Saturday, 3 December 2011

A Trio Of Bonkers Trips: No 1 (Germany & Switzerland) - More Sniffing At Birmingham Airport

Just when I think I have got this travelling lark down to a fine art, St Christopher throws me a curved ball... (I think I mean St Christopher - St Nicholas is Christmas, right?). For the journey to the airport on this, the first of my three work trips, was more than usually fraught, starting with impromptu roadworks on all the main roads leading into Stafford town centre. Traffic was at a standstill, but luckily the taxi driver had already fallen foul of the gridlock with his previous fare, so we wove a circuitous route via the back roads and I made my train with minutes to spare. I was glad I had thought to reserve a seat, because the coaches were so full that in the absence of seats - or even standing room - some passengers had wedged themselves into the luggage racks, quite literally "stowing" themselves away...

On reaching the airport, I thought I would soothe my frazzled nerves with some stodgy comfort food, but the gristly grey sludge that passed for the filling of a Cornish pasty only served to put me more on edge. "Never mind", I said to myself: "The duty free section is always good for a spot of perfume therapy."

I had travelled through Birmingham only last August, so didn't expect a great deal to have changed in the fragrance section. I gave the Chanel Les Exclusifs counter a wide berth this time, for fear that an assistant would waft a blotter with Jersey on it under my nose. I could see the large size tester prominently displayed on top of the fixture and shuddered as I scuttled past, training my eyes on the Dior lipsticks straight ahead.

I did get nobbled by one sales assistant, who urged me to try Kenzo Flower Tag of all things. As it was one of the few scents in the line I had not sampled, I relented, though not before I had warned the SA that I wasn't exactly the target demographic for Tag and fully expected not to like it. The SA looked a bit taken aback, then downright puzzled as I added: "This is just in the spirit of scientific inquiry, you understand". In the event Tag reminded me of a weedier, more watery version of Hugo Boss Deep Red.

"It's got rhubarb", remarked the SA helpfully. I was impressed by her powers of intuition, for it so happens that I will cut a "rhubarb-forward" perfume a lot of slack, though in the case of Tag, it still wasn't enough. "I know", I replied, "but the overall effect isn't doing it for me."

"What about Kenzo Amour? That's nice - would you like to try that?"

"No, I do know that one, but I blow hot and cold with heliotrope, I'm afraid."

"Do like heliotrope, then?"

Which was my cue to melt into the nearby Tom Ford fixture, where I managed for the umpteenth time to pick up a bottle of Violet Blonde and put it down again. I went through a similar charade with both Bottega Veneta and Prada Candy - somehow the mere act of picking up the pack and fondling the smooth cellophane in my hand for a moment seemed to miraculously assuage some of my spenderlust.

So what did I actually sniff, apart from Tag? Here are some mini - or even micro nuggetlet - reviews of a few scents that were either new to me or which I was retesting:

Balenciaga Paris L'Essence

Green cut-glass violets

YSL Paris

Violent violets - as opposed to Parisienne, its younger cousin, which is (as I have said before) merely disgruntled purple talc. I didn't get the rose very much, though maybe it was busy stoking the furious violet furnace. Wasn't it Luca Turin who called this one "roaring rose"?

Chloe EDP Intense


Estée Lauder Sensuous Nude (reprise)

Burnt hazelnuts (still), but smoother on skin than on the blotter when I last tried it in August. More of a cold cream and truffle feel to it as opposed to sharp fragments of shell.

Vivienne Westwood Cheeky Alice

Floral oxymoron

Supposedly the "sexier older sister" of Naughty Alice, you just know from the sales blurb below (courtesy of Now Smell This) that this simply cannot be so...

"At the heart of this cheeky and delightful fragrance is a fresh and floral bouquet that perfectly captures Alice’s femininity and impertinence. The delicacy of the lily of the valley catches your attention and subtly leads you to a voluptuous and noble fragrance of fresh peony mixed with a touch of rose, eternal symbol of womanhood."

Even allowing for the touch of rose, "voluptuous and noble fresh peony" is patently a contradiction in terms. Trust me on this - the musky, peppery, Kenzo Amour Indian Holi-esque Naughty Alice is the cheekier of the two, and frankly it is no more cheeky than a slightly upturned nose.

And d'you know what? - after about six hours they all smelt quite pleasant, even Chloé Intense (just about : - ) ).

Photo of Birmingham airport from, photo of pasties from, photo of Kenzo Flower Tag from, photo of Chloé EDP Intense from, photo of Chloé EDP Intense from


Anonymous said...

You are back! I'm glady! :)

I love that Birmingham Airport! Sadly it is probably forever out of my reach...

Your Chloe EdP Intense review is succinct and to the point, I couldn't agree more.

lovethescents said...

Birmingham is truly amazing....Tom Fords? Chanel Les Exclusifs? So impressive!! So did you buy a lipstick? ;-i

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Despite appearances I'm not back yet - I am in fact holed up in my hotel in Eberbach, east of Heidelberg (which is where I got to smell Black Jade today!). It was a choice between doing some work or writing Christmas cards, postcards or emails - and blogging won!

: - )

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I didn't buy a Dior lipstick (I have a goodly number already that is best not quantified!), but I do have a yen to own one of the Lancôme L'Absolu Nu range - the quest to find the perfect nude lipstick continues. Problem is that I have quite dark pink lips so even the "intense lip colour" variant from Lancôme doesn't cut it with my natural lip colour. The new super cheapo Kate Moss range for Rimmel isn't bad - No 3 Nude - but it still makes me look a little pasty...

Vanessa said...

PS That was a goodly number of lipsticks generally - I don't own any by Dior in fact!

Vanessa said...

