Travel: 90 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

Bulgaria Travel Reading List

Some of you will be joining me in Bulgaria’s Rose Valley this May, and I’ve received a couple of requests for reading that would prepare you for a trip. Bulgaria is one of the largest countries in the EU, and yet like so many places that fell on the other side of the Iron Curtain, it remains  terra incognita. Yet, it’s a place with an ancient history, delicious food, beautiful music, picturesque churches, and of course, roses. Bulgaria supplies 50% of the world’s rose essence.

I’ve decided to put together a list of non-fiction and fiction books that would be interesting even if you have no plans to visit Bulgaria and simply want to learn something new. These novels and travel accounts present a fascinating and rich land, a place where many different cultures, influences and traditions meet.

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My Article about The Shalimar Gardens in Oh Comely

Paradise comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaēza, meaning ‘an enclosed garden,’ and in arid land, the idea of an orchard filled with the sound of water, the glow of ripening fruit and the perfume of flowers was indeed a vision from the celestial realm. Persians perfected the art of gardening and their ideas influenced the way orchards were designed around the world. To see one such garden, I traveled to Karachi, a bustling port city in the south of Pakistan, continued my journey along the Indus River, and navigated the mad traffic of Lahore. An orchard may not be worth such an effort, but the Shalimar Gardens were no ordinary place.

I have a new article in the magazine Oh Comely. It follows me on my travels through southern Pakistan to reach the fabled Shalimar Gardens. They were created in the 17th century by the emperor Shah Jahan and while many changes have befallen them, they’re still one of the reasons to visit Lahore, the city that was the jewel of the Mughal Empire. My article is in Issue 48. The spring issue has fruit as its leitmotif, and if you read my article, you’ll see what the Shalimar Gardens, the founder of the Mughal Empire, emperor Babur, and fragrant mangoes have in common. And the Shalimar perfume, of course.

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Persian Flower Delights

In time for Nowruz, which falls on March 20 or 21 in 2019, depending on where in the world you are, I wanted to share with you my favorite Persian floral delights. Flowers don’t only bloom in Persian gardens and adorn Qajar art and textiles, they’re also used in cuisine. Rosewater adds a bright note to savory and sweet dishes. Willow flowers flavor sugar and candy. Orange blossom accents tea blends. As good as flowers smell, their flavors are equally beautiful.

So I took a walk through my local Iranian store and came home with a whole treasure trove of floral delicacies.

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Rose Retreat in Bulgaria and Perfume Workshop

I’m partnering with Silvia Yonkova of Roseoverdose, to teach a rose accords workshop during the Rose Retreat of 2019. 50% of the roses grown for perfumery come from the Rose Valley in Kazanlak, Bulgaria, and Silvia’s family has been in the rose growing business for generations. During the Rose Retreat, you’ll have a chance to participate in the rose harvest and study different types of roses. My one-day workshop will cover some of the most iconic rose perfumes and teach you to create fragrance accords.

The Rose Retreat will take place on May 20th-24th, 2019. You can find more information and book a spot via Roseoverdose.com.

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Pandan: the Perfume of Penang

Let me start the new year with a journey and take you to George Town. Located on the Malaysian island of Penang, the city was established in the 18th century by the British East India Company. The population of George Town is diverse, a mix of Chinese, Malay and Indian communities, each contributing its own traditions to Penang’s cosmopolitan blend. One of the most distinctive layers is formed by the Peranakans. The descendants of the Chinese who arrived starting from the 15th century and intermarried with the locals, the Peranakans blend Chinese, Malay and European customs. Their clothing, art and music are distinctive, but even more striking is their cuisine: Peranakan, or Nyonya, food is one of George Town’s main attractions.

I traveled around Malaysia, exploring its scented and culinary traditions, but I kept returning to Penang. It drew me with its diversity, its history, and above all, its food. Penang’s food and scents are the topics of my recent FT column, Pandan: the Perfume of Penang. I explore the most characteristic of all scents in Peranakan cuisine, pandan.

Although the foods I tried in Penang were varied – I’ve written previously about the sheer variety of specialities on offer across its different neighbourhoods – one leitmotif during my explorations was the scent of pandan leaves. The Peranakans mix shredded pandan with rose petals, jasmine and perfume oil to create a home fragrance, but most often, the leaves of this tropical plant are used in their cuisine. Although pandan tends to be described as the vanilla of Asia for its ubiquity in desserts, its fragrance isn’t sweet. When raw, pandan smells green and nutty, but when cooked, it acquires the voluptuous, toasted perfume of basmati rice. To continue reading, please click here.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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  • Gabriela in 5 Things That Inspire Me: Oh things that inspire me… my children playing, books on my shelves, pictures on my wall, little boxes and a sculpture that was from my grandmother. September 14, 2019 at 4:55pm

  • Gabriela in 5 Things That Inspire Me: What a great list of books, have just ordered the Marianne dreams on Amazon! Are you familiar with Tove Jansson? She has beautiful children’s books. September 14, 2019 at 4:51pm

  • Silvermoon in The Allure of Estonian Birch Tar: Hi Klass! My husband uses SMN Nostalgia. It certainly smells great on him. In the wonderful SMN shop in Florence (where I bought it as a gift for him), they… September 14, 2019 at 12:11pm

  • Tourmaline in 5 Things That Inspire Me: I shall definitely seek it out; I’ve read such wonderful things about it. I hope you have a great weekend, too! September 14, 2019 at 2:25am

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