Below is the lovely account about perfume shopping in Paris by my friend Sandra, an American living in Vienna and a loyal, long-time reader of Olfactoria’s Travels. Sandra is a perfume-nut and mother of an incredibly cute three-year old. I’m very happy she agreed to relate her Parisian adventures for us.
I have fallen completely and utterly in love with Paris. My husband and I have traveled to Paris three times in one year and we still discover new and beautiful sights.
As a lover of perfumes, I have known about 68, avenue des Champs-Élysées the Guerlain headquarters for years. For some reason or another I never made it to the main store and just sniffed the perfumes at the major department stores such as Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. I saw pictures of it on the internet and still I only managed to make it into the pop-up store next door this past Christmas. Well, this time I made it a mission to make it to 68, avenue des Champs-Élysées and I dragged my dear husband and son with me on the very first day after we checked into the hotel.
Nothing on the internet or in the guidebooks prepared me for La Maison Guerlain. I was a bit apprehensive as well thinking that it might be difficult to find a friendly SA. Nothing could be farther from the truth! We walked in and we were welcomed with friendly smiles. I decided to climb the spiral staircase and was greeted by a painting of the woman from La Petit Robe Noire on the wall (it was as if she was winking and whispering in my ear of the magic that awaited upstairs). As I climbed up the stairs the decor became golden and serene in a way. Upon reaching the top, three friendly SAs asked if they could be of assistance and Aurélie was the one who walked me through everything I wanted to smell. She guided my husband and son to a comfortable chair (near the bee bottles on the wall for pete’s sake! Talk about a heart attack on my side and hoping for the best behavior of my three year old. In fact he was perfect and did not touch a thing) so that they could read and talk to each other while I walked around the main room and the side room.
Aurélie was wonderful and knowledgeable and most importantly very patient as I wanted to work through all of the L’Art et la Matière, Une Ville, Un Parfum and Les Parisiennes. They allowed me to photograph the spectacular perfumes and take my time. As a side note I have loved the youthful campaign for the launch of La Petite Robe Noire and enjoyed seeing the special display next to the bee bottles on the wall. Needless to say having such a wonderful SA left me almost bankrupt at the end of the day but I was so impressed with Guerlain that I went back a second time before we left Paris.
No stay in Paris should be without a visit to Sens Unique in Le Marais.
When I walked in with my men, Svetlana, the lovely SA, greeted us warmly and even remembered that it had been about six months since our last visit. What I love about Svetlana is that she tells me the stories behind the perfumes I am smelling and she takes her time. The experience becomes multidimensional when I understand an inspiration or a memory of the creator. Charming and eloquent Svetlana even made my husband understand and appreciate perfume as an art form (near impossible feat when he usually mumbles an approval or disapproval).
Sens Unique has a plush golden chair in the corner which can be seen as ostentatious, but is in fact comfortable and well situated as my husband can attest to. There are many cafés in the area and we discovered that there is a carousel around the corner, which helped keep my son entertained, while I spent some time in the store this time around.
If you want to smell several difficult to find perfumes in one place, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are good stops. The halls are usually brimming at the seams with shoppers and it can be quite overwhelming if you don’t have a specific perfume you want to try, but they are well worth the visit. I was unable to make it to the Dior boutique but was able to smell all the La Collection Privee at Printemps. The SA was friendly enough and I will certainly go back there again.
I had had big hopes for Jovoy but was disappointed by the service and the lack of assistants.
The above is by no means a guide to perfume shopping in Paris; it is a recollection of a few of my experiences and my suggestions. Most importantly Paris has so much to offer in sights, sounds and smells and I savor every single experience I have there.