Timeless Beauty

I have a friend whose hobby is to lead guided tours in San Francisco. Last weekend she invited us to join one of her tours – San Francisco Waterfront Walk. I had no idea what topic she had chosen but it didn’t matter because we went mostly for a walk itself and to spend some time with her and her husband later that day.

The tour started from The Palace of Fine Arts. It was designed by Bernard R. Maybeck and constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition as a temporary structure to exhibit works of art. It was intended to last for a year or so and be torn down after the exposition was over. But the Palace was so beloved by citizens of San Francisco that it was spared the demolition. Consistent with his design concept (it was supposed to evoke the impression of a Roman ruin), Maybeck had intended that the Palace should just fall into ruin, and so it did for a long time while serving all possible purposes – housing multiple exhibitions, lighted tennis courts (1934-1942), storage of trucks and jeeps (during the WWII), limousines motor pool for the UN representatives after the war, and other odd uses. By 50s “the simulated ruin was in fact a crumbling ruin” but in 60s it was rebuilt to its current state and is being maintained since then.



From the Palace we passed the streets that replaced the exhibit halls in the years that followed the exposition. We went by beautiful Art Deco buildings, through blooming jasmine, lilacs and irises, all the way to the Marina from where you can see one of the world’s largest examples of the Art Deco style – the Golden Gate Bridge on the left and Alcatraz Island on the right.


Up the hill, through the park and Fort Mason Community Garden, to the Haskell House and back down to the shore. It was a wonderful 3-hour walk on a sunny, breezy and, surprisingly for San Francisco, clear day.

What perfume does one choose for such tour?


Paris, 1926. ‘Art deco’ is all the rage, exoticism fascinates, and jazz stirs passions. People dream of faraway lands and precious woods. Once again, Coco Chanel shakes up the history of perfume by launching the first woody fragrance for women. An intoxicating, enveloping, warm, sensual, spiraling scent. It’s all there: the precious woods, the opiate scents and magnificent, languid flowers. The fragrance is a mysterious, faraway continent in itself.


That is an old quote from Chanel’s website. They’ve changed the description at least a couple of times over the last several years (I wonder if it coincided with reformulations) but you have probably guessed already that I chose Bois des Iles as my Waterfront Walk perfume. Since I didn’t know any details of that walk in advance, my perfume choice was just a serendipitous one. But it felt just right – airy, with a whiff of lilacs, jasmine, iris and rose, warm, slightly sweet and woody. Same as The Palace of Fine Arts and the Golden Gate Bridge, this beauty has survived all the years and reconstructions and is still mesmerizing and awe-inspiring.

Chanel Bois des Iles


Images: my own


15 thoughts on “Timeless Beauty

  1. Wowee! I love those photos, especially the one where you see a lake, a swan and that stone arch ‘gazebo-like’ building. And your photo of Bois des Iles among flowers looks so pretty. I wish I had one of those simple and lovely Chanel bottles (Boy preferably)
    You had a hunch that the perfume will suit this walk trip. Wonder if I would make the right choice by accident.


    • Those bottles are pretty and elegant in their simplicity.
      I suspect that I could have justified many other choices from my collection. But this one was just perfect – and I got to write about it.
      I liked that swan picture as well: it would be hard to improve that composition even if I were to guide the bird to the exact position in the frame :)


  2. What a great way to combine a walk with seeing friends, and Bois des Iles was the perfect choice. It really does suit pretty much any occasion. I love the Art Deco detail on that facade, and the ruin itself. Its history and random uses was amusing. ;) I have a friend who did guided tours in the park by The Golden Gate bridge, pointing out the different kinds of plants etc. Not sure if she still does – Hayley Beale – in case guides know one another!


    • I will look your friend up. Golden Gate park is a great place for all kind of walks (and I hope to prove it to you one day soon :) ).
      I think Art Deco was an interesting era, so I’m glad we still have monuments to it – be that buildings, bridges or perfumes.


  3. I loved learning about the Palace of Fine Arts and seeing your gorgeous pics. I adore Art Deco and know I will fall for San Francisco when I get there one day. V, is right – Bois des Iles was a clever and perfect choice.


    • You just come – and we’ll make sure you’ll be sorry to leave ;)

      I have to mention that it was a decant from you that made me to fall in love with that perfume. I’m a little sorry that I waited that long and had to go for the EdP version, but I’m glad I finally got the bottle.


  4. Hi Undina, I enjoyed following you on your waterfront walk. Do you know I’ve never tried Bois des Iles? I’ll have to remedy that next time I’m near it.


  5. Oh my goodness, I can’t believe that the Palace of Fine Arts was intended to be temporary! It’s enchantingly beautiful.

    Thank you for taking us along on your tour. When I got to that last photo of the bottle of Bois de Iles among the lilacs, I thought it was actually a publicity photo from an advertisement — and then I saw your tag line stating that all the images are your own. Well done, Undina!


    • Thank you, Suzanne! It was a rare occasion I found lilacs in the store – soon after I took a picture of lilacs bush on a walk – both occasions were not ordinary since lilacs do not grow well in our climate (not cold enough). So I just had to take that picture – even though lilacs are not that noticeable in Bois des Iles.


  6. What a nice tour! And thank goodness the palace was not left to continue to rot. There are so many historically significant buildings struggling to keep from crumbling and it is a shame that repairs were not made sooner before things got to a point of no return!

    One of these days I need to go back to the Bay Area. My brother lived there during his med school days.


  7. Pingback: I did it again: NovAmber 2018 – Undina's Looking Glass

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