A Love Letter to Belgian Rain

I like Belgian rain. It sounds like a strange admission, but there you have it. Partly, it’s because I don’t like summer and heat. Another reason is that rain is an inescapable fact of life here, and my choices to deal with it are either to follow the lead of the Belgian Santa Klaus and move to Spain or to complain nonstop. The former  is infeasible, and the latter is tiresome. Instead, I begin to think of rain as something with beauty of its own.

rain

And beautiful it can be. The fine mist that often marks the beginning of Belgian winter has a pearly glow, transforming the familiar red rooftops of the city into an Impressionist etude of soft brushstrokes. It’s the kind of rain that fools you into thinking that you will be fine without an umbrella, but it drenches you in a matter of seconds. When you’re at home, with a cup of tea and a good book, this rain is romantic and serene. Turn off the email notifications, add a drop of an iris perfume like Chanel No 19 or Annick Goutal Heure Exquise–rooty, cool iris smells of rain, so it’s an ideal companion–and imagine that the world has just stood still, apart from the changing patterns of raindrops on the window.

Rain also varies the way life in Brussels runs its course. It’s one of the paradoxes of the northern countries that outdoor seating is available here all year round, and it’s not uncommon to see groups sharing their moules-frites while completely bundled up. The moment the sky clears, people crowd the outdoor terraces. Carpe diem, as long as it doesn’t rain.

On the other hand, the less hardy sort retreats indoors, and there are numerous restaurants, bars and bistros around the city. Half of them have some sort of Michelin distinction, and apart from the establishments near the Grand Place, which have perfected a peculiar combination of seedy and tacky, the other half is atmospheric in a darkened wood and worn leatherette sofa aesthetic.

galeries-sth

One of my favorite places to visit on a rainy day is the Galeries Royales Saint Hubert. The Galeries are like a jewel in the midst of the haphazardly planned city center. Once inside the Italianate arcades with their narrow courtyards, exquisite cast iron framework and glazed storefronts, I’m in my own version of a fin de siècle fantasy, complete with Pierre Marcolini chocolates and a trail of Caron Narcisse Noir. Besides cafes, shops and restaurants, there is also a theater, Théâtre des Galeries Saint-Hubert. In one of the adjacent galleries, Tropismes, an excellent French language bookstore, makes its home.

Another way to escape from rain is to visit a museum or a gallery.  I would start at The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, the Magritte Museum, or BOZAR. The Museum of Cocoa and Chocolate is one of the most delicious. The Archives and Museum of Flemish Life in Brussels is one of the most specialized. The Musical Instrument Museum has a great café with attractive views of the city. Otherwise, there is the Cinematek. Brussels has a renowned cinema school, and its Cinematek offerings span all periods and genres–limited run art house productions, silent films, Hollywood classics, European new wave, documentaries and much more. It’s a perfect place to escape from drache, as the heavy rain in the Bruxellois dialect is known.

brussels-rain1

One more reason to love rain is that at some point it ends. The city looks freshly washed, the stone facades sparkle and everyone is ready to smile. It doesn’t matter that the rain might start again in twenty minutes. Life is perfect for now. I might as well take my cafe au lait outside, ignore the damp seat and notice that for a brief moment the city indeed smells like Guerlain’s Après l’Ondée-earthy iris roots, wet leaves, violet bonbons and mellow spice.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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117 Comments

  • Karen (A): Ohhh, beautifully written Victoria! And right now I’m craving some rain – well, maybe not with temperatures in the low 30’s, but rain does make visiting museums (Cocoa and Chocolate, sign me up for a tour please!) seem even more intimate and quiet.

    And love the perfume associations – one of the fascinating aspects of fragrance for me has been the huge impact weather plays on how a fragrance works or doesn’t work. December 7, 2015 at 7:37am Reply

    • Kathleen: I hated rain all my life and then I moved to a place where it doesn’t rain and ohh, how I love rain now. I never thought about perfume and rain, but you have a point there, some perfume work better in humidity. But for instance musk smells awful on me when it’s humid outside. December 7, 2015 at 9:05am Reply

      • Victoria: How interesting about musk. I need to pay more attention to it. December 7, 2015 at 2:44pm Reply

    • Victoria: The Chocolate Museum is a lot of fun, and it includes chocolate tasting! 🙂 I don’t like the center of Brussels or the area right around the Grand Place, but I still go there for little gems like that. December 7, 2015 at 2:35pm Reply

  • Marsha: Lovely article Victoria! I would love to spend a rainy day in a city shown in the photograph above. It doesn’t smell like iris roots, violet bonbons and mellow spice where I live! December 7, 2015 at 8:51am Reply

    • Victoria: Brussels doesn’t usually smell like that either; it’s like any other big city, apart from the fact that there are waffle carts on every corner, and you get a strong whiff of pastry and vanillin now and then. But when you catch the right moment, it can smell like a version of Apres L’Ondee. December 7, 2015 at 2:36pm Reply

      • AndreaR: Apres L’Ondee will have to wait. It’s raining buckets here in the Pacific Northwest. A couple of spritzes of Dzing ,along with a cozy sweater, soup and hot tea should do the trick.

