29. Paris perfume class
We didn't want to be late for the perfume class at 4pm.
We left the Musée des Arts Forains at Bercy and went through a covered walkway featuring big poster covers of an imaginary magazine The Parisianer, created to showcase the work of Paris artists, mimicking the New Yorker. I liked this clever one explaining the installation at the Palais Royale.
We emerged into a whole street of tented restaurants called Village de Bercy with a decorative white canopy suspended between the two old wine warehouses.
Cally was on a mission before our class to visit Bon Marché near our apartment on the left bank. We dropped in briefly to the new Hermès store on the way, with its space age wooden slat fit out and metres of shining muslin waving in the air-conditioned breeze.
Don't you love their mosaic floor logo?
Then Bon Marché. Cally wasn't hungry and dashed off to buy a gift for a grand-daughter's birthday. I had a very empty stomach so I lined up for La Table.
Much more fun than shopping. When you're hungry anyway! Risotto de coquillettes, copeaux de jambon ibérique, sauce aux morilles or risotto with Spanish ham and mushroom sauce. Delicious!
Cally arrived to share the colourful dessert, having sold off the children's inheritance for a totally exquisite child's dress.
We hurried on to the perfume-making class at Studio de Parfums in the Marais. I had read good reviews of it on Trip Advisor, how the full perfume-making process would be explained, the ingredients etc. We were quite excited, both anticipating making a perfume which would remain our very own signature fragrance forever. People would most certainly stop us in the street, asking what we were wearing.
The shop front looked a little run down. Bad sign number 1.
We pushed open the door and entered. There was another girl from Washington doing the class too - she was a young married, in Paris on her own to add to her professional photography portfolio while Dad looked after the kids. Yes, not a bad setting to do your homework!
I'm not sure if Sophie, the parfumeuse, was in a hurry to go home that day, or if she was just a teeny bit disorganised. She was certainly pleasant enough, but the introduction to the class was rather offhand. She asked what perfume we liked but didn't seem to care what our answers were. Bad sign number 2.
Cally and I were put at either side of one table and told to choose 4 base notes. Sophie started putting bottles randomly on our table to share. We were given a sheet to fill out with the ingredients we chose: base, middle, top notes. No glasses of water and we were thirsty. When we asked, Sophie disappeared and came back with half a bottle of water and glasses.
We weren't sure which perfume bottles we had sniffed, which ones we had rejected, and which ones we were giving each other. Total confusion. And worse, no smells we liked. Although I didn't love it, I chose Ambre Orientale out of desperation. Then the mid-notes, without the bottles of base notes being removed. More confusion. Which was which? Cally was muttering under her breath. We chose the best of the bottles provided. Top notes done as well.
Sophie took our sheets away and filled out quantities for us, using her knowledge of perfume, which I don't doubt is extensive: she trained at the best college in Grasse. Then we were given beakers to measure the quantities she'd chosen, just like when you are cooking, she said.
We mixed 45ml of perfume, so there was another as yet unknown 5ml left to add. By this time I was a little in despair. I had used elements I wasn't in love with, so I knew there wasn't much chance I'd like the end product. But I swished it around, dipped my paper tester in it, and smelled it. Rather fresh. Green. Not bad. I thought it needed a little something to round it off.
That's my recipe which may be worth millions. Please don't steal it! Anyway it's not right. I've withheld a vital ingredient. :-)
Sophie smelled it. Yes she said. It needs this, and picked up a bottle. May I smell that before you add it? I asked. I smelled it. I hated it. Please don't put that in, I said. Sophie said, you will see, and tipped in some drops anyway. Oh well. Maybe she was right.
Except when I am cooking, I know that if I have a taste I don't like, I don't add something else I don't like to make it taste better.
I thought she was starting to look a bit unattractive. I admired the floor.
I wandered around while Cally was having her bottle labelled. I decided to call my perfume Quatre Vents (four winds) after the street name of our gorgeous St Sulpice apartment. Or maybe French Cow. The sticker kept lifting off at the sides. I keep pushing it back on. Hard. Cally called hers Carolyn.
Sophie had a few very pretty containers in a glass case.
I found a bottle I hadn't seen before. I opened it. Smelled it. Divine. Ambre vert. Green amber. Cally did you see this green amber when we were smelling the bottles? I asked. No, said Cally. She smelled it. I would have used that for base, middle and top, she said. She makes me laugh.
I think we caught Sophie on a bad day. Neither of us hate our perfume. Neither of us love it. Neither of us would buy it. The whole experience could have been so much better. Later together over a drink we had a little post mortem on how it should be run. Carafe of water (or wine!) and glasses, nibbles, proper introduction. Our own table with every bottle on its proper shelf for base middle and top note. Explanation and consultation. Stickers which stick. No request for Tripadvisor review at the end.
We probably won't be sending for more of our signature fragrance. Or posting a review on Tripadvisor. But you have to laugh. Put it down to experience!
When we told Helena about our experience, she told us that she thinks the best place in Paris to make your own perfume is possibly the company Cinquième Sens, which trains perfumers. The class for novices, where you make your own perfume, is called The Fragrance Creation Workshop.
That's probably where we'll go next time!
Until tomorrow buddies,