And on the way out to Limoges, not only was there a baby on its mother's lap on the seat next to me, but a bonus baby across the aisle and one row back. I was in for some serious stereo grizzling, I thought. But then two things happened to make me completely revise my opinion on the matter. Firstly, as its mother came down the aisle and spied the seat they had been allocated, she immediately exclaimed: 'Oh, I am sooooo sorry!', which predisposed me to like her from the off. Why, the baby in her arms had yet to emit a sound!, and thanks to the mother's cunning plan of breastfeeding her (for she turned out to be a four month old girl, and to have the exact same name (and middle name!) of the friend I was visiting) for much of the flight, she was as good as gold, quietly feeding until she eventually dozed off, A model baby, no question. There were adults on the plane with loud voices, complicated drinks orders and no small change who were considerably more annoying. Moreover, it turned out that the baby's mother and I had a ton of things in common in addition to the spooky coincidence of the baby's name: we had both worked in waste management(!) and for part of Unigate, and we both had a close relative who had undergone the same cutting edge medical procedure.
|Sightseeing on the 'Route des Noix'|
So between the well stocked duty free perfume section at the Brum end, and having my faith in babies - or specific babies and their mothers - restored, that was a jolly good start to the holiday you could say. My friend L was waiting in Arrivals at Limoges' Lilliputian airport (which is a rare treat for me), and we drove back to her village, just over an hour away by car. I immediately fell in love with L's mid-18th century stone townhouse and en suite barn(!). The previous owners, two elderly sisters, had died some time ago and the house was sold with a number of their beautiful pieces of furniture thrown in.
To kick off the scented aspects of this report, check out L's dressing table in her bathroom, with its artistically arranged perfume bottles and jewellery. (Yes, I know the photo is quite small.) On a side note, L wishes she had bought the new rose scent from Acqua Nobile, the Iris one being a blind buy, and famously not very iris-like. Iris Nobile was one of the first three niche scent purchases I made - all in the space of one impulsive day in Paris in 2008 - and I too lived to regret it. And offload it.
And then there was the piano, with its amazing smell of incense-impregnated wood. Perhaps it had lived some of its life in a church, I don't know. I closed my eyes and pressed my nose to the gleaming curved cover. You could so easily fancy that the meditative scent it yielded was some high end release by Armai Privé. Suggestions of names welcomed!
Then my bed - a cunning improvisation of two inflatable mattresses stacked on top of each other - was the most comfortable one I have lain on in a long time, and even though I am noted for not liking lavender in perfumes, I was touched to find a sprig in a little organza bag on my pillow. I don't seem to mind the stuff in nature, plus I was predisposed to like everything about L's quirky and venerable house: the hydrangeas in milk churns, the toilet rolls in plant pots, the beautiful silver name plate on the boiler.
Oh, and this account would not be complete without a special mention of the orange blossom-scented gentle shower gel in my bathroom, from the brand Le Petit Marseillais. Despite its cheap and cheerful packaging, it smelt decidedly high end and felt benign on my increasingly jumpy skin (of which more in another post).
The next significant crossing of paths with perfume on this trip was on our way back to Limoges the next day, to visit the Bernardaud Foundation, Bernardaud being a brand that is synonymous in France with very upmarket porcelain - the kind that ends up as a bespoke dinner service in a luxury hotel such as Claridge's, for example. L's friend S, a long time resident of the village and a ceramicist herself, came along with us for the day, and I was immediately struck by how pretty her perfume was, and how well it suited her. It turns out that S was wearing La Vie est Belle by Lancôme, which I would never have placed, and may never have smelt, or only hurriedly in an airport somewhere.
Jessica of Now Smell This describes La Vie est Belle as a 'gracefully composed' and 'very wearable' 'fleurmand', describing its drydown as 'a polished and long-lasting harmony of cocoa and soft patchouli and white floral notes'. It has vanilla too, I see, which always tends to reel me in. I will definitely have a spritz of this the next time I am in Boots.
The Foundation visit had two memorable perfumed aspects, in addition to felicitous wisps here and there of S's sillage: the Bernardaud house line of scented candles, which I sniffed in the gift shop - all were well done with delicate and subtle fragrances - there was even a candle that made a very good fist of capturing the scent of porcelain!
So there was that, and then - most startlingly - there was a further perfumed twist to some artefacts in an exhibition of contemporary Korean ceramics, with which our visit happened to coincide. For we stumbled across a series of vases that were made from soap and varnish - and perfume. Whoever would have thought that it might be a good idea to make a vase from soap? The scent of each was quite pronounced - we had to stand on tiptoe to smell inside some of the works on display, though a few were too tall even so!
Another surprise scented object was a walnut windfall, a number of which we came across while walking through an orchard on the second day of the trip. About the size of a green plum, with a leathery aspect and incipient wrinkles, I can confirm that a walnut pod smells oddly herbal, like sage maybe?
And the final perfumed aspect to the trip - for in case you were wondering, there was no duty free at Limoges airport, or even a cafe for that matter! - was a chance encounter in the local 'brocante' (secondhand shop) with a number of retro perfumes: several colognes specific to local French pharmacies, and one or two other curiosities, including a violet perfume from Toulouse.
I didn't buy any perfume, though I did pick up a kitten saucer, a French missal from 1920, and an antique print of a collection of eggs. I could have come away with a stuffed owl or squirrel, but resisted.
However, what I may be less able to resist is the lure of France itself, specifically the area where my friend lives. Okay, the very village. The sense of wellbeing I felt while out there bordered on the transcendental: the gentle pace of life, the simple pleasures of bread and cheese and paté eaten outside on a warm summer's evening...the comforting solidity of the house also felt nurturing, as did the charming selection of vintage tableware and glasses the two sisters had left behind.
As it happens, I collect mugs and egg cups and crockery generally, in addition to being bonkers about perfume...and knitting, and cats. Yep, I love porcelain and bone china and earthenware - and with a bit of time could come to appreciate vases made of soap. And I live within spitting distance of The Potteries, Limoges's opposite number in Staffordshire. So downsizing and retiring one day to France, where houses can still be picked up for a relative song, is only a twinkle in my eye at the moment, but it is one that I think is set to grow...
|Truffle, guarding her walnut|