And I forgot to say, Olfactoria, that I recently learnt one of the German words for tautology - "Doppelmoppel" - and heard it used for the first time this week! As good as "Hoppelpoppel", which I have yet to hear live...!

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see. I thought you might have flown home today after Black Jade. (Oh, I hope no one attacks me for merely writing the name of the infamous perfume, I swore to never lay eyes or nose on again!) :D

I have yet to hear either Doppelmoppel or Hoppelpoppel (I'm not even quite sure about the meaning of the latter) in real life. *shakes head at the linguistic peculiarities of the Germans* (and in asterisks even!!!) ;)

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfactoria,

Yes, by mentioning Black Jade - which I did think very nice btw, though I only tried it on card - I didn't mean to bring back unhappy memories!

I never really thought before that Austrians might have such differences in vocabulary - is it a bit like US and British English, I wonder? Hoppelpoppel is a type of scrambled egg with ham or other leftover bits and pieces, possibly peculiar to Berlin, which is of course a peculiar place (in a good way). : - )

lovethescents said...

Now I know it's all a question of individual taste, but I reaaaaalllly don't like the look of nude lipstick. It makes faces look pasty, as you noted, and 'dead'. Don't waste your time and money in the hunt. Go for a lovely, light, creamy peach gloss and that would be perfect on you!

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

I know what you mean about nude lipstick being tricky - on my yellow toned skin for sure. I think I have just the right shade of peach lip gloss you had in mind - Estee Lauder Copper. I also have "Shy Girl", a creamy peach lipstick from MAC, which works better on me in summer, and my go-to workhorse lipstick for all seasons is probably Bourjois Rose en Forme, a sort of peachy red that seems to go with just about everything.

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad for a Bonkers sniffage report. I hope the remainder of the busy holiday travel goes as smoothly as can be expected at this time of year.

Vanessa said...

Hi anotherperfumeblog,

I haven't encountered too many holidaymakers so far, but it isn't that close to Christmas yet. My final work trip is the week before Christmas so I imagine it will be a bit more of a bun fight on the roads and at airports!

Anonymous said...

Vanessa, I am glad to have another Bonkers Sniffage Report and I'm also glad that you are making steps towards buying Violet Blonde, perhaps next time you may take it to the counter and buy it?

I have had the exact same thing with Prada Candy as you, I raved about it, kept trying it in-store but for some reason I never bit the bullet, hmm...

What do you think we'll get after Cheeky Alice? I'm hoping for Alice's rebellious, promiscuous older sister 'Stop-Out' Alice, but I guess that will probably never happen. Le sigh.

Tara said...

Ah, the wonders of Birmingham airport!Must try Sensuous Nude.

I feel comforted that you have "heliotrope issues" as well as me because it seems to be such a popular note.

Safe travels!

Ines said...

I plan on writing about my short trip soon but in the meantime enjoyed your travelogue. :)

Btw, St. Nicholas is today - at least in Croatia, and all children wake up today to find a little something tucked into their cleaned shoes. :)

lovethescents said...

Veee, is the EL Copper a gloss or a lipstick?

Vanessa said...

Hi Candy Perfume Boy,

It is funny isn't it, this picking up and fondling routine without making a purchase. I wonder which one of us will crack first and take a bottle all the way to the till...

: - )

And you are absolutely right, we need to "sex up" these Alices: "Stop-Out" is good, or maybe "Totally Trollied And Throwing Up In The Taxi Alice" though it might be a lot to fit on the box.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara

Sensuous Nude didn't move me, tbh - I may even prefer Sensuous Noir, which I was surprised to like as much as I do - but it was nicer second time round, if you get on with those burnt hazelnuts.

Oh yes, big heliotrope issues, though I don't mind it in trace amounts eg in Apres L'Ondee. At least it doesn't bother me there for some reason.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines,

That's interesting about the sweet St Nicholas tradition in Croatia. I was in Switzerland today and two men were discussing the festival and their children in the foyer of the company I visited this morning, though I didn't catch all the details.

Look forward to hearing about your trip - I have a day in Paris next week - well, half a day after the work bit is done, and will try to make the most of it if I am not too tired by then.

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents,

It's a gloss - I have it and it has been quite a staple. This is it here, although the listing is ended so the picture fades from view when you click on it!

Undina said...

Vanessa, I think you absolutely have to buy at least one Dior's lipstick! I love Rouge Dior line (Addict is not bad Rouge is so nice in wearing).

While we're talking about lipsticks (for a change :) ) - what are your favorite lines/brands?

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Is Rouge Dior red, if that is not a silly question? I never think I can wear red lipstick anymore - I look like Cruella de Ville these days when I put on red, or plum or dark pink of any kind. But I aspire to wearing red lipstick still, if I could find one that didn't make me look Munsterish.

I have very ordinary tastes in makeup really - I like my Estee Lauder Copper lip gloss and have a few MAC lipsticks, and a couple of workhorse Bourjois and Cliniques (good for sludgy pinks, corals and pinky browns). I am open to any brand tbh - high or low end - if it feels nice to apply and is a good colour on me (quite a feat with my dark pink lips and yellow-toned skin!)

I am also horribly loath to throw out any old lipsicks, even if I never wear them. One or two of them date from the 80s...It is shocking to look back at some of the frosted frights I must have worn once; even if I was 30 years younger at the time, it is still no excuse!

Undina said...

Vanessa, nothing to fear - it's just the name, colors are in the regular range. I really like the texture and how it feels on my lips.

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina

I made a point of seeking out the Rouge range of Dior lipsticks at a department store in Paris the other day, and rather liked the look of 644 (Blossom) as a possibly wearable red. My instinct tells me I am probably better off with peaches and not too mauvey pinks - there were others in the range along these lines, just as you said, but it is the red one whose number sticks in my mind.