and I adore Paris…you really brought all my memories of it back to life for me, just as Hemingway’s book always does.

    You make N’s tours sound so heavenly, I am quite jealous of you! The last time I was in Paris, I was dying to meet Neela and take one of them, but was not able to get in touch with her in time and ended up wandering around the city myself…however, I’m so inept at directions and addresses that I walked past the Frederic Malle boutique no less than nine times! So you see, I definitely *needed* her to guide me 🙂 Next time I will not take any chances and make sure I am organized enough to book her months in advance! Still, I had a lovely time flitting through those streets by myself, wandering from JAR to the Palais Royale to IUNX and who knows how many other places besides…what I would do to be able to do it all again… August 9, 2005 at 12:34am Reply

  • Katie: I do not know I could resist doing something impetuous were I sniffing the Grasse jasmine, heh. Thank you for sharing, it sounds like you guys had THE best time together. August 9, 2005 at 12:48am Reply

  • cora-lu: Ahhh, V, so well said: “Some times perfume is a love at the first encounter, and others it is a courtship slowly developing into a lifelong attachment.” And thank you for your delicious and fragrant stories of Paris. August 9, 2005 at 5:38am Reply

  • parislondres: It is ALWAYS a pleasure to see you dear V! I absolutely loved reading your beautifully descriptive account.

    xoxo August 9, 2005 at 3:07am Reply

  • Felicia: What a lovely tour. I can only revel in the temptation and the luxury to experience the tour without the pressure to buy. How extraordinary really – no hidden agenda. I lovely Neela’s objectivity and counsel. You could completely focus on what you wanted and your beloved city. My only grouse is that I now want a Macaroon and to be able to sit down with both you and Neela to enjoy it.

    felicia August 9, 2005 at 10:20am Reply

  • mreenymo: Your perfume paths tour with most dearest Neela sounds, as Mary Poppins would say, practically perfect in every way!

    I am so glad she unglued you from that bottle of jasmin de grasse, V. It would have ‘eaten up’ all of your macaroon money! :):)

    Hugs! August 9, 2005 at 11:17am Reply

  • julien: Well,i am a young man(only 24 years old)and i live in PARIS…so what can i do?
    Lovely descriptions,and i know the places you wrote about…
    It is true,PARIS is a wonderful city for those who take time to learn very corner of its complexity and diferent faces.

    Thank you Dear.

    I hope i could see you in real one time on a travel to PARIS…

    “Tous les lilas,tous les lilas de MAI,n’en finiront,n’en finiront jamais….”


    J. August 9, 2005 at 11:34am Reply

  • Victoria O: As if it were not enough to temp us with perfumeries
    you had to bring up the macaroons?

    Thank you again for such a lovely virtual tour.
    :O) August 9, 2005 at 11:49am Reply

  • julien: Well,why not?
    I am not a montale addict but if it can allow me to have the privilege to see you,i would.
    Try in september the Amber of MONTALE,must be ready at the time.
    It is so amazing and beautiful and…sorry for the word,but sexual!

    So,see you,beautiful friend of MINE…

    “The summer knows…”

    J. August 9, 2005 at 11:49am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear A, I walked past Montale boutique a few times, and I never even thought of stepping in. When Neela told me about it, I could not believe that I missed it on all of these trips to Paris. She is lovely tour guide in that she knows Paris better than I know my flat. We always discover something new on these perfume outings.

    Dear K, yes, it was difficult to put it down. Another favourite was osmanthus. I decided to revisit 1000 just to smell that one again, however it is pretty well blended.

    Dear N, you are very kind. I am counting days to my next visit!

    Dear C, thank you. I love the moment when I smell something and then I am taken up the current of memories. Or particular imagery that is not something I have experienced, but that I envision I have. It is exactly what makes scents so fascinating.

    xoxo August 9, 2005 at 9:39am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear F, I bought a couple of things on that particular tour, however every single time I tried to hand over my credit card, Neela was suggesting that I wait till at least the next day, because fragrances take a while to develop. She was very sweet, very objective and very honest if something just was not right. I loved it!

    I also want to sit down with a macaroon with you, Neela and other dear friends. xoxo August 9, 2005 at 10:37am Reply

  • Campaspe: Oh, to have a chocolate macaroon at Laduree right now. With you. And Neela. *sigh* August 9, 2005 at 11:24am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear R, it was! She is such a sweetheart. You made me laugh out loud–it certainly would not have been a good idea to covet that bottle, nomatter how lovely the scent was. 🙂

    Hugs to you! August 9, 2005 at 11:30am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear F, I would love so much for that to happen! You can only imagine…
    xoxo August 9, 2005 at 11:31am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, I love Michel Legrand and his La Valse Des Lilas! It is easy to romanticize Paris, but in reality, it has very much to offer. I always discover something new, nomatter how often I visit.
    Perhaps, next time I will run into you at Montale in Paris. 🙂
    xoxo August 9, 2005 at 11:45am Reply

  • Victoria: Dear V, it is my pleasure! 🙂 I love those macaroons, especially rose cream, chestnut, caramel and raspberry. Now, I made myself hungry thinking about it.

    Dear J, certainly! Next time, that shall be the plan. 🙂

    xoxo August 9, 2005 at 11:56am Reply

  • Tara: Neela’s tours are indeed wonderful! We took one together last year. Thank you for posting such a detailed account of your day, I have taken copious notes so I can visit the same places when I am there next month. And thanks to Julien for mentioning the new Montale Amber. 🙂 August 10, 2005 at 3:30pm Reply

  • Liz smellslikeleaves: Part II did not disappoint! I haven’t tried those Laduree macaroons, but I’ll make sure to do so the next time I’m in Paris. Oh, and I’ve never read Hemingway, but now I’m desperate to read “A Moveable Feast.” After “The Master and Margarita” of course.

    Michel Legrand? Hmm, perhaps a distant relative of mine? (My father’s ancestors were French, and named Legrand. Unfortunately, they moved to England and anglicized the name, which is currently much less elegant.) August 10, 2005 at 6:41pm Reply

  • Kate123: Oh I am so jealous you met Neela I am green! I love that Neela. August 10, 2005 at 2:56pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dear Kate, she is such a warm person, and if her warmth comes through her posts, then you can only imagine how wonderful it is to meet Neela in person.

    Dear Tara, I am glad to see another veteran of Neela’s tours. I would love to hear about your explorations of Paris after you return. Please post about them! August 10, 2005 at 3:36pm Reply

  • Diane: Macaroons… rose cream… perfume… in Paris… now… sigh… *wistful and hungry* I covet a jet. I’ll pick you all up and swoop up to Canada, too, of course. We’re coming, Neela! August 11, 2005 at 12:13am Reply

  • Victoria: I am glad to hear that! I would love to hear your thoughts on “A Moveable Feast,” because it is such an excellent novel. I think that you would enjoy it very much, especially if you like Paris.

    How interesting! I always wanted to find out more about my family in Ukraine, but all of the documents were destroyed after the revolution of 1917. I just know that one of my great grandfathers was Nicolas II’s officer in Tzar’s private guard. I wish I knew more. August 10, 2005 at 9:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, that is such a great idea! I am also getting hungry thinking of those macaroons, however P and I made an obscene amount of cookies today, therefore I am off to get one. I will eat another one in your honour! 🙂 August 11, 2005 at 12:15am Reply

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