I grew up with the scent of flowers. The place we lived, as well as having a remnant rainforest gully running through it, had the most amazing garden. The people who'd built it had grown flowers commercially. Plus my mother was a florist. By the time I came along she wasn't going out to a shop to work, but often on Saturday mornings our back room would be filled with the marvellous scents of flowers. I used to sit and watch my mother working with incredibly nimble fingers, adding wire to individual flowers then turning them into amazing wedding bouquets, buttonholes and corsages.
|Flowers in the market in Nice|
So it wasn't surprising that I eventually wrote a heroine who was a florist. (If you're interested that's Arden in 'The Desert King's Secret Heir'). That story has a theme of flowers running through it, even though most of it is set in a desert kingdom. When I wrote the follow up story, set in the neighbouring kingdom ('The Desert King's Captive Bride') it seemed only natural to build on that theme. The heroine in that story is a chemical engineer, but did you know, as well as being employed in pharmaceutical production, waste water management, electricity production etc, chemical engineers can be involved in making perfumes? Romantic, eh? I loved the idea of a heroine trying to restart the centuries-old perfume industry in her country.
|One of the hill towns of Provence|
And for once the timing of this story was perfect because I didn't have to rely solely on book and internet research. Last year I travelled to Provence in the south east of France and one of the things I specifically wanted to see was one of the traditional perfumeries. The area is known for its flower and perfume production so this was a perfect place to do a little digging about what's involved in perfume making.
Most of my research didn't make it onto the pages of the story, but it helped me to write the book and that's what counts. But it does mean I've got some photos I referred to as I wrote. I thought you might like to see a few. These were mainly taken at the Fragonard Perfumery.
|Part of the old distilling machinery at Fragonard|
|An illustration showing some of the perfume ingredients and their source|
|Huge bottles of perfume essences|
|Vats used during distillation|
|An old photo showing workers putting individual jasmine flowers in racks|
|A specialised desk where a 'Nose', a professional perfume blender works|
|Wild irises in the mountains|
This last photo isn't very good. I was too lazy to walk across the rocky landscape to get a close up of the irises. But I noted that they can used in perfume making. That led to further research on what flowers might bloom in Ghizlan's mountainous middle eastern country which could be used for perfume.
I love nice scents though most of the time I forget to burn those special candles I have, or I hoard the gorgeously perfumed soap. Well, I did. Recently I've been making an effort to use the soaps I've carefully put away and burn the scented candles. I'm also splashing out, not waiting for special occasions to wear the lovely perfumes I've been given - Paloma Picasso's 'Paloma', Elizabeth Arden's 'Green Tea', Bottega Veneto's 'Knot' and, until the bottle dropped and shattered (sigh), 'Un Jardin Sur Le Nil' by Hermes.
Are you a fan of perfume? Do you have a favourite scent you always wear? Or maybe there's a smell that you find very evocative - something that takes you straight back to another time and place? I'd love to hear!