The Big Easy: Food, Music, Cats and Perfumes

New Orleans seems to be one of those places to where everybody either always wanted to go or had been to and remembers it fondly. Somehow nobody I spoke about New Orleans had mentioned the local weather.

Neither my vSO nor I like hot weather. Hot and humid is even worse. So I’m not sure how it happened that we agreed to go with our friends to New Orleans mid-June. It just hadn’t crossed my mind to check in March when we planned the trip what to expect. Most likely, I wasn’t paying attention because the dates were set (our friends had an annual event to attend there, and we were just piggybacking on their special hotel rates). So for the six days we spent there it was above 30C/90F during the day, which put a strain on our ability to explore the city. But we did our best.

Ambiance

When arriving to a new city, nothing puts you at ease better than seeing a new security feature introduced by Uber…

 

Uber Safety Feature

 

I swear: it wasn’t there several hours earlier when I used the app to get a ride to the airport in San Francisco! So, while I thought it was a clever idea, and whenever I used Uber before, I was always making sure to inform somebody where I was, I started questioning immediately how unsafe it was there that they felt like running the onboarding for the feature specifically on my first use of the service in New Orleans. But during the stay everything seemed to be quite safe, even though (or thanks to?) I’ve never remembered seeing that much of police presence on the streets anywhere else.

Food

Food we had during our stay in New Orleans was good. I wouldn’t say it was spectacular but it was good. Expensive but good. We even found a place that served an afternoon tea. What pleasantly surprised me was that practically all cocktails we had in different places were well made, which I cannot say about many restaurants around where we live. Looking back, the day was broken into small chunks of doing something else in between finding ourselves at the next café or restaurant – to cool off while eating or drinking something.

 

 

Entertainment

Recommendations we got from friends and colleagues were food (everyone started with food!), swamps (it was too hot to attempt that), a couple of museums (did that) and music events. We were too busy before the trip to research where we’d like to go, and it was a mistake. The first night in New Orleans a group of us went to some jazz club for a drink and some music. Drinks were fine. Music… Some people just do not understand that “improvisation” doesn’t mean producing random sounds with a saxophone. For the next 6 days, as we were coming across different musicians on the street or at different venues – be those marching or seating bands or even lonely drummers, I kept saying: “Even that is better than what we heard the first night!”

 

 

I get easily bored at museums: there’s that fine line between keeping me interested for 2-3 hours and making me yawn in 15 minutes, and I rarely can predict the way it would go with one museum or the other. But since it was very hot outside, Louisiana State Museum seemed like a good alternative to just returning to the hotel room and trying to watch Netflix streaming of some next show episode.

It wasn’t the most interesting or entertaining exhibition but it had its moments, so I cannot really complain about it (it was much better than numerous museums I’ve visited in different parts of the world before). But one stand captured my attention, and I spent probably more than 5 minutes in front of it.

New Orleans Music

 

I did read the text (and you can too if you open the picture: I purposefully didn’t resize it); but what attracted me the most, were two telephone handsets (wired) that you could use to listen to the same song – The Battle of New Orleans – performed by Johnny Horton and Lonnie Donegan. I still can’t say which one I like more. Can you?

 

 

 

Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium wasn’t something that anyone had recommended but one night while walking around our hotel we came across a bright lit window with live butterflies, got curious and came back the next day. I have no idea how it came to that, but this museum, the largest free-standing American museum dedicated to insects, is located at the U.S. Custom House Federal Building. The security measures to get into this museum were stricter than those we went through at the airport. But I really enjoyed the exposition. We all probably read about mimicry and saw some nature documentary about it on TV, but when you see up-close insects that resemble flowers (Orchid mantis) or leaves (Dead Leaf mantis or walking leaf Phylliidae) it is very impressive. (Can you spot all of them on the pictures below?) And butterflies that just float all around you and sit on any available surface (including you) were just beautiful.

