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Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sniffing in Gotham...

...aka Chicago

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 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 if Clean Perfume took over Editions de Parfums (what a horrifying thought!). Squeaky clean, soapy, unbearably 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.


Blogger elle said...

Oh, what an absolute blast to get to spend time w/ Ina and see Chicago as well! Am an architecture freak and Chicago just seems like an incredibly fascinating place from that perspective - but, wimp that I am, I'd have to go only during the hottest days of summer. *Must* try to find some Double Chocolate Stout around here since, thanks to your rec, I've fallen very hard for 1740. And had forgotten how much I used to love Ligea. Must go hunt down my bottle. Don't think I even want to try the semi-Prive scents. Anyway, am glad you had such a great time! :-)

9:29 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! Chicago is a fascinating place and fits Ina so perfectly well. I would totally move there if I had a reason (excuse :-)) to do so.

9:33 PM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I love Chicago, but I don't think I could live there again (I lived in Milwaukee for a couple years, about 60 miles north) due to the weather. Freezing in winter, sultry in summer; I'm just too much of a wimp for that...

10:38 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI! I have been waiting for this article and it didn't dissappoint at all!! I lived in Chicago for a year as a member of the Civic Orchestra... I love that city so much though when I lived there I wasn't a perfume fan back then. By the way, in NYC I visited the Hermes boutique on maybe 62nd and Madison? the one a little North of Barney's... anyway, the SA I spoke with was AMAZINGLY friendly, and I told her that Hermes needs to do a mix and match with their 15 mL sets! She said she'd mention it :) If one could go in with 2 friends, I think it's a great deal :)

ANYwayy... thanks for the report!

11:01 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chanel SA's are usually surprisingly friendly--I'm sure they get a lot of people who just like to look and sniff, so they're used to it. I have to go into my local one and see if they know anything about the new Exclusif...

Hermes, on the other hand--you better be able to buy without looking at the pricetag. In a way, its fabulous, but it's also quite obnoxious. Then again, it wouldn't be Hermes without it.

I have never heard of Opopomax either--although I am quite aware of the edp mini line at Prada. THEY are some serious betches. I remain utterly befuddled by the marketing and distribution of the scents.

12:07 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

I just want to draw everybody's attention to the building in the front of the first picture - it is actually the building of 900 Shops (taken from the Hancock's 96th floor lounge) which is where the L'Artisan boutique is. 6 floors of mall, a Four Seasons, and a zillion offices/condos in that monster. Sometimes, on these slow winter days, I just need to remind myself there's a whole lot of life above me. ;) I just had to throw it in there, you know, for a bit of shameless PR. ;)
It was so good to see you and spend time together again! I think our next destination should be Paris. Or London. We gotta meet half-way, you know? ;D

12:48 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, what fun for you both! Sounds like had a whale of a time all right. And Chicago in winter, while not my cup of tea, must be very energetic. However, my town DOES have something to match it - at LEAST one Starbucks on every corner! :-)

2:27 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh dear, Chicago sounds like fun - which makes me happy because there is a chance that I have to move there, end of 2008 probably (then again, however, Tom's note doesn't make me smile...).
Oh dear #2 : Allure was one of me first "serious" perfumes, and now you made me sentimental...
And finally, oh dear#3, Marina, I have a week of Dzongkha and "I love it so bad" (homage to mr. B.Dylan...) - no doubt, it's a big winter-gorgeous for me.

3:39 AM EST  
Blogger rosarita said...

Because Chicago is the city nearest to me, I feel completely comfortable in it. Traveling by train to attend the museums was a fun field trip when my daughter and her friends were small. I haven't been there in far too long, not since I have fallen so hard for perfume, so I can't wait to hit the MagMile and visit the Chanel & L'Artisan boutiques. Thanks for the inspiration and I'm glad you had such a good time!

4:57 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You described my native climate, so this kind of extreme weather is OK with me :-) Now I just need a good reason to move. :-)

5:45 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I am glad you enjoyed the little report! :-)
At Hermes on Madison they weren't so much unfriendly the last time we were there as utterly indifferent. And we did need attention to ask about something or other fragrance-related.

5:46 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

What about Dior SAs?
Prada's "marketing strategy" re: the exclusisve scents puzzles me too. What puzzles me the most is the presence of a gorgeous Iris scent in that boutique line. The one that is different from and even better than Infusion d'Iris.

5:48 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You ARE shameless. :-)
You know, I so would come visit you in LV, to re-live childhood memories, if only I could. Maybe I day.

5:50 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

So it's not just Chicago then, eh? Starbucks-wise?

5:50 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Oh wow, really? You will like it there. Have you lived in the US before?
And I am so glad you enjoy Dzongkha. But what about Dzing? :-)

5:52 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You should go while Ina is still there :-) No, seriously, you really should!

