Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Although Mark and I arrived a day earlier than our fellow travelers, most of what we did that day was sleep off our jet-lag and acquaint ourselves with the neighborhood where our flat was, on Via Urbana, about a ten-minute walk from the Colosseum – and the Colosseum is the exact place we headed when Ines arrived from her home city of Zagreb, Croatia, the next day. In all the time I've known her, Ines has always had her hair colored a vibrant shade of red that is her trademark (her blog is named All I Am - A Redhead), so the first thing I commented on after saying hello was her lovely new shade of blonde. Ines is a tall drink of water, and the kind of woman who draws appreciative looks from Italian men, even the rather serious and strict guards at the Vatican museum, which we would visit with her later. But whether she notices these glances that come her way, I'm not sure, because more than anything she is a get-down-to-business kind of girl. In a teasing fashion and with a great deal of awe, I told her that she reminds me of a Viking woman. When she's on a tour, she's all ears (and photo clicks), absorbing as much information as she can, which is evident when we discuss it in some detail later, usually over drinks. And when she has taken everything in and is in need of a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, you won't find her stepping up to the bar for a dainty cup of cappuccino (the Italians like to drink their coffee beverages at the bar, standing up, by the way). Ines loves her beer, wine and bitter liqueurs known as apéritifs. I've never seen her come close to getting intoxicated, yet the girl can put away a large glass of beer in the afternoon, an apéritif or two before dinner, and a few glasses of wine with supper, never becoming the least bit silly as she discusses everything from science fiction to politics late into the evening. She's also a girl who can walk from here to kingdom come (thankfully, so can I), and shop like nobody's business – not just for herself, but for others. I was happy that she was willing to splurge, along with me and Mark, for an English-speaking, guided tour of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum during our time there. For four hours, we found out seemingly everything there is to know about those two historic sites (the tour guides allowed time for everyone to wander freely, as well as provided in-depth commentary). It was totally worth the 25 euro price per person, and I mention this not as a means of sounding flashy, but to say that we would never have gotten the same enjoyment out of that experience if we had simply walked around these places on our own. The tour guides were first-rate, so much so that I'm betting our first guide was educated as a historian.

There are so many things I could report about this trip, but as this post is already very long, I'll simply end it by addressing something that maybe you're wondering about. Namely, did my husband have a good time, too? Yes, he did, as he is very involved in our conversations. Mark and Ines share a lot of the same tastes when it come to books and films, particularly science fiction and fantasy, and I think he is trying to convert Asali to the genre in the same way he indoctrinated me into the world of Star Trek years ago (though Asali is intent on staying immune to its charms: try telling her that “resistance is futile”). And on our last night together, when the four of us had the very best dinner of all – the one that we had in our flat, with prosciutto ham and a sage-infused cheese that Ines brought with her from Croatia, served on bread that she and Asali picked out at a bakery – he was not only in heaven but inspired. I can now look forward to the experience of having Mark curing hams in our basement. I'm not sure whether to be thankful for that or not, but considering how many YouTube videos on the subject have been viewed since our return (not to mention how many croissants were baked after our trip to Paris last year), at least I know where I'll be able to find him for the next however-many months it takes to cure a ham. I'm pretty sure it's a Rome-wasn't-built-in-a-day kind of enterprise.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” the saying goes, and if there is one thing that is certain after my visit to this city, it is that I will never take that idiom for granted again. One has only to set foot in the Colosseum, the Roman Forum with its many temples and basilicas (the latter of which had a different meaning than it does now, as the basilicas of pagan days were places of business rather than of worship), the Pantheon, and the more "modern" buildings of Christendom – the Vatican and the Christian basilicas of St. Peter's or Santa Maria del Popolo or countless others – and it becomes obvious that Rome was not just an empire, but the constantly fomenting birthplace of architecture and ideology. From Rome, we got the arch, the dome and the vault, as well as a sense of democracy and (for better or worse, depending on how one views these things), the seat of Christianity. The building blocks for all these things can still be found in contemporary Rome, evident not just in the famous sites I mentioned but in every part of the city. While pretty women and men on motor bikes whiz by, weaving in and out of the dense yet impressively workable traffic, at almost any point in Rome you only have to look up from your cobble-stone path to find an ancient ruin staring you in the face. There's a church at nearly every piazza, and for every one of those there are at least a half-dozen cafés taking up residence on the square too. Take a few steps more, and around the corner there's either a shop selling bread, wines and cheeses or a high-end boutique selling Italian leather goods and fashions. Usually in some part of the city, a political demonstration or march will be going on, and if you walk down the Spanish Steps on a Saturday night, you might find yourself in a throng of people who are all cheering loudly for one thing: the long and passionate kiss that is on display between two young people standing in the middle of those steps, who (one surmises) might have just gotten engaged. This is a lusty city, yet (the violent global riots of 2011 aside), from what I observed there is also a sense of European politeness at play. Everything from its traffic to its public displays of protest (or affection) seems to operate from some invisible sense of order. When my perfume-blogging friend Asali suggested Rome for our vacation and meet-up, she said "You'll love it there!" and she couldn't have been more right. I'm so glad I listened to her and not to a few naysayers who inquired, "Seven days in Rome? Why would you want to stay there the whole time?" I can understand their point: certainly I'd love to see the rest of Italy, and perhaps someday I will, but without any exaggeration I can now say that Rome wasn't built in a day, and it takes more than one or two days to see it. A whole week in Rome, with four of those days being in the company of enthusiastic friends, is not too much time to spend there. Both my husband Mark and I enjoyed our stay immensely, and now with pictures and some rather loose descriptions, I'm going to give you an idea of how we spent our time

[Note: Most of my Rome photos were lost when I had to transfer my website. The few that are here are ones that my mom, thankfully, saved.]

The interior of HB Profumerie

Later that day, