Travel: 85 posts

Searching for scents and sensory traditions around the world.

Amina Ali : The Cake Wizard of Lahore

This story is part of my Pakistan travel diaries, describing my discoveries and encounters with inspiring individuals I met during my trip.

Amina Ali is a Renaissance woman. An artist and the CEO of Lahore Children’s Center, she’s also the mastermind behind Delish, a patisserie specializing in elegant, creative cakes. When I first met her, I was so impressed by her range of talents that I had difficulty conceiving how a single person could juggle so many responsibilities. Yet, after spending more time with Amina and exploring Lahore together, I grew to realize that she is very much the denizen of her city, energetic, vibrant and multifaceted.

I first came across Delish through the stories of friends who visited Lahore. “Amina’s cakes are works of art,” said an acquaintance who often travels to this ancient city in the heart of Pakistan’s Punjab province for the Literary Festival. “What’s more, the taste is heavenly,” she added. I grew intrigued when I learned that Amina started her business at the back of her house, teaching herself the art of pastry and cake decor. Whatever I knew about Lahore suggested that such an endeavor wouldn’t be for a fainthearted person.

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Lahore and Roses

I spent the past three weeks in Pakistan. I started my trip in Karachi and traveled along the Indus before crossing into Punjab and continuing to Islamabad, and finally, Lahore. I had many reasons that drove me to undertake the journey– an interest in ancient history and my personal need to understand the modern era, a desire to see places I’ve read about and to discover a country that’s often misunderstood and talked about in geopolitical terms. Above all, I wanted to see Lahore.

Lahore Lahore hai, say the locals. Lahore is Lahore. There is no other city like it, they add. I agree. It’s the place where Mughal empresses rest in the rose gardens and the new train lines edge Shah Jahan’s palaces. It’s the place where one can get lost in the old city and find oneself in a quiet courtyard full of fluttering dove wings and silvery streamers. It’s the place where ancient shrines are drowning in the clutter of shops and hawker stalls, and where the marble steps of Badshahi Mosque are so polished that they reflect the moonlight. Lahore is Lahore.

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Paris Autumn Walks : The Basilica of Saint Denis

If I made a map of my favorite walks in Paris, the routes would invariably lead to an old church, a cemetery, a café or a market. They would circumvent the glamorous Paris of the tourist brochures and explore the places where the ancient and the modern city coexist, where the mysteries linger, and where one can satisfy one’s hunger, literal and figurative. Paris is often associated with spring, romance and blossoming, but my Paris is autumn, fallen leaves and the light streaming through the stained glass windows.

The Basilica of Saint Denis, Basilique royale de Saint-Denis, is one of those large French Gothic churches that to a non-expert eye are hard to tell apart. Even the fact that it has only one tower instead of the usual two can get lost as one contemplates its imposing size. Yet, the space inside the basilica is so elegant with its slender windows, graceful columns and candlelight filled enfilades that I’d take a stroll here over visiting Notre-Dame. It’s worth a metro ride to Saint-Denis, a northern suburb of Paris that manages to be both bland and seedy. My Paris explorations often end up here.

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Scents That Satisfy Wanderlust

Some scents have the flying carpet effect on me. I only need to put a few drops on my skin and I feel that I’m in another place. It might be a place that I visited, but most of the time it’s about a fantasy. In my new FT column, Scents with A Sense of Place, I explore how fragrances can transport us out of our usual routine and take us on a journey. I use the example of several favorite fragrance, including my recent coup de coeur, Chanel Paris-Deauville.

The art of perfumery is about creating illusions. When we explore scents, it’s best to forget about the brand, bottle shape and perfume name, and focus on what the aromas tell us. For one person, Etat Libre d’Orange Jasmin et Cigarette is a smoky jazz club, while for another it’s an Indian temple filled with incense smoke and flower garlands. The only thing that matters is whether a perfume creates a vision one wants to experience again and again. To continue reading, please click here.

What about you? What perfume do you reach for when you wish to satisfy your wanderlust?

Scents of the Burgundian Spring : The Perfume Course

Wrapping up yet another perfume course, I want to linger over each moment that we shared together and examine how far we’ve come over three days of intensive studies. Originally, my course took shape as a rigorous training program for perfumery professionals, aimed at educating people who work in the perfume industry (but who haven’t had perfumery training) and to give them an appreciation for perfume history. When I adapted it for fragrance lovers, I discovered that my method worked to help anyone, regardless of their knowledge of fragrance or background, to sharpen their sense of smell, learn how to smell and how to analyze mixtures from the simplest to the most complex.

Even as I teach the subject I’ve spent more than a decade exploring, I discover new facets to familiar scents, new ways of talking about aromas and new ways of connecting different sensory impressions. It’s because of the subject matter itself, which is vast, but also because of the people who come to my classroom–and to Bois de Jasmin–and their willingness to share their experiences. Thank you to all of you!

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Latest Comments

  • Sharon in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2019: Aurora, thanks for these helpful suggestions! It’s always a treat to have so many perfume fans at our fingertips : ) May 21, 2019 at 12:19pm

  • Zuzanna in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2019: And they are lovely! Iris is one of my favourite notes, and these are one of my fave irises. Mythique is available in Galilu (Poland), they ship abroad, you can… May 21, 2019 at 10:45am

  • Chin C. in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2019: How about Bottega Veneta Pour Homme and its flankers? Leathery and woody… And less sweet than Noir. May 21, 2019 at 10:33am

  • Nina Z in Recommend Me a Perfume : May 2019: There actually is a wisteria fragrance called Wisteria Hysteria by Stephen Jones. But I have never tried it. Looking at the notes just now, it looks sort of intriguing. It… May 21, 2019 at 9:46am

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