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!
I love flowers and I love perfumes, but after I turned 40 I developed reactive airway disease after many bouts of bronchitis due to my wonky immune system. Now I have to avoid all my favorite girly scented candles, lotions, shampoos, room fresheners and heavily scented flowers like stargazer and Easter Lilies and jasmine (which grows wild in my yard and the field behind it) I finally found a very light scented cologne of the lily of the valley scent I adore that I can use in small amounts.It's sad because I love flower gardens and their scents, but now I walk far away! I think the perfume industry is fascinationg. Those folks with "the nose" are hard to find! I loved Ghizlan's story. Maybe one day they will develop a fial cure for scent allergies..it would make me happy!ReplyDelete
Ah, Laurie, it's sad you can't enjoy perfumes as you used to, but I'm so glad you've found a nice one you can tolerate. Isn't lily of the valley lovely? Interestingly, my mother can't wear perfumes. We think it's something to do with working for so long with so many scented flowers. But she does enjoy a bit of gentle lavender sometimes.ReplyDelete
I'm so pleased you enjoyed Ghizlan's story! :) Wonderful to hear that. Yes, I agree about perfume making being fascinating. I could have spent a lot longer there and wouldn't mind returning.
Hi Annie, what an interesting post! I love perfume and wear it every day, even when doing housework. Many years ago I was a beauty writer and did an all-day perfume workshop with a "nose". We learned to identify the various classifications of perfume. Needless to say I've forgotten it all now! I too visited Grasse and a perfumery. I was fascinated - my husband not so much. I love the way you have used your interest in scent in your books.
It's a shame, isn't it, how much we forget. But I suspect you'd remember more given the chance. What a wonderful experience to spend a day in a perfume workshop! I fear my sense of smell would be too poor, but it would be fun. Maybe one day!
I too have been to those perfume areas in the south of France, Annie - aren't they such interesting places?ReplyDelete
I'm the kind of person who has 1 perfume which lasts me about a year then I get another one although I actually have 2 bottles on the go at the moment so they'll probaby last me 2 years :-)
It's funny, there's perfumne I used to wear that I can't stand the smell of now, can't stand it even when other people wear it. And I never know what perfume people are wearing - my nose just isn't that good - but I know this one at about a hundred paces :-) So I guess I know what I like and what I don't.
I can tell you after years of workng night duty there is nothing better then all the delicious smells that walk through the door at 7am with the morning staff - love it ;-)
Amy, definitely fascinating to visit. In fact I'm wondering if it might be the fact you mentioned visiting there that spurred me to do the same.Delete
Yes I tend to have one favourite I wear and wear but lately a few family members decided to give me scents as gifts so I'm feeling very sophisticated, choosing which one to wear :). Most of the time, being at home, I forget, but I do love them. Interesting about your memory of the nice smells with the morning shift. When I walk of a morning I'll occasionally walk past a woman in perfect makeup, with hair done as if she'd come out of a salon, and a very lovely scent. Always makes me smile - possibly because I tumble out the door with tidy hair, old clothes and no scent.
Annie, what a beautiful tale. I loooove that desk where the 'nose' works. How fantastic is that! I dream if one day finding out I have such a rare magical skill.ReplyDelete
As for scents I have a seriously strong sense of smell and can't walk past perfume counters or soap shops without my eyes watering. But I do love the Peppermint Grove range. The scent of lime is bliss. And Lancome's La Vie est Belle perfume smells drinkable :).
Ooh, I've never heard of either, Ally. You see, I'm not at all an expert on scents, but I'd love to know more. I'm going to look out for both those, just to try them. Yes, isn't that desk amazing? And that's only a fraction of the essences they might use.Delete
Hello Annie. They are very beautiful these photos and even your article. I love flowers and perfumes. The perfumes I prefer are those of roses, jasmine, lavender. I love the smell of the sea, reminds me of the summer and the beach. I also love the smell of books, especially when they have just been printed.ReplyDelete
The scent that I prefer, and I always use is Dolce & Gabbana and is called "Light Blue" is a perfume that smells of the sea and citrus.
Hi Franca. I'm so glad you enjoyed reading this. I'm fascinated by your perfume. Anything that smells of citrus and the sea would be so appealing. I can imagine it suits you too as I know how you love the water.Delete
I love the smell of books too. So evocative!
Annie, I loved this post and am even keener to read your latest knowing it features a florist. My mum loved gardening and flowers and was keen on floral art -- we always had beautiful arrangements in our house. I did not inherit those genes but my youngest sister did: she worked for many years as a florist before transitioning to landscape design. She is in France at the moment turning us green with her Instagram pictures of spring blossoms and blooms.ReplyDelete
As for scents, I am like you. I do love scent and have quite a collection of lotions and candles -- I'm particularly fond of vanilla and fresh light florals and citrus -- which I then forget to use! You've inspired me to use something special after my shower tonight.
