Here are some things that I did not know about Chicago... It is gorgeous, displaying a very appealing mix of American gigantism and European small-town feel. The New World truly meets The Old there in a way that I found aesthetically pleasing. At night, the skyline crowded with skyscrapers has a strange, brooding, larger than life quality that makes one expect Batman's shadow to appear any moment on a wall of a building opposite one's window. Another thing that I learned about Chicago is that it has a Starbucks on every corner. And when I say every corner, I do not exaggerate. Could it be because in that indeed very Windy City the warmth of a coffee cup seems that much more appealing? And finally I learned that one should not expect one's flight to be on time when flying to and from O'Hare. In fact one should not expect one's flight, period. But my traveling woes were a small price to pay for being able to spend time with Ina and her lovely husband. We talked, we walked around, we ate amazing Vietnamese food at Le Colonial, we imbibed some strange drinks, like Double Chocolate Stout (which tastes exactly like Histoires de Parfums 1740 Marquis de Sade smells, i.e. of leather and prunes), we partook of exquisite cultural delights...like watching Transformers in a small cinema in Ina's building which we booked for the night...
And, of course, we sniffed. As I see it, if you live in Chicago, you have access to most lines a parfumista wants to have access to. The niche heavyweights like Lutens, Malle and L'Artisan are all present. There is Amouage (we swooned over Gold), Carthusia (Ligea is a gorgeous velvety fragrance that I will have to seriously test asap), Santa Maria Novella, Comme de Garcons (I smelled Zagorsk and for a second Chicago Barneys disappeared around me and I was back home, ah!) and many more. Nordstrom stocks several Carons, including some in parfum form. Amongst the four re-issued Givenchy scents, Givenchy III smelled like it had the most relation to the original fragrance, uncompromisingly green, gutsy, austerely elegant. At Sephora, we rather shamefacedly admitted to each other that we both kinda liked Ralph Wild, that teeny-bopperish strawberry jam of a scent.
At Malle counter at Barney's, we agreed that Bois d'Orage smells different from and inferior to French Lover. It seems less nuanced, more forcefully masculine. Outrageous smells...as if Clean Perfume took over Editions de Parfums (what a horrifying thought!). Squeaky clean, soapy, unbearably fresh...it is not a horrible scent but there is nothing in it that can possibly justify its existence. Not to be all negative about one of my most favorite perfume lines, I must report that, mostly thanks to Ina, I fell back in love with Lipstick Rose, which is the prettiest scent that I know and much superior to other perfumes in the "smells-like-expensive-retro-makeup" genre.
The new Armani semi-Prive scents (I am saying, "semi", because they have a slightly different packaging and a slightly lesser price), Babylon Vetiver and Rose d'Alexandrie did nothing to help me finally understand the popularity of this line. Vetiver smells, rather timidly, of citrus and green something that is closer to iris than vetiver. Rose is yet another over-priced "niche" version of Stella. Ina and I agreed that Pierre de Lune and Bois d'Encens has always been and always will be the best fragrances in the collection.
At Chanel boutique, where SAs were friendlier than in any other Very Expensive and Very Designer boutique I've ever dared to step into, we loved-loved Gardenia and wondered how come we don't own it. Ina fell back in passionate love with Allure (parfum). I... and I can't believe I will write this... liked Chance. Which basically means that there is now not a single Chanel left that I couldn't wear with pleasure. I sighed over Coromandel but, because the gallon-size bottle tragically exceeds the carry on liquid limit, did not buy it. Instead I am going to visit Chanel NYC and will check the frendliness level of SAs there. Something tells me the levels will be at sub-zero.
At Prada, which was deserted and had a strangely unclean, untidy feel, no one has heard of Opoponax or Narcisse or even Oeillet.
At Hermes, a snooty SA pretended not to know about the existence of 15ml bottle sets of Hermessences, insisting that usually people buy bigger bottles since they are better value. Because, you know, a typical Hermes customer IS concerned about finding a good bargain. That cost her a sale, as Ina was thinking of buying the very delectable Vetiver Tonka in a set. Brin de Reglisse, the latest installment in the Hermessence collection, smelled... not as awful as I imagined it would. (Licorice and Lavender, in my humble opinion, are the two notes that should never meet in perfume). On Ina's skin, licorice reigned supreme, and Brin de Reglisse smelled fresh and even a little fruity. On mine, licorice did not dare to show up, and the fragrance ended up being a blend of lavender and, for some reason, sage. Warm, a little smoky, wearable, but not my kind of thing at all.
So, did I buy any perfumes in Chicago? Sadly, no, carry on restrictions be damned. I went home a very happy owner of some tacky touristy t-shirts and a big packet of Wasabi Peas.