“Orchids haven’t started blooming yet…”

I saw my first live orchid when I was about twenty years old. I knew about their existence, read about them in books and maybe even saw them once or twice on TV (not sure about that part though) but they just weren’t present where I grew up.

As I tried to remember from where I knew about orchids, Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout were the first suspects that came to mind. Those who read the novels know the important part that the orchid greenhouse plays in the stories: the fact that the famous detective was spending in there four hours daily making clients, police and everybody else adjust their schedules around that activity is one of the common elements of most books in the series. I liked these mysteries and read many of them. So it was hard not to get intrigued by the orchids.


But no, these books came into my life later and they weren’t my first encounter with the fascinating flowers. I think the first impression – or rather imprint on my psyche – had been left by the film based on Arthur Conan Doyle‘s novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Do you remember the scene when Miss Stapleton meets Dr. Watson for the first time and, thinking he was Sir Henry Baskerville, tries to warn him?

“Man, man!” she cried. “Can you not tell when a warning is for your own good? Go back to London! Start tonight! Get away from this place at all costs! Hush, my brother is coming! Not a word of what I have said. Would you mind getting that orchid for me among the mare’s-tails yonder? We are very rich in orchids on the moor, though, of course, you are rather late to see the beauties of the place.

That is the only scene where orchids are mentioned in the book and it’s not too captivating. So why did it have such an effect on me? As I mentioned, it was a film not a book and orchids played a much more prominent role there.

Unlike that character in the book, Sir Henry in this film version was depicted as a slightly goofy and peculiar man. I would go so far as defining him as a comic relief. There is a scene in the movie – a totally original one, there’s nothing even remotely close to it in the book: Sir Henry and Dr. Watson, while waiting in Sir Henry’s room to discover the reason for the secret night journeys of the butler, Mr. Barrymore, to the window, got drunk and Sir Henry, for a minute and a half of the screen time, kept asking Dr. Watson what exactly Miss Stapleton, with whom he was falling in love, told Dr. Watson about orchids and Dr. Watson kept answering: “She said: it is too early to see the beauties of the place since orchids haven’t started blooming yet.” And they went on and on about it (see the video clip below; it doesn’t have subtitles but body language and manner of speech is clear enough to understand what is going on).

That last part about orchids became a popular expression. I’m not sure if others caught the season swap – I didn’t. It wasn’t until I looked up the original quote for this post that I realized that there was a switch.

I don’t know with any degree of certainty why the script writer or the director decided to do that: I doubt it was done for the phrase. But knowing where the movie was filmed, my guess is that they’d decided it would be easier to depict Devon’s nature in early spring without any greenery. And did I mention we had no orchids whatsoever?

I like orchids. Not only they are utterly beautiful but they are also very enduring: they bloom for months. But orchids do not like me: the longest I managed to keep one of them alive was about two years and it never bloomed again. Usually, though, it ends up like this (giraffe finger puppet optional):

Orchid post bloom

So while I still get real orchids in my house from time to time, I decided to focus my attention on more … durable objects. Who would have thought I could find a context to classify perfume as durable? But compared to orchids…

Black Orchid by Tom Ford does not require an introduction: by now everybody has tried it and made up their minds (but for those who landed on this post right after returning from a desert island, Kafka’s review provides all the information for this perfume you might crave). I just want to touch on a couple of aspects.

First, Black Orchid is one of a few perfumes that live up to the qualifier: it smells deep and dark. It’s not a day-wear perfume and it even smells differently in the evening (OK, I know that this part is subjective but I had to share how I feel).

Second, I fail to smell chocolate in Black Orchid. Usually I’m not surprised when I cannot get some notes since my nose isn’t too good with discerning them. But chocolate?! Do you know how many kilograms of dark chocolate I’ve consumed?!!

Speaking of chocolate, are you aware that there is an orchid variety that smells like chocolate? I encountered it on my Hawaiian trip – in a greenhouse though, not in nature (see the picture below). Black Orchid doesn’t smell like it either.

Orchid that smells like chocolate

Back to durability… I’ve recently discovered that my mini bottle of Black Orchid has gone bad. I got it in a swap so I’m not sure how old it is but it reinforces my bias against dab mini bottles. If I go through the remaining spray sample I might consider a small bottle since I like both the scent and the bottle. And I like the idea of a black orchid.


Images: my own


Scents of My Hawaii Vacation

What did my Hawaii vacation smelled of? It smelled of freshly mowed grass on a golf course next to our condo; of papayas, mangos and dragon fruits we were eating for breakfast; of a night ocean breeze and sun-heated seaweed as we walked along beaches; of orchids (including the one that smelled like chocolate!), plumerias and other tropical flowers, of greenery wet with rain and of dusty lava fields – as we hiked in the volcano park; of 100% Kona coffee and white Hawaiian honey we tried at different coffee farms. But since it is not a travel blog I should probably write about more important stuff – perfumes.

Hapuna beach parkFor this week-long trip I decided to be “minimalistic”: one full bottle, one mini, one travel spray and two sample vials. I’ve voted against any new perfume testing not to skew the first impression by the unusual heat, humidity and … by being on a vacation.

You know how when you’re flying any airline they start the boarding with the first/business class passengers, then members of their super-duper-exclusive clubs, then… During this trip United has overdone itself: I couldn’t imagine there were so many special privileged categories. It felt like there were more passengers labeled one way or the other than “regular” ones.

My vSO and I have many small rituals and traditions when we travel together. One of the newest rituals is sharing Voyage d’Hermes scent for the flight. We use it from a mini bottle (dabbed, not sprayed) so it’s very light and not offensive to those around us but if we lean close we can get a whiff of it from each other. So my flight was scented by Voyage d’Hermes and, on a several occasions, by my neighbor‘s very strongly perfumed but luckily short-lived B&B Works’ Orange Ginger lotion (I didn’t ask, I recognized the scent).

Bronze Goddess by Estee Lauder

Bronze Goddess with dragon< fruit>s

Bronze Goddess is such a beautiful perfume! Never too much, never too annoying but always summer-y, bright and perky. Just right for a perfect day in tropics. Being “pigmentally” challenged (©Olfactoria’s Travels – please read her very enticing and nicely illustrated review of Bronze Goddess), the closest I could ever get to being a bronze goddess is to smell like one. I did.

Speaking of [not] tanning. I know that summer is over for most of my blogo-friends, but I still want to mention three products with sunscreen by which I swear (links aren’t affiliate, just for the illustration purposes): Aveeno Continuous Protection Sunblock Spray for body – very easy to apply, not greasy, with a subtle scent (for a sunblock), doesn’t leave white residue; Shiseido Ultimate Sun Protection Cream SPF 55 PA+++ for face (for swimming or hiking) – absorbs well, doesn’t leave shine or residue, doesn’t clog pores (I have a sensitive skin); and Shiseido Urban Environment UV Protection Cream SPF 35 PA+++ for face (for less engaging activities) – the similar characteristics as for the face cream above but with less SPF and not being water-resistant, it’s really lightweight.

As I promised to my new perfume friend Tiare by Ormonde Jayne, I took her with me on my tropical vacation. In the evenings when an ocean breeze would put out a day heat, all dressed-up for dinner I would adorn myself with Tiare. I truly enjoyed her company. I think it is a perfect perfume for a tropical night out. It feels so right in place on the open terrace under the moonless starry sky, surrounded by palm trees and the sound of the invisible ocean just a hundred steps in front of you. And a slick travel spray will fit even into the smallest purse. Read real reviews for Ormonde Jayne’s Tiare at Olfactoria’s Travels and Bonkers about Perfume.

Two samples that I brought with me to Hawaii were Frangipani by Ormonde Jayne and Black Orchid by Tom Ford. I wore Frangipani one night and I was surprised that I liked it much less than I remembered. It was still nice but something was wrong. When I came home and checked my notes, I found out that I liked Frangipani a lot in winter (ok, that was a Californian winter), on cool but sunny days. So for whatever reasons a tropical flower-based perfume doesn’t work for me in tropics – go figure. On the other hand, Black Orchid about behavior of which in a hot weather I had my reservations was just wonderful. I do not know if I should partially attribute that success to the place I was visiting at the moment, so – just in case you ever decide to reproduce the experiment to a tee – I give you all the details.

Mauka Coffee FarmMauka Coffee FarmMauka Coffee Farm

If you ever travel to Big Island I full-heartedly recommend visiting Mauka Meadows Coffee Farm. I’m a coffee fan but not a connoisseur so I cannot tell if their coffee is really good though I liked it enough to buy some coffee to bring home. But it’s not the coffee that made the place special for me. It’s their garden. Their own website doesn’t do them justice! They have beautiful well-kept grounds – a coffee farm surrounded by a very organic fusion of a tropical-themed Japanese garden and a fruit orchard. This area of the island is very wet, so it’s not too hot and it rains there often in the afternoons. The first nice touch was a selection of umbrellas to borrow in a shed  on the parking lot. As you walk through the gardens, down to the main pavilion, you can not only enjoy the view but also you can sample fruits from the trees along your path. We ate very ripe and flavorful small red guavas right off the tree. Also, for the first time in my life, I tried fresh macadamia nuts (there was a special cracker placed next to nut trees). I’m glad I do not have an easy access to those nuts: it would have been an awful temptation.

Mauka Coffee FarmWhen you reach the foot of the hill you are greeted with a sample of their coffee. You can sit (either under the roof of the open pavilion or, if weather permits, outside at one of the lawn tables) and enjoy the tranquility of the view – a water pool flowing to the horizon and meditation music. There is no pressure to buy anything but if you want they offer three types of coffee in a variety of sizes and local honey. A minivan is ready to take you back up to the parking lot (unless you choose – as we did – to walk back through the garden). The first time we came there just by chance when we couldn’t find the coffee farm recommended on Yelp. But it was so peaceful and so beautiful that in a couple of days I just had to go there again. That was when I wore Black Orchid and it completed the wonderful experience.

Hawaii - Paradise on EarthIf anybody still had any doubts, here’s the proof that Hawaii is a Paradise on Earth: more than once we observed the commensalism, peaceful coexistence of local cats, birds, and mongooses (click on the image to see two mongooses eating/drinking from cats’ bowls).

The trip, as great as it was, wouldn’t be complete without some interesting new perfumed experience, right? So for those who are still reading, I want to announce that in the upcoming week I plan to publish an addendum to my vacation story to share with you my unexpected perfumed encounter. Stay tuned!

As always, feel free to post a link to your blog’s post(s) related to the topic.

Images: my own