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.

The Tulip

I love flowers.

On the morning of my birthday I’ve got the most beautiful bouquet from my vSO delivered to our house. The same evening for the party many of my friends brought me more flowers. Mostly roses. One of them, V. decided to be original: he brought me a bouquet consisting of a single tulip.

It was a wonderful party, we came home late, tired and with an armful of flowers. As quickly as I could, I found vases for all the flowers so that they would not die and we were off to bed.

TulipFor the next couple of weeks I was throwing away all the beautiful flowers as they were wilting. And only the tulip was holding up stoically in its vase on a mantel shelf (high away from my cat’s reach). I didn’t remember tulips being that lasting but I was glad it outlived roses, lilies and other more noble flowers. I didn’t dare to check how firm it still was having experienced on more than one occasion that one touch was all a tulip needed to become a pile of petals. Even my vSO, usually not too observant when it comes to anything flowers-related, finally noticed an unusual longevity of this tulip. And was told immediately to not even think about touching it.

Almost four weeks after my birthday, while talking to V., I mentioned that I was still enjoying his gift and almost went on discussing how extraordinary it was but stopped because he was laughing and saying something like: “Of course! Anybody can bring a real flower but not everyone is bold enough to bring an artificial one”… He wasn’t laughing at me, he clearly thought that I knew it wasn’t a real tulip and was joking. I forced a laugh out as I was hurrying to the fireplace. Still not believing it completely I touched a pink petal…

 

La Tulipe by Byredo – created in 2010, notes include rhubarb, cyclamen, freesia, tulip, blonde woods and vetiver. Only reading reviews for this perfume I discovered that there were tulips that had no smell (“Contrary to popular belief, there are fragrant tulip species…”). For me, my whole life I knew that tulips smelled, I knew tulips’ scent. I remember that scent, I imagine now how exactly they smell – green, fresh, slightly bitter, more vegetal than flowery. Does La Tulipe smell like a real tulip? No. How does it smell? Green, fresh, slightly bitter, more vegetal than flowery. The ideal “idea of the tulip”. And I like it as an idea. I’m not sure if I would even like to have a more realistic tulip perfume. This one is just right. Also it has a surprising longevity for such a fresh and light scent.

 

I still keep that silk tulip in the same vase (I just poured water out), on the same cat-proof shelf. I know it’s not real. I’m not sure if I would even like having a real tulip there all the time: I like tulips but they are not my favorite flowers. But every time when I notice it up there I like the idea of the tulip that it represents for me. And I smile remembering its story.

 

One of these upcoming days my blogging friend from Another Perfume Blog is getting married and she’d chosen Byredo’s La Tulipe as her wedding scent. I got to love this perfume because of her so I dedicate this post to her and wish her a lot of happiness and love. And many more occasions to choose and wear great perfumes.

 

Image: my own (yes, that very tulip)

Lock, stock and barrels

Customs official: Anything to declare?
Avi: Yeah. Don’t go to England.
Snatch

I’m lucky not only to live in the area with a great climate but to live really close to two wine regions in California – Sonoma and Napa. Being wine enthusiasts, my vSO and I belong to several wine clubs in Sonoma and three-four times a year we take short trips there “to pick-up our shipment”. Of course, we could use a mail delivery option since if to add up the cost of gas, hotel and meals for those trips there will be no savings whatsoever – quite the opposite. So we use that reason just as a pretext to go away from a daily life for a couple of days.

Napa, CANormally during Sonoma trips we would go to one-two new (for us) wineries, visit two-three places we liked and wanted to see which new wines they’d released and also stop by those wineries where we had a pick-up. This time we decided to stir thing up and go to Napa.

We’ve been to Napa before many years ago and had some warm memories about that visit so the idea was to just spend some time there, do some tasting and go to those places we liked from the previous time.

Accommodations

There are not too many nice hotels to stay in Napa area so I was very proud of myself when I managed to score a “four star” Silverado Resort through priceline.com for $120/night. Plus tax. Plus, as I found out the day we checked out, a $20/day “resort fee” and $2/day “occupancy tax”. Whatever. On the plus side, they had very nice bath robes – not that I needed it since I always bring something to wear in the room, but it was nice. On the minus side, even though the room was clean the carpet was way beyond its natural life span and the fact that we could get some sleep should be attributed entirely to the nice weather (have I mentioned how lucky we are with our climate?): had it been a little warmer or colder, the sound from the cooling/heating unit strategically placed almost above the bed wouldn’t have allowed us any night rest… Well, after some thinking I have to take that “strategically” back: our neighbors’ AC, for all ten minutes they thought it was hot enough to turn it on, produced the noise that wasn’t much less irritating than the unit over our heads did.

Tasting Rooms

St. Clement wineI still remember those times when tasting was free at most places. I didn’t like it because every time I felt obligated to buy something after a nice person poured me some wines and entertained me for ten minutes throwing in appellations, terroir and other very important words. I always felt I’d preferred to pay for trying those wines and then decide if to buy anything on its own merit. Should I have been more careful with my wishes?

We deliberately chose several well-known wine producers and decided to try their reserve/exclusive/etc. lines. We knew about $20-$35 tasting fees non-refundable with purchase and we were fine with that. What we weren’t prepared to was a complete lack of attention and service that you get (should I say “didn’t get”?) for that fee. I can’t believe people who work at Silver Oak’s or BV Private Reserve’s tasting rooms really think that anybody drives all the way out there to drink 3-4 ounces of wine in silence. I could have stayed in the hotel gone to a bar and had a better drink for cheaper (I refer to the process, experience and not the quality since everywhere we went wine itself was very good. Overpriced but good).

Sequoia Grove winery testing roomI want to mention two places that stood out in the positive way: St. Clement Vineyards and Sequoia Grove winery (see picture on the right). At both places stuff was knowledgeable and friendly.

Food

Since this visit wasn’t connected to any events or celebrations we decided not to spend time researching restaurants and both evenings in Napa we just walked in the downtown from one menu to another until we found something we wanted to eat. We enjoyed eating at both places we chose, so I want to mention their names – Zuzu Tapas & Paella and Angèle Restaurant.

Perfumes

As much as I love our trips to the wine country I always struggle with the self-imposed limitations on wearing perfumes to wine tasting. This time I realized the vacation wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it could without perfumes. I decided to find perfumes that wouldn’t interfere too much with wines. The idea was to use perfumes that were as far from the wine smell’s components as possible. I chose La Tulipe by Byredo and Eau du Soir by Sisley.Both scents worked perfectly for the occasion. One night to the restaurant I was wearing Chanel No. 19. This one works for me always.

During our walks in Napa we stopped at the Baker Street Downtown“Tobacconist and Lifestyle store for Discerning Men and Women”. I didn’t realize it was a tobacco store until we were inside and I was about to leave when I spotted some perfume bottles. This store carries perfumes by Lubin. I sniffed them from bottles and then went there the next evening and tried two – Gin Fizz and Idole. Gin Fizz was exactly like I imagined it would be – sparkling, citrusy, uncomplicated. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to pursue it in future even to try again. With Idole it was a different story. I liked it from the first wear. It was woodsy, smoky and spicy. I will try to get a sample to test it more.

On our way back we stopped at the Mill Valey’s shopping center to visit Nicole Grey & Co. gift store. I found it during one of the previous trips. It carries several rare perfume brands: Boadicea the Victorious, Carthusia, Juliette Has A Gun, Profumi del Forte and some others. After a couple of rounds of sniffing from bottles I moved to blotters and then by the elimination process chose four contenders to go on my skin. By the time I arrived home I had a winner: I will be seeking By Night, White by Profumi del Forte for the further testing. I liked it through all the stages – from the top notes to the drydown.

Do I have anything to declare? Yes! Don’t go to Napa. Sonoma is a much friendlier and more enjoyable place.

What is your drink of choice? Does it go with your perfumes?

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

Images: my own