Once in Bruges, much of our energy was consumed by the hunt for a parking spot and our efforts not to knock over cyclists, but we did manage to fit in a bit of sightseeing and shopping. There are approximately 175 chocolate shops for every one selling perfume, and we did find a lipstick made of solid chocolate, but no fragrance bottles as such. We spied a fragrance bottle shaped like a diamond in Bruges's Diamond Museum, but unfortunately it came with a generic pink "house scent" already in it - otherwise I might have bought the empty flacon. We also found diamonds made out of chocolate, indeed we came across pretty much every combo of chocolate and Bruges-themed artefact, plus a variety of unmentionable body parts, but sadly not a single choco-flacon.
Thus it came as no shock only to find three stores selling perfume at all: the department store INNO, which had most of the usual designer suspects, and one or two wild cards like Private, the new scent from the brand IKKS. I have since learnt on Nstperfume that this is a "trendy French sportswear brand", which would explain why I haven't heard of it. The notes in Private include mandarin, blackcurrant, white flowers, amber, praline and vanilla, so I am faintly surprised to have been so taken with it, but then again I tried it immediately after Ferre Rose, which struck me as a "poor man's Paris" of a foghorn rose, supported by a bowl of fruit and a bouquet of overly sweet flowers. These included a Japanese variety of gardenia called Kuchinashi - not to be confused with the naan bread of that name. : - ) The most striking thing about the INNO offering were the prices, which were right up there with Stockholm. Case in point: Kenzo Flower Oriental 50ml came in at 75 euros, which is of course near as dammit the same in pounds these days.
The other main outlet (see photo!) was ICI Paris XL, which had an even more comprehensive selection of designer scents, plus the odd niche bottle (I spotted a few Guerlain bee bottles at the top of a display case about 12 foot off the ground - so not exactly your eye level best sellers then...!). There was also a bunch of old classics like Balmain and Scherrer and brands that I class - perhaps unfairly - as "lower end designer" (all at floor level), for example Mexx, Laura Biagotti, Trussardi, Sergio Tacchini, Iceberg, Armand Basi, Orlane and Azzarro.
I tried the Azzarro Twin for women (the white one), whilst trying to erase from my mind associations between the bottle and "personal massagers", however impressionistic. Twin's main notes are listed as rose, peach, almond tree flower, iris and musk, and I must say I found the almond note quite disagreeable, like cotton wool crossed with Bakewell tart.
The final - and most unexpected - perfume outlet was a shop selling soft furnishings and ornaments from Morocco, called Dar Mima. http://www.darmima.be/
It carries the Les Parfums du Soleil range of perfumes by Moroccan botanist-turned-perfumer Abderrazak Benchaâbane, who just pips Francis Kurkdjian as the nose with the most unspellable surname. I tried all the range briefly on paper and none seemed to bowl me over at the time, but I have kept one of the strips - sadly with no indication of which scent is on it (semi-pro!) - and I keep coming back to sniff its beautiful soft drydown.
The six eaux de toilette are: Sultane des Coeurs, Mogador, Soir de Marrakech, Festival, L'Agdal and Casablanca. I think the one on the paper strip might be Soir de Marrakech - it does remind me stylistically a bit of L'Air du Désert Marocain or PG L'Ombre Fauve, and I have managed to find notes for it as including amber, musk, vanilla, patchouli, and citrus oils.
The other perfume highlight of the trip has to be giving my partner's mother a bottle of Coco Chanel EDP on the Thursday morning, her 75th birthday. She has only discovered perfume at all in the last year, and has recently gravitated from Burberry Women to Coco, with minimal input from me. Her sillage was creamy and warm like a sable stole, cocooning her in this winter wonderland. Well, metaphorically, anyway, as we both ended up buying hats.
Back home, the novelty chocolate Santas and Leonidas boxes of truffles are safely stowed in the fridge. The latter have a shelf life of six weeks apparently - even the creams - but will be lucky to see the New Year in. And we will be very disappointed if we don't spot a shop selling an edible bottle of "Choco" - or perhaps "Cocoa" - Chanel on our next visit...