5:54 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so pleased you had a great time in Chicago with Ina. It looks/sounds an amazing place. I went through a phase many years ago of reading Sara Paretsky detective novels which I think were set there - most atmospheric. The Chanel SAs are friendly in London too so heh, why don't you both come to London next? Just think, Roja Dove, Les Scenteurs, Ormonde Jayne.... btw, Marina please would you thank that lovely husband of yours for mentioning one of the best songs ever (London Calling) in his reply to my brief comment on his Questionnaire - I am honoured!Oh and totally agree with you about Malle's/Grosman's Outrageous. Totally "meh" to me.

8:04 AM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

What a great time! I have gone gone to Chicago for conventions, and never got to spend much time there.

On your sniffing--I have to say that, even with its prominent citrus I really like the Armani Vetiver on my skin (and so did Ann and Kim--on me, not themselves). It smelled somewhat like a cross between Terre d'Hermes and Sel de Vetiver. Everyone told me to get it in the Spring. And I find Brin de Reglisse very pleasant--although it doesn't last very long. Maybe we are no longer twins:)

8:19 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The architecture in Chicago is magnificent! I grew up there and still love to visit. The best time of year is spring, April and May, after the cold wet weather and before the hot humid weather. Chicago has EVERYTHING. The city is clean, the people are pleasant (not gushy friendly like in Atlanta, but rather, cool yet efficient...)
I also recently visited and met Ina, a fellow Baltic. L'art is a beautiful store and a MUST-visit!

8:23 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I loved your report! The photos are fabulous and make me want to go visit.

And yay, you now like Chance?!! That has been my "shamefacedly admitting I like it" scent for awhile now. I first smelled it on a gorgeous young waitress who waited on our table on a searing summer night, and a few weeks later, on a very much older but very elegant society woman. They both smelled fabulous in it and I have been contemplating buying a bottle ever since.

Anyway, so glad you got to see Ina and had a fabulous trip!

8:34 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

March says: (having trouble with my login, sorry)

What Elle said. I love Chicago, an old friend lives there and I visit her, but oy! The weather! The summer and the winter! I remember going home with her at Thanksgiving and thinking I would die.

Those semi-Prive scents bleah, along with Outrageous (not). And interesting to hear your thoughts on Orage -- I resmelled it in NYC Barneys and thought, wow, it seemed so much *better* in London...

Giggling about your Hermes experience. And sorry to hear about Prada. Hey, at least they didn't try to convince you the scents didn't exist, and/or had been discontinued!

8:48 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

I can't believe you will write that you like Chance either, LOL! What next?

Glad you had a great trip :-)

10:05 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

March - everything's so much better in London... ;-P

Did you hug Ina lots and lots? And I need to get the date in my calendar that I'm gonna be hooking up with you two in my metropolis...

10:06 AM EST  
Blogger Debbie said...

I don't understand arrogant sales assistants. I do understand that I come in looking as if I wouldn't buy hundreds of dollars of anything, but it simply isn't true. One friendly Bobbi Brown assistant netted a huge sale...and it was largely due to the fun I had at the counter with him (and the products I wanted to buy). Arrogance is a turnoff. I definitely think it costs sales. Apparently they don't care, however.

10:31 AM EST  
Blogger priscilla said...

I feel safe now admitting it since you have: I like Chance. I do. It also happens to be one of the perfumes on which I was most highly complimented. So there!

11:06 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasabi peas rock. I have a packet right here, thanks for reminding me :)
Re: Chanel in NYC. The Soho boutique is so not friendly that they ignore me completely, leaving me to tinker with the Exclusif bottles all I want (they're just inside the door). The Chanel display at Bergdorf however was womaned by a SA who insisted I wanted the humongo size no 18 & that the intention was I spray it ALL over EVERYthing from me to my sheets. And. Would. Not. Let. Up.

1:48 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

On Chanel-- if you live in Boston-- when I went in to sniff Les Exclusifs last Feb, the sales associates were truly lovely people. Both the head of cosmetics and a perfume sales associate helped me, while helping other (obviously wealthy) customers at the same time, without the slightest hint of noticing that I'm an artist, and I don't really dress in anything fashionable or costly, wasn't wearing makeup, and was pretty ignorant about perfume at the time. (Les Exclusifs were my first niche fragrances.) The head of cosmetics is an angel who followed up with me several times until she got me the bottle of bel respiro I wanted from Florida, (they weren't going to get it back in stock for three weeks and I wanted it for my vacation), and sent me six of the minis separately from downtown when I asked for them, and sent a personal note to call her if I wanted a makeover. I hate the word 'classy,' but these people are it-- not a hint of snobbery from them. In fact, I genuinely couldn't tell what they thought of me or anyone else-- my definition of classy and professional! Lolol. Now, when my DH went to pick me up two of the exclusifs in Bergdorfs while on a business trip, I actually called back the next day and complained to them about the service he had received. They made huge, bizarre, embarrasing scene, right out of a movie, (as he describes it), when he asked for a sample while purchasing two bottles. They were initially rude to me on the phone but extremely accomodating when I described how he had been treated and said I was shocked by it, after my experience at the CHANEL boutique. Lol. But they clearly still just wanted to buy me off with a sample they really didn't feel I deserved and hoped never to hear from me again. And they never will. :)

Love Ligea, Love C. Gardenia. :)

2:35 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for the preceding novel-- I should have mentioned, I have found both the Barneys and Saks SAs in Boston to be terrific.

2:39 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Double Chocolate Stout, now here's a lemming, and it isn't even perfume. And I'm not even a beer drinker normally.
Glad you had such a wonderful time. Architecture, restaurants, museums, galleries, coffeeshops, how I would love to visit, just not in the winter. I don't miss my frozen to the bone cold winters in Germany, just the snow maybe.

And Chance, really? Have to give that one another sniff, then.

5:10 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Marina! Sounds like you and the lovely Ina had a wonderful time. I hope you took some illustrative photos for future Monroe/Russell posts -- surely there will be things to smell in LV, no?

Young's Double Chocolate Stout is great, have some in the cupboard right now, but for my money Shakespeare's Chocolate Stout, and Hazlenut Cream Stout are even more delicious. No prunes and leather in the chocolate, but plenty of coffee and dark, dark chocolate.

7:13 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I met with the very wonderful Silvia today. How awesome is that that you two can go sniff together! I wish I could join too.

7:30 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I found Brin pleasant too, which is amazing, considering there is LICORICE there.
I need to smell Vetiver on you, maybe that will make me change my mind :-) Planning a NYC visit any time soon? :-)

7:31 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You visited Ina, now come visit me :-) Although, with all my love for NYC, I can't say that "the city is clean, the people are pleasant" here :-)

7:33 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you!
I don't know if I like Chance to an extent of actually buying it, but this is definitely a step forward for me anyway :-)

7:34 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I have an inkling now, reading the comments about Chicago weather, that I got lucky. It was windy one day, but overall it was kind of mild :-)

7:35 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Next- J'Adore. LOL. No, no, that is not possible, surely.

7:35 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I would love to meet up and go sniffing with you (plus Nicola and Silvia!) in London. Everything IS better in London. Especially... and this might sound unexpected to some :-)!

7:37 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

You are right. OK, and now I'm dying to know what you bought at Bobbi Brown counter? :-)

7:38 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I like compliment :-) Maybe I should make a logical step forward and start actually wearing Chance.

7:39 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I made a note never to attempt going to Soho Chanel, thank you :-)
As for No 18 (or any Exclusif)...well, there is so MUCH of it, you might as well use it to perfume your living space.

7:43 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

That is so horrible, and I am sorry to hear that. What on earth is wrong with this people?

7:44 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I hope you do get a chance to visit, in milder weather.
After Russian winters of my childhood, I am kind of immune to this kind of weather. I don't LIKE it, mind you, but I can deal with it.

7:46 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I can't wrap my mind around the name Hazlenut Cream Stout. Just can't. Therefore I must seek it out and try it :-)
I so hope Ina will blog a lot from LV! On any subject.

7:47 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Sounds like you had fune. Chicagos a great town...skyscrapers, culture, sports, a robust economy, great diverse neighborhoods. I may ruffle some feathers here but NYC is NYC...its the Big Apple for a reason. I was impressed by the 1,100 towering skyscrapers in Chicago but nothing prepared me for the over 6,000 skyscrapers covering Manhattan for as far as the eye can see ..

3:15 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

My problem is I have never done anything touristy in NYC, never really explored it. I should.

6:52 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, as a sometime SA, I truly don't know. Rule 1 everywhere I worked was that appearance has NOTHING to do with how much a buyer has to spend. Well, now we have a hilarious story for friends and coworkers. A friend told us (between fits of hysterical laughter), that neither of us owns a single stitch in our wardrobe of the type needed to be treated like a human in Bergdorfs. Lolol.

I have only driven through Chicago. I loved your descriptions!

12:22 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm going to Chicago in a few weeks, I go there a lot because I live somewhat near by. I was just wondering where you found Carthusia, I've never seen it there!

6:54 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree, appearance for the most part has nothing to do with it at all. Even if it did, the treatment should be the same for everybody, buyers and non-buyers.

8:57 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I believe I saw them at Nordstrom. Or Neimans. Or Saks :-) Sorry. But I did see them.

8:58 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Marina, I've never been in the US in my life ! I've travelled a lot to South America but have never stopped to the north of Mexico...

10:16 AM EST  
Blogger ForTheLoveOfPerfume said...

Oh, Marina I am envious of your trip and your experiences! I lived in Chicago for 9 years during the pre-Starbuck's-takes-over-the-world days. What a great city indeed. It sounds like your sniffing, walking, eating and drinking experiences were divine. I will have to get in touch with you the next time Mr.TMH and make a visit to our home state for ideas on where to shop! :-)

10:12 AM EST  

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