 

 

Cats

Even while on the best vacation, we miss Rusty a lot. I wish he could travel with us. But I doubt either one of us would enjoy it. So he usually gets a cat sitter to keep him company. And while we were getting the “proof of life” as I called those daily pictures that a cat sitter was sending us, we kept coming across New Orleans cats everywhere – on the street (either sleeping in shadow or even walking on a leash), in the store (in an eyewear shop Art & Eyes where we went because our friend wanted to get a new frame, we met Hamilton, a store cat; another one we saw sleeping on a half-finished carpet still on a loom), or on pictures and prints sold at the art fair on Frenchman street (I couldn’t pass that orange cat print – so now it hangs over my Zen Garden in the office).

 

 

Perfumes

I plan to do the next post focusing on perfumes I discovered while in New Orleans: it won’t make them justice to cram them in the end of a long post. But since it’s a perfume blog, I cannot not to touch on the subject completely (and it wouldn’t be true to the story since perfumes do play an important role in my life).

Since I knew it would be hot and humid, I brought with me perfumes that I thought would work well in that weather. And all of them were great and added to positive side of the trip. But the one that stood out was Byredo Bal D’Afrique.

Before falling in love with it, I tried it several times. The issue was that two samples that I got from friends earlier stayed neglected in the pile “to test” until they went off leaving rather unpleasant impression and regret about wasted skin “real estate” once I finally got to test them. And then I got a fresh sample – and it was a completely different story.

Even then I, being me, did not go for a bottle but instead bought a decant from one of the split groups on FB. Partially it’s explained by the fact that I think that Byredo’s minimalistic bottle and packaging design doesn’t suit this perfume. Those clean lines, good for the tender La Tulipe, seem wrong for this bright and sexy perfume.

I do not see myself wearing it too often since most of my life goes at work, and Bal D’Afrique is not even remotely office-friendly, but it is an extremely interesting oriental woody perfume that should work equally well both in the dead of winter and on a tropical vacation. It seems like a truly unisex perfume but not one of those anemic citrus-y numbers that can be considered as such just because none of genders would claim the ownership, but rather a bold statement that perfectly fits anyone who wants to wear it.

If you find interesting such perfumes as Byredo Pulp, L’Artisan Traversee du Bosphore or DelRae Bois de Paradise, definitely give Bal D’Afrique a try.

 

Rusty in Grass

 

Since my decant of Bal D’Afrique isn’t too picturesque, and I do not have any Africa-inspired or related items to make a nice shot, I decided to illustrate it with the photo of Rusty on my backyard (à la African Savanna stroll).

 

Is New Orleans on your bucket list?

 

Images: my own

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Visiting Three Monarchies, Part 3: Stockholm

“Vacation” is usually not the first association when you hear “Stockholm.” On our itinerary this city got by chance: we live so far away from Europe, that there is a limited number of direct flights between us and the Old World. Barcelona did not have any, so to get back home we’d have to do a plane change. If you were to add an extra flight and a couple of hours for transfer, the trip would easily stretch for 17+ hours – something that I try to avoid whenever possible. So while planning the vacation, we decided we’d do a couple of days’ stopover in one of the direct-flights-reach cities. Stockholm was the one with the best combination of schedules and fares. The fact that all three destinations were monarchies had dawned on us much later – at Livrustkammaren (The Royal Armory in Stockholm) as we were discussing that not a single Royalty has acknowledged our presence in any of the visited countries…

Accommodations

For a change, for that last part of the trip we went for a hotel room. It was a pleasant hotel decorated in the style of Roaring Twenties. Our room was quiet, had heavy curtains and a very comfortable bed, in which we finally had a good night sleep (the first night we slept for 12 hours straight).

Haymarket Hotel Stockholm

It was rather cold (+14C after +26C in Barcelona) and raining; we discovered that Stockholm was a very practical and minimalistic city, even its old town part; but somehow it felt very comforting and friendly. The first evening as we walking in the rain enjoying clean and orderly streets, we came across a small park inside the Art Nouveau building of Stockholm’s Central Pool (Centralbadet) built in the beginning of the previous century. It was an absolutely magical experience: beautiful lilacs and other blossoms in the drizzle of evening rain. I felt happy.

