January 29, 2016

The Souvenir of Scent

Besides photographs, nothing evokes memories of my travels as potently as scent. Perfumes are the ideal souvenirs, as even the most overpacked traveler has room for a small bottle or two to take home.  Years later, I have only to unstopper a bottle, inhale the fragrance and I am instantly transported to a particular time and place far away.  

My first souvenir scents were acquired from Santa Maria Novella in Florence. Founded in 1612, it is a jewel of a store, with chandeliers, frescoed walls, and wooden cabinets filled with glass bottles bearing fragrances created from hundreds of years ago.  I purchased a bottle of lavender perfume and a bottle of  room fragrance called "Estate" which means summer. Every time I spritz it in the air, I am reminded of that warm and magical summer in Italy.

Each bottle is stamped with its own number.

The gorgeous bottle cap engraved with the Santa Maria Novella insignia.

Lemon verbena agua de colonia which I bought from the Royal Palace in Madrid.

Tiny bottle of vetivert extract I bought during one of my spring trips to Paris.

Bottles of air fragrances I brought home from Montserrat, Spain.

I had heard of a perfume maker in the Spice Bazaar in Istanbul. Seduced by his elixirs of scent, I bought little bottles of fragrances with intriguing names like "Secret of the Desert" and "The Flower of Istanbul."

He also concocted a bespoke fragrance just for me - something bold and a little bit spicy, delivered with a mischievous wink and a knowing smile, as though the perfume maker had captured my soul in a bottle.

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