        Lovely article. December 7, 2015 at 3:40pm Reply

        • Victoria: That sounds perfect too! Now, where is my bottle of Dzing? 🙂 December 8, 2015 at 10:56am Reply

        • Karen (A): Hopefully ups haven’t suffered any damage with the flooding going on in the north west, and are dry, cozy and wearing a comfy scent! December 10, 2015 at 6:11am Reply

  • Allison: Beautiful essay, Victoria! For me a perfume that smells like rain has to have something green and earthy like Miller Harris Bois de Terre — but I wear it rain or shine. December 7, 2015 at 8:53am Reply

    • Victoria: I can see why it would match so well! December 7, 2015 at 2:37pm Reply

  • Maya: It may be sacrilege but I love the rain. I also love winter in general- as long as it is not abusive and vindictive like the past two winters we’ve had in New York. I am sure that there is a cultural explanation to my rain affinity. Since I originally come from an arid part of the world, rain was always coveted and even serenaded with songs and prayers. At least a fifth of my childhood songs beckon the rain. When I came to the US as a child and heard kids sing “rain, rain go away, come again another day”, I was shocked…
    There is also an intellectual aspect to the rain and to winter. One is more inclined to slow down, read, contemplate and simply think when it is raining and cold outside. December 7, 2015 at 8:59am Reply

    • Victoria: I spent my summers in the country, and rain was essential for good crops, so while it meant that we, kids, had to stay indoors, afterwards there was a pleasure of running through the puddles. What fun it was!
      Some of my favorite scenes in the old Bollywood films are the rain scenes. Of course, they are an excuse to show a heroine in a wet, clinging sari, but they are also very romantic. December 7, 2015 at 2:43pm Reply

  • Gretchen: I agree with Maya – I love the rain, and winter, too. My favorite scents to wear in cold winter rain are either Ormonde Jayne Woman or Neela Vemeire’s Trayee…or Shalimar, which I can find an excuse to wear almost any time. They do invoke reading, and contemplation, as Maya states, and enhance the rain ennui. December 7, 2015 at 9:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I also agree with both of you. There is something introspective, by necessity, about rainy days, and I just try to make the best of it. December 7, 2015 at 2:45pm Reply

      • Marsha: Another good thing to do on rainy days is listen to Glen Gould play Bach on the piano. December 8, 2015 at 7:39am Reply

        • Victoria: We’re on the same wavelength. I was actually listening to my recording of Goldberg Variations yesterday. Always perfect.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ah392lnFHxM December 8, 2015 at 11:54am Reply

          • Marsha: Absolutely! December 9, 2015 at 7:33am Reply

            • girasole: This is exactly what I did on our last rainy day! Exactly. (how spooky!) December 10, 2015 at 1:33pm Reply

  • Scented Salon: Belgium is such a beautiful country, a jewel among the many other beautiful countries of Europe. Having been raised in a place where cold and rain is the norm most of the year, I know how dreary that can become. In summer, Belgium was chilly and rainy. It was awesome to cuddle up with some hot tea in a sweater but not so much fun for walking around. I could see liking it for a while but eventually it would wear on me.

    However, remember that others have it worse than you (and by you, I mean people in general). Much more heavy is the oppressive heat that is with us most of the year where I currently live. It is soul-sucking heat, with moist clouds of unbreathable air that makes you shower twice a day. No perfume can be enjoyed in such weather. It grates. Maybe a splash of something summery, like Terracotta or Bronze Goddess, is all one can stand.

    However, our winters are as pleasant as European summers. We get a bit of rain, some cool weather and sunshine.

    You are right to just enjoy the weather no matter what. After all, none of us can change it. In the worst heat of summer, I try to picture that I am in ancient Egypt and that air conditioning does not exist. I wear gold sandals and lotus perfume and try to allow the sun to wash over me and blind me without resisting. This trick temporarily allows me some respite. December 7, 2015 at 9:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Belgium is definitely one of the most underrated countries in Europe and it often gets a bad press unjustly. Brussels certainly has a vibrant cultural scene, and while some of the most interesting things lie under the surface, I enjoy searching and discovering on my own. There are many aspects of the city I like very much, and I feel at home here. Or maybe it just means I like my cities with a bit of grit. 🙂

      Your visualization technique is brilliant. 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 2:59pm Reply

    • Marsha: Your description of the heat where you live sounds like summertime where I live. The heat literally sucks your soul out of you. And we are not getting as many thunderstorms as we used to. I miss a big North Carolina thunderstorm in the summertime! You can smell the ozone. December 8, 2015 at 7:49am Reply

  • Therése: Beautifully written!

    Winter has been very rainy here in southern Sweden as well. That kind of weather has a certain gloomy romance to it. At the beginning of fall I wanted very chilly fragrances that reminded me of snow, but now I reach for my bottle of Lou Lou and my sample of Oriza L. Legrand Horizon, both very warm and comforting fragrances. December 7, 2015 at 9:49am Reply

    • Annikky: Sorry to be completely off-topic, but I love your Pinterest description 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 11:25am Reply

      • Therése: Thank you! I love Pinterest! I wish I could figure out a way to make a living off spending my days on Pinterest 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 1:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: You have an eye for interesting images and combinations. Your page is such a pleasure to browse. December 7, 2015 at 3:24pm Reply

          • Therése: Thank you so much! December 8, 2015 at 3:27am Reply

            • Karen (A): Just browsed through some of your Pinterest pages – and will join in the praise! Great photos – and I was wondering if perfume loving goes along with certain other things like loving pearls, vintage clothing (if not wearing original pieces, then enjoying the ads and the look), and interesting/well made textiles such as the chunky knit pieces you have. Seems like a lot of common likes!

              Also, have you heard of Scottesque? They made beautiful clothing from tartans, Kate Davies, a well-known knitter, knit pattern designer had her wedding kilt made by them. Their skirts are stunning! December 10, 2015 at 6:27am Reply

              • Therése: Thank you, Karen! I have also noticed the connection between perfume and vintage clothing and ads. I think if you have an interest in history and clothes, perfume will also intrigue you. I was at my office christmas party this week and the dress code was “unique”. I wore a 1920’s look and felt it wasn’t complete until i put on Shalimar 🙂

                Thank you for guiding me to Scottesque. Pretty! December 11, 2015 at 3:10am Reply

                • Karen (A): Very fun! And Shalimar was a perfect choice. December 11, 2015 at 5:22am Reply

    • Victoria: A gloomy romance is such a great observation, Therése, and since my favorite type of romance has a slightly dark cast, this is probably why I enjoy this kind of weather.

      I will wear Lou Lou tomorrow, since I imagine that this lush gardenia will be perfect on a gloomy day. December 7, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

  • Sylviane: Thank you Victoria for this exquisite love letter to my beloved hometown ! December 7, 2015 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Brussels is one of a kind. 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 3:04pm Reply

  • Sandra: I actually love snow..I am probably in the minority. I think its because living in the city you can just enjoy it-no worries about shoveling or salting your walkway. You can just grab some hot coco and look out the window..or go for a stroll in central park. NYC is the prettiest to me during the holidays
    My favorite winter fragrances are Shalimar, and Shalimar ode a la vanilla (not sure what version I have-but its very smokey), Vanilla Incensee and La fille de berlin.
    Thanks for your lovely thoughts.
    When I went to holland over the summer we landed in Brussels. We stopped off at a small cafe on our way to Breda an I had hot chocolate and a waffle. It was cool but we sat outside. I was in heaven. Enjoy your time there December 7, 2015 at 9:50am Reply

    • Victoria: The main downside to the snow here is that it’s not cleaned quickly enough, and Belgians don’t drive well in adverse conditions–this includes rain. But if I’m at home, I love watching the snow fall. My husband would part the curtains and we would sit on the flour and enjoy a glass of wine.

      A hot chocolate and a waffle outside, with the smell of rain in the air, is a classical Brussels experience. I’m very happy to hear that you had a great time. December 7, 2015 at 3:07pm Reply

  • Austenfan: Loved this, absolutely loved this.
    I grew up in this climate and it’s useless complaining of something that is inevitable. Plus once you are soaked by rain, you can’t get any wetter.
    And it makes my hair curl, so what’s not to like? December 7, 2015 at 10:04am Reply

    • Victoria: Exactly! In my case, it just make my hair look messier than it usually does, so one or two degrees more of messiness won’t change much anyway. 🙂

      And if there is no rain, it’s a ready made topic for a conversation with a stranger. “Nous avons un peu de soleil!” December 7, 2015 at 3:12pm Reply

      • Austenfan: A friend mentioned to me the other day, that she would love to see me once with tidy hair. It would have to be documented of course. I think the only time mine was tidy was when I didn’t have any, up until age 2 🙂

        And I agree on the suitableness of the weather as a topic for short conversations.
        Those few rays of sunshine; we like to treasure them. December 7, 2015 at 4:51pm Reply

        • Victoria: 🙂 Your hair isn’t messy. It’s just lush, abundant and with a character of its own. Seems perfect to me. December 8, 2015 at 11:05am Reply

  • Claire: I lived much of my life in almost endlessly sunny climate, where the pressure to be out of doors and active sometimes felt relentless. When I moved to a very rainy city, I felt a sense of relief! What an ideal place for an artist or writer: to be indoors, warm and dry, with tea, books, music, and the sound of rain on the windows and roof, safely observing the dramatic weather from inside. It invites thoughtful contemplation. Now I exercise in the rain year round in order to fight the urge to hibernate, but that has much more to do with the very short, very dark days this time of year. In this weather I’ve been wearing Amouge Memoir, Beloved, and Lyric (precious decants as I dream of choosing an FB one day, or splitting a travel trio). I am also wearing and loving Frau Tonis No. 39 Rose de France (I may have finally found the rose I’ve been dreaming of) and No. 37 Veilchen (violet, raspberry, licorice) said to be based upon Marlene Dietrich’s signature perfume. I have to tolerate the initial spritz of No. 37 for the incredible fragrance after it settles down, but I love No. 39 in all phases. Much as I love the rain, I’m grateful for scents that offer a welcome antidote to S.A.D. : ) December 7, 2015 at 10:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Your selection for the rainy days is so lovely that it makes me wish the rain would come tomorrow to allow me experiment! And Frau Tonis No. 39 Rose de France has just landed at the top of my to-sample list with such a great endorsement. December 7, 2015 at 3:14pm Reply

      • Claire: I would love to know what you think of Rose de France! The listed notes are: rose, eucalyptus, neroli; but it just smells just like a lush, very piquant rose to me. I think the eucalyptus lifts the scent, it does not stand out in any way. Also, this one has longevity.

        I received a scented ribbon sample of their Lily of the Valley, and it is on my next “to try” list. It also strikes me as a pure, but lush lily of the valley. Closest to what I remember the original Coty’s Muguet des Bois smelling like.

        I love that Frau Tonis offers 3 x 7.5 ml gift sets (generous enough to really try them over time) 8 ml filled travel atomizers, 15 and 30 and 100 ml bottles. It makes trying them affordable. Also international shipping is free with purchases of 65€ or more.

        i look forward to hearing what you think.

        I hope to visit Belgium the next time I am in Europe….you describe it beautifully. I had a great time in Germany this summer with my daughter. There was plenty of rain in June, and we had many memorable experiences in it!
        . December 8, 2015 at 3:03pm Reply

        • Victoria: Have you tried Yves Rocher’s Lily of the Valley? It’s surprisingly good, and I say surprisingly because it’s made according to the new regulations which limit most of the lotv materials.

          I need to see where Frau Tonis is sold around here. Many of their fragrances sound appealing.

          If you need any travel recommendations for Belgium, do let me know. December 9, 2015 at 10:22am Reply

  • spe: Ah, beautiful rain! I love water in all forms : mist, fog, rain – I grew up with (a lot of) it.

    Some of my favorite fragrances are aldehydic, so that may be my personal response to rainy conditions – they feel buoyant! December 7, 2015 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: So true. Aldehydes are like champagne bubbles, and that too is appropriate. 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 3:15pm Reply

  • Marilyn in Kentucky: In the high desert of ranch country in West Texas, where I live part of the time, we love the rain! Once when I was in a drugstore, someone said, “it’s raining!” And everyone rushed to the front door to look, and then to go outside and stand in it! It is a true rarity here, where the vegetation is sparse, and the cattle need to eat. December 7, 2015 at 10:45am Reply

    • Victoria: You appreciate rain so differently in a dry climate. In western India where my husband’s family is from, the color of happiness and life is green, not red as in some other regions. It’s because green means spring and rebirth. For this reason, a bride always wears green. December 7, 2015 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Madelyn E: Victoria , This essay on Belgian Rain is so well Written , it should be enough entered in some literary contest . Masterpiece And oh so inspirational . I shall never look at rain in quite the same way . I appreciate soft rain , too . I adore the sheer gray Mist it gives . Chanel 19 or Hermès Hiris comes to mind . You are such a brilliant writer and observer of life . December 7, 2015 at 10:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Madelyn, you’re very kind. This little essay doesn’t deserve such praise, but I’m very touched by your words. December 7, 2015 at 3:16pm Reply

  • Phyllis Iervello: Victoria, what a beautiful post and a great travel itinerary for traveling to the city of Brussels. Just reading your post makes me wish I could travel to Brussels. Thanks again for another wonderful post. December 7, 2015 at 11:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that you can visit someday. And yes, Brussels is even more interesting on a rainy day. There is much to discover indoors. December 7, 2015 at 3:17pm Reply

  • Annikky: A gorgeous piece of writing and I absolutely love the first picture, too. I prefer my days warm, if possible, but I do like rain, and I especially like thunder and storms. When I was little, me and my brother used to run around and around our house every time the rain got serious (mostly during the summer, of course, late autumn rain in Estonia is a different beast). December 7, 2015 at 11:23am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Annikky. My cousin and I used to do the same thing. There is nothing like jumping into wet ferns during a rainstorm. This spring I enjoyed walking outside and burying my face in wet lilac blossoms. That’s what heaven must be like–lilac and warm rain. December 7, 2015 at 3:19pm Reply

  • Nora Szekely: Lovely article. My favourite rainy day perfume is L’heure bleue. It fits the melancholic mood of dark clouds, wet soils, I love to seat on my sofa by the window wearing it all alone, reading or daydreaming, watching the trees dance in the wind while my cats get fascinated by the running raindrops on the glass. December 7, 2015 at 11:56am Reply

    • Sandra: So nice to see that people still let their mind wander and day dream. In this day in age I feel like most people are attached to their devices and don’t take quiet time to themselves. December 7, 2015 at 12:14pm Reply

      • Victoria: I will point a finger at myself first and foremost, but I’m working on it. Turning my phone off can be very therapeutic. December 7, 2015 at 3:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Rain, L’Heure Bleue and one’s pets–utter bliss. 🙂 December 7, 2015 at 3:20pm Reply

  • Solanace: Beautifully written, Victoria. Last week I went to Rio, and enjoyed a morning break from work walking under a fine and persistent rain, admiring the art déco buildings, the old trees and the surf in Copacabana. Alone in the beach with my umbrella I probably looked like the ultimate Sao Paolo tourist, but it was really poetic and inspiring – my skirt was only dry by 9 pm, but it was totally worth it. The Rose Kashmir I was wearing felt great, as warming and delicious as the almond croissant I ate. Still another nice baroque rose. December 7, 2015 at 12:12pm Reply

    • Victoria: It sounds like a perfect day. One needs such times when one cares not whether one gets wet or what anyone thinks. And your perfume was perfect too. December 7, 2015 at 3:21pm Reply

  • Karen 5.0: What a lovely post, Victoria! Here, I’m looking out at a misty fog and it conjures up simultaneous feelings of melancholy and relief because in this part of the world, we are usually covered in snow by this time! So, I will take the rain and fog happily~

    I am happy to have grown up experiencing and, for the most part, appreciating four distinct seasons. When I have lived for long periods in other parts of the world, this is often the thing I most miss. In India, I got tired of the sunny days for most of the year, believe it or not, and actually looked forward to the monsoon season. Other hot climates with little or no variations in temperature affected me the same way.

    Rain allows you to not feel bad about going outside (if you don’t want to, that is) and you can light a fire, drink cinnamon tea, read lots of books, nap, watch movies, stare out the window, or do nothing at all.

    And then, when you are ready, you can rejoin the outside world and enjoy it with fresh eyes once the sun comes out. December 7, 2015 at 12:35pm Reply

    • Victoria: You put it so well, Karen, and I can’t agree more. You can change the pace of your life during a rainy day and not feel too guilty about it. On the other hand, I begin to appreciate a walk in a park on a sunny day even more. December 7, 2015 at 3:23pm Reply

      • Karen 5.0: Thank you, Victoria! Yes, it is fun to watch – or walk in – the rain, BUT it is also lovely to know that a sunny day may just be around the corner~ December 9, 2015 at 9:09am Reply

        • Victoria: Some variation is always a good thing. Today we had a sunny day, and that felt wonderful. I begin to appreciate such moments even more. December 9, 2015 at 10:52am Reply

    • Claire: Dear Karen,

      I grew up in a four season climate and was glad for the sun when I moved to California for college. My first few years in California were during a drought, and I did enjoy soaking up the abundant sunshine, but the first time it rained I burst into tears, tears of relief! I felt that it gave me I permission to curl up inside with tea, a good book, and music!

      I felt a similar relief leaving California and returning to a three season climate years later. I was missing the sturm und drang of spring and summer thunderstorms, the magic of snow flurries, warm summer nights, crisp autumn days with the wonderful earthy smells of dry leaves, and rain. Autumn rain, spring rain, summer rain. They are each so distinct, clearly reminiscent in associative scents and odors. December 8, 2015 at 3:25pm Reply

      • Karen 5.0: I wholeheartedly agree with you, Claire. If you grew up with a three- or four-season climate, it can actually be depressing to experience one year-round!

        You mentioned something that reminded me of a fantastic book I just finished called Katherine Carlyle, by Rupert Thomson. The heroine eventually ends up in one of the northernmost places on earth (complicated how she got there, but I guarantee that you will be gripped by the story), where she is told that, after surviving 7-8 months of total darkness, the local people often cry when the first light appears~ December 9, 2015 at 9:13am Reply

  • noele: I have fond but faint memories of Belgium – first visited when I hardly knew how to hold a camera, and thus memorialize it properly. I do remember ornate architecture and more green space than expected. Thanks for this reverie…convinced I should go back with my camera sooner than later. December 7, 2015 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Victoria: Brussels doesn’t strike me as a place ready for a photo op; you need to look for places and settings, but when you find them, you get shots you can’t get in any other city. It’s a quirky place, that’s for sure. December 7, 2015 at 3:27pm Reply

      • Lindaloo: Often in your pictures there is a certain bright, beautiful blue (see man’s shirt) that I have come to call “Belgian/Bois de Jasmin blue.” I first noticed it in your early shots of Belgium, initially in your shots of homes painted bright yellow with the bright blue as an accent, and then it began appearing in some of your indoor shots of your table linens, etc.

        Thank you for the beautiful appreciation rain and your pictures. I have just applied some cozy Shalimar lotion to help with the days of rain here. December 7, 2015 at 5:30pm Reply

        • Victoria: You smell wonderful! 🙂 Is your Shalimar lotion from the new line or the older version?