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Three days that we spent there was a delightful coda to our vacation.

Perfumes I took with me

Following the idea of bringing to this vacation only perfumes local to the destination, I packed a couple of decants and a sample from the only Swedish brand I had in my collection – Byredo. La Tulipe was just amazing, and I might re-consider wearing it only as a summer perfume: it was wonderful in the colder weather. Pulp was predictably good. I hope these both perfumes are still available once I finish the decants I have. Bal D’Afrique, which I brought with me for further testing, was nice but not enough for me to go for a bottle.

Perfumes I tested

After my London and Barcelona perfume escapades, I didn’t plan to do much more perfume testing but I still managed to visit a couple of perfume spots – a perfume department in the luxury department store NK and a standalone perfumery Insanto.

Both places had interesting selection of perfumes but not too many of the brands not available elsewhere, and I concentrated my testing mostly on those brands, to which I do not have an easy access.

Insanto Stockholm

Perfumes I didn’t buy

Perfume prices in Sweden do not impel spontaneous perfume purchases. Also, there weren’t that many Swedish brands – so most of the tested perfumes did not fit the original intent to get “souvenirs” from the countries I visited. But several perfumes that I liked while testing on skin are worth mentioning: were they “Made in Sweden,” I would have considered buying one of these.

I love and own two perfumes by Keiko Mecheri but because this brand is not available where I live I’m not too familiar with their line. That’s why I was interested to try at least some of the perfumes – even though I didn’t think I’d buy them there. I thought that Bois Satin smelled very nice, and I hope to be able to test it again soon.

For a long time I stayed away from Xerjoff: even though I tested occasionally some of their perfumes that came my way one way or the other, I didn’t make any conscious attempts to follow their new releases, and of those perfumes that I tried before I didn’t warm up enough to any to go even for a decant. They clearly like Xerjoff in Sweden: I saw it in both stores where I tested perfumes (and I want to remind you that one of them was a department store). So I gave up and tested some of the perfumes. I liked several on paper and then one on my skin. I don’t know why I happen to like the one that is sold out almost everywhere – XJ 1861 Naxos. Now I’ll have to locate a sample to test it again before I start scavenging eBay and FB groups for a bottle.

I’ve never heard of either the “famous Costes Hotel in Paris” (Fragrantica) or the eponymous perfume that Olivia Giacobetti created for that hotel in 2004, but when I tested Costes for the first time, I liked it. I’m not completely sure yet how I feel about perfumes that perfume shops create under their own brands – let alone perfumes for hotels, so I will try Costes again if I come across it somewhere but I won’t probably be actively looking for it.

Stockholm Blotters

Speaking of hotel perfumes, the only perfume I was seriously considering on this part of the trip was perfume sold in the hotel’s gift shop: No 1 Haymarket Eau de Parfum. The scent is described as: “Velvetly vanilla, powdery ambergris, and smoky sandalwood united with modern and surprising tones of bergamot, citrus and a hint of pepper.” For a couple of days I would be stopping by the gift shop to apply this perfume and then would keep smelling my wrist… for the next couple of hours while perfume was still discernible. I thought it was nice. It was local. And it wasn’t even expensive (less than $30 for a 30 ml bottle). Why didn’t I buy it? I realized that with all the great perfumes that I already had in my collection (and several more that I might be considering after more tests), I would just never have time for this pleasant but nondescript little number – no matter how warm I felt about that hotel that sheltered us in the final part of our turbulent vacation.

Haymarket Hotel EdP No1

Just in case you got drowned in the endless parts of my trip: it was the last one, and in the next post Rusty and I will finally reveal what perfumes I brought back with me.

 

Images: all but the last one – my own; No 1 Haymarket EdP – from the hotel site.