Bron, I think that love of gardening and flowers is such a special gift from a parent. I relived so many wonderful memories as I wrote this. And writing the two stories had a similar effect, even though in the text, the floral theme doesn't loom large on the page, it was there in my mind the whole time and made it so warm and special.Delete
Oh, I love the sound of your sister's photos. Maybe we'll see them in a post or two? I came up with a garden-centred idea for a story when I was in France that I hope to write one day.
Enjoy those lovely scents you have.
Hi Annie. Hi LoveCats!ReplyDelete
Wow, Annie. Cool blog and I love the photos. How absolutely fascinating. I loved the parts about reigniting (right word?) the perfume industry in your princess's kingdom. Lovely to know where the inspiration came from.
I must say I make an effort to use nice soap every day. It's a small luxury that definitely pays off in terms of the pleasure it gives me. I've even brought a good cake of soap with me to Scotland and I'm using it every morning in the shower. There's one of those liquid soap dispensers in the shower but using this lovely perfumed soap of mine is a really nice way to start the day.
Hope the Desert King's Captive Bride is going great guns. It's a cracker of a story!
Your comment reminded me of the most beautiful Scottish soap I found a couple of years ago and bought as gifts. It smelt of bluebells and made me smile every time. Nice about the scented soaps you use as a treat! Those small treats really do make a difference, don't they?
So glad you enjoyed reading this. Yes, people seem to be enjoying Captive Bride, which is another reason to smile!
Actually a very dear friend gave me a cake of that bluebell soap. It was beautiful - and even better, it came in a really pretty tin.Delete
Ah, yes, and a pretty tin! :)Delete
Good for you, we should use our special things, because we are special and so is each day. When my oldest daughter was born I saved all the special handmade items until she outgrew them - silly.
You know I love the last 2 books - flowers, perfume - and those men ;-). My favorite fragrance is an old one: Anais Anais. I have been wearing it for years. I call it "catnip" because my husband is crazy about it. And now all my kids, grandkids and the great-grands say I smell like "me."
Hi Grandma Cootie!Delete
I've kept special handmade items too. Not silly at all!
Thrilled that you enjoyed these linked sheikh stories. I so enjoyed entering the world of those books.
I know Anais Anais. I used to wear it too. Isn't it pretty? It's funny, I wore a perfume the other day that I hadn't in a while and my son told me I smelled like me! Apparently it reminded him of his childhood. It was the perfume I used to wear all the time. :)
Loved, loved this post Annie. I love flowers and love perfume. When I was younger and could only afford the cheaper ones, I loved Georgio which I still buy and wear to remind me of my younger days. My current favourite is the new Gucci perfume.ReplyDelete
Hi Jennifer. I'm so pleased you enjoyed the post.Delete
Hm, I must head to the store one day and try the perfume you mentioned. I didn't even know there was a new Gucci one. Show's how up to date I am.
Great post, Annie. my parents grew Dutch irises commercially, acres of them, and I adored them but no perfume with those varieties. Peonies are my all time flowers favourite for scent, and bvlgari my favourite perfume. Wouldn't be without it.ReplyDelete
Sue, I love peonies, but I've never had much to do with them and can't recall their scent. I'll have to treat myself to some when they're next in bloom.Delete
Wow, I bet those irises looked wonderful in full flower. Imagine the work of picking them! Must try Bvlgari too - another to add to my list.
Hi Annie, lovely post about a lovely profession. I visited traditional parfumeries in France and in Bermuda. So fun. I find scent one of life's pleasures. And I have a lot of favorites, some sentimental, some new. Right now my fave is shalimar.ReplyDelete
Laura, you do get around! How lovely to visit perfumeries. A nice to way to spend a day or two! I didn't know they made perfume in Bermuda. Another reason to visit!Delete
Yes, scent can be a wonderful pleasure, can't it?
I loved visiting the Fragonard factory and the lovely village of Grasse. It was so informative, wasn't it?
I adore perfume and chop and change every year or so. I love Elie Saab just now.
Melanie, it was definitely worth a visit, or even more than one. Actually, a writers' retreat in the hills there would be rather special, don't you think?Delete
I've never tried Elie Saab. I can see I'll be testing a few of these ones mentioned in the near future. What fun!
What a lovely post, Annie. I love all things scented and smelly -- oils for burning, candles, bath products and perfumes. They're one of life's pleasures. Loved learning the inspiration behind your heroine's story. Might have to put a visit to a perfumery on my bucket list. :-)ReplyDelete
Michelle, I can imagine you burning lovely scented candles through winter in particular. Definitely visit a perfumery if you get the chance. So fascinating - and lots of scented goodies to buy too...Delete
I'm definitely a perfume lover Annie. For me it's not so much a favourite that I wear all the time, but more that I have preferred perfumes for how I'm feeling/want to feel.ReplyDelete
I love that the timing worked out for you to do the in person research for the story. Isn't most research the type that won't make it to the page to some degree?