          I like the idea of “Belgian/Bois de Jasmin blue” very much. 🙂 It’s true that light here has an interesting hue, and it changes dramatically. For instance, on a clear day when the sun sets, you get the most perfect golden-yellow shade. During this time of your, light is very diffused, but in the morning you do get this lovely cool tone. I also noticed that I myself started wearing more blue here, and even got several blue eyeshadows and liners. December 8, 2015 at 11:09am Reply

          • Anka: Haha, here in Berlin we call it Berlin blue or Prussian blue: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prussian_blue
            but Bois de Jasmin blue is great!
            (And Urban Decay has some great bdj-blue liners…). December 8, 2015 at 11:43am Reply

            • Victoria: And also, isn’t there a specific Chartres blue, evoking the blue stained glass windows of the Chartres Cathedral?

              One of my liners is by Urban Decay, but my favorite in terms of texture and color is by Terry, Royal Blue. It’s a kind of blue that reminds me of Roy Lichtenstein’s artworks. December 8, 2015 at 11:58am Reply

          • Lindaloo: My Shalimar lotion is somewhat older as I found it as well as the shower gel in a thrift store. Looks to me as if they were part of a set with perfume.

            I love it and have found that even just a little smear on my neck lasts surprisingly long. I often wear it to bed too.

            The shower gel is quite the experience — definitely not the thing for a “fresh” morning shower, more like a “getting ready for a night of debauchery” — which is not a bad thing 😉 December 9, 2015 at 3:23am Reply

            • Victoria: Not a bad thing at all! 🙂 That kind of shower gel would appeal to me more, to be honest. December 9, 2015 at 10:50am Reply

  • Patricia: Beautiful! I like to wear L’Eau d’Hiver in the rain, and it rains quite frequently here, so I keep a travel size in my purse at the ready. December 7, 2015 at 1:33pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, L’Eau d’Hiver would smell wonderful, like a warm but light wrap. December 7, 2015 at 3:28pm Reply

    • AndreaR: Oh! Good idea! December 7, 2015 at 3:35pm Reply

  • N: I never understood why people complain about rain. Without rain there would be no life. There would be no flowers, trees, or water to drink. Besides, the sky is still blue and the sun is still there past the clouds. So, I love the rain also. December 7, 2015 at 2:06pm Reply

    • Mer: I so agree with you! Utterly baffling.

      I moved from Barcelona to Belgium and I love it. I love moss, and ferns, and greenery everywhere, and it’s perfect. December 7, 2015 at 2:34pm Reply

      • Victoria: See, most of my Spanish friends here do nothing but complaint about the weather. 🙂 I guess, it all depends on what one’s used to or how one is able to adapt. December 7, 2015 at 3:01pm Reply

        • Mer: Yes, I’ve met some like that. I think they should move back, hehe.
          But then, so do a significant amount of the locals, I think they should move also, and shut up already 😀

          In any case, some Atlantic regions in Spain have very similar weather to Belgium, although for sure longer days in winter, but also shorter summer days, it took me longer to adapt to having supper in broad daylight! Not sure I’ve actually adapted to that 🙂 December 8, 2015 at 12:42am Reply

          • Victoria: Same here! The bright light at 10pm in the summer throws my sleeping schedule off completely.

            The expat circles in which the conversations consist of little more than gripes and complaints don’t interest me much. Of course, people have a right to voice their criticism of Belgium (or any other country), from politics to weather or whatever else they don’t like, but I know people who live in their little expat bubble, hardly venture out of it and then claim that there is nothing to see or do in Belgium. December 8, 2015 at 11:43am Reply

            • Mer: I find this exceedingly strange also, I prefer to associate with people who share interests, no matter where they are from. You do share some experiences as expats, but that’s about it. December 8, 2015 at 11:52am Reply

              • Victoria: Same here. I’d rather meet people who share my interests. December 8, 2015 at 12:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: To be fair, when you don’t get sun for weeks on end as happens here, it can get draining for many people. If I’m in a bad mood, and it’s grey and dark outside, I can definitely feel it more poignantly. December 7, 2015 at 3:30pm Reply

      • Mer: I think this gets boring when nothing actually happens (like no rain or snow or anything, just a thick cloud and a perpetual twilight). I get as bored by several months straight of blue skies, but I think that’s more bothersome because I don’t tolerate heat as well.

        On theater hand… just been found out to have vitamin D deficiency for the first time in my life, and I didn’t even use sunscreen properly this summer. December 8, 2015 at 12:46am Reply

        • Mer: Theater hand? It’s too early 😀 December 8, 2015 at 12:47am Reply

          • Victoria: Well, that’s a rather elegant typo. 🙂 December 8, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

            • Mer: I am not sure I can take credit 😀 I was typing on the phone. December 8, 2015 at 11:55am Reply

        • Victoria: Vitamin D supplements are essential here, sunscreen or not. You just don’t get enough sunlight for many months. We started taking them last year and have tested ok. December 8, 2015 at 11:45am Reply

          • Mer: I already have to take iron regularly, it is a bummer to have to add another supplement 🙁 even the milk is supplemented with vit D, but to no effect it seems. This pale skin thing seems totally useless as well. Oh sigh. December 8, 2015 at 11:54am Reply

            • Victoria: If you take one, then one more shouldn’t make a difference. You can find those neat boxes with compartments at the pharmacy and keep all of your supplements together. Helps to avoid opening several bottles. December 8, 2015 at 12:06pm Reply

    • Claire: So well said! I couldn’t agree more. Every time I think of complaining about rain, I remind myself that what I love about my environment is how lush and green it is. The transformation of a barren winter landscape into the magical sprouts, buds and blossoms of Spring never fails to thrill me. December 8, 2015 at 3:32pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: I’m not a rain hater as such but these loads of rain we get in Germany in the autumn and fall make me depressive, especially when combined with the absence of daylight. In the last few weeks most days were just dark grey, without a single ray of sun. Even my beloved iris scents cannot lift my mood on such days 😉
    It’s not that I don’t like the cold time of the year, the proportions just seem wrong to me 😉
    If I was to decide about the seasons of the year there would be five months of summer, three months of each spring and autumn and one month of winter 🙂
    I do appreciate a nice, warm rainshower in the summer, though, it’s good to have all the dust and smells washed away every now and then. In hot countries where it doesn’t rain for months, the odours in the city can become really overwhelming. December 7, 2015 at 3:36pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I completely understand what you mean. For me, it’s less the rain itself than just the grey, overcast sky with the murky light that doesn’t seem to change until it just disappears around 4pm. And then it’s dark till 8am or so. But then again, there is nothing to be done about such weather here, short of moving to another country. So, we have special bright lights, use a white tablecloth, which seems to brighten up the room and bake. Nothing like the smells of cake, bread or cookies to brighten up the mood. December 8, 2015 at 10:55am Reply

  • bregje: What a beautiful description of rain in northern countries!
    And indeed a love letter to Brussels.Having been there many times,i think you paint a perfect picture.
    I don’t always like the rain;).When i can stay in bed,i love it.
    When you have to go to work or school though it’s less fun. Especially having wet clothes all day long isn’t something i love.
    But most of the time i have no problem surrendering to it and coming home to a hot cup of earl grey-tea or a bowl of soup is absolutely magical;it just tastes so much better. December 7, 2015 at 4:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: I like it best of all when I wake up early in the morning on a weekend, when I have no plans outdoors, and I can hear the gentle beat of raindrops hitting the window. This makes me ridiculously happy and serene. 🙂 December 8, 2015 at 11:04am Reply

      • Mariann: Like that too, or in the middle of an afternoon without plans and when you can huddle under the blanket with a book or for a nice long nap 🙂 December 8, 2015 at 4:15pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yes, that’s idyllic. 🙂 December 9, 2015 at 10:23am Reply

  • Andy: I don’t mind a rainy day inside at all (a good excuse for bottomless cups of tea and a blanket while I work), it’s going out in the rain that I used to dislike. For me, it took acquiring the right gear to finally feel like I could be an outdoor rain lover. I finally have proper rain boots and a nice big, sturdy umbrella, and I’ll never look back now! Perfume-wise, I find that the humidity/dampness of a rainy day means that even on a cold rainy day, an overly rich perfume can start to overwhelm and smell sticky and thick instead of cozy and enveloping. So, my rainy day favorites this fall have included Tauer Incense Flash (which, while rich, completely lacks sweetness and stays appealingly close to the skin) and the cool and earthy Iris Bleu Gris, another good rainy day iris. Come to think of it, the new Thé Bleu would also be a nice rainy day pick, I’ll try it next time we have some rain. December 7, 2015 at 6:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a good point. You need to have the right shoes and clothes, and you’re fine. I learned to carry a small umbrella in my purse, and I have invested into a good water-repellent spray for my shoes. It means that suede is not the most practical option, but otherwise, you can manage ok.

      I agree on The Bleu. It’s uplifting enough and iris-y enough to work with the rain. December 8, 2015 at 11:21am Reply

      • Karen (A): My grandmother and great aunts used to carry those plastic booty shoe protectors for unexpected rain showers (along with the plastic, accordion type folding rain bonnets) which when I was a kid seemed goofy, but now seems practical and a good idea! December 10, 2015 at 6:36am Reply

        • Victoria: They are a practical idea. I haven’t worn them since I was a kid, though. My paternal grandmother made little snow booties from felt for me, and they came with protectors. I need to find a photo. December 10, 2015 at 1:54pm Reply

  • behemot: Beautiful article! I think we can learn to tolerate rain. I live in the Pacific Northwest and sometimes gloomy weather makes me tired, but, on the other hand, rain makes everything look beautiful and green.. I am not a big fan of hot weather, so I guess I am where I want to be. December 7, 2015 at 8:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: The Pacific Northwest has such beautiful nature, and I remember how green and lush everything looked. In the end, one adapts and finds things to like even when it comes to rain. 🙂 December 8, 2015 at 11:26am Reply

  • annemarie: I wonder if rain is the most varied of weathers: bitter icy rain driven sideways by wind; drenching tropical rain; cool romantic misty rain; dusty rain that does not wet the ground much but sets up that wonderful smell of petrichor …

    Speaking of petrichor, here’s a terrific piece publsihed earlier this year on the identification of that phenomenon:
    http://theconversation.com/the-smell-of-rain-how-csiro-invented-a-new-word-39231 December 8, 2015 at 4:35am Reply

    • Victoria: I loved this article. Thank you so much for a link. That scent of petrichor is so evocative. I did a little survey among perfumers what smell evoked the strongest memories for them, and 80% identified petrichor. I’m sure it will be the same for many, not just perfumers. December 8, 2015 at 11:47am Reply

  • Jeanne: I loved your post Victoria. I recently spent some time in a very hot and humid climate, and while I was there I bought Angeliques Sous la Pluie. I really found it to be beautiful and refreshing. Since I have returned to my high altitude, dry city, it smells very sharp and astringent to me. I’m saving it for future visits to tropical climates! December 8, 2015 at 10:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Angeliques sous la Pluie was one of the best perfumes I wore during our hot spell in the summer, but I’m not as tempted by it now. I completely agree with you, Jeanne. It smells prickly and raspy in this weather, whereas on a hot day it was refreshing and sparkling. December 8, 2015 at 11:01am Reply

  • Anka: Thank you very much for this charming essay, Victoria! I have to reread it every time I start complaining about rain, I guess. Actually, the only reason why I am not that keen on rain is that carrying an umbrella on a long walk or in a crowded city is so inconvenient…and I tend to lose them.
    Apart from Après l’Ondée I love wearing Violettes du Czar (Oriza L. Legrand) on rainy days and I have to try Alaia again, it was reminiscent of a summer rain to me. December 8, 2015 at 11:46am Reply

    • Victoria: I ended up buying a small umbrella that fits into my purse. It’s not great for a heavy rain, but since carrying an umbrella every day is a must here, at least it’s better than nothing. My husband loses his umbrellas all the time, though, so he can sympathize with you. December 8, 2015 at 11:59am Reply

  • mj: I spent this past four days, long festivity in Spain, as the 6th is Constitution Day and the 8th the Immaculate Conception Day, in Belgium. We have visited Brussels, Ghent and Brugge. I absolutely loved the St Hubert Gallery, although I didn’t go to the chocolate museum.
    As for rain, we only had it today, our last day in Brugge. I’m not very fond of rain, mostly because, when it rains in this part of Spain, it rains like there’s not tomorrow, it doesn’t remain in the plain, but drags everything in its way. Not nice. December 8, 2015 at 6:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: These heavy rains are tough, of course, and there are many places in the world where rains can work havoc. It’s not just something that you can ignore. But in Belgium, it’s not a grave danger, more like a nuisance, at worst, so one learns to live with it and find positive aspects to being wet. 🙂 December 9, 2015 at 10:30am Reply

      • mj: Your rain is like the rain in Northern Spain, constant and soft, more like a mist. It’s the rain that keeps earth moist and landscape green. I lived for a while in Oviedo, and got used to keep and umbrella with me always and a change of shoes in the car, especially in summer. December 10, 2015 at 4:15am Reply

        • Victoria: And your skin glowing. 🙂 December 10, 2015 at 1:52pm Reply

  • NBelle: Hello Victoria, I’m a long time lurker and have been a long time fan of your blog!

    I thought it would be fitting for my first post to be on something I love -rain!

    I love any kind of rain, from thunderstorms to the misty drizzles. I’m from a gray and gloomy place, and have lived in tropical, gray, and dry climates. Rain in each place has a special scent to me, but would always revolve around fresh earth and a crisp, but almost sultry kind of freshness to the foliage. Combined with the right perfume, I think rain can really make the scent bloom.

    Now, there are things I don’t like about rain, such as dirty city sludge and the scent of ripe garbage! But even so, rain in dusty cities can bring forth an earthy freshness to the air. As for the inconveniences rain may also bring, I won’t longer on those 🙂 December 9, 2015 at 11:01pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for commenting. It’s always a pleasure to meet any readers, lurkers or not. 🙂
      Your rain description is very evocative, and yes, I’m in agreement on the downsides of rains. Around here it tends to mean poor driving. For some inexplicable reason Belgian drivers do really dangerous maneuvers in the rain. December 10, 2015 at 1:51pm Reply

  • SilverMoon: I love the misty drizzle and soft rain so much associated with England. Having grown up in a hot climate with endless sunny days, I absolutely like the changeability of British weather. I agree with other comments saying that it gets really tiring to always have sunshine, since one feels obliged to be out and about. Rain is such an excellent excuse to stay home and relax with a book. Friends and relatives in India, Brazil and the US are amazed when I tell them I actually like the weather here (very similar to the beautiful Belgian rain you describe, Victoria). There is only one downside that I can think of: it is tricky to plan outdoor activities that rely on good weather, like a summer picnic, a BBQ garden party or a game of tennis. And even that is surmountable if one acts quickly in response to an opportunity or keeps a backup plan in mind. December 18, 2015 at 4:29pm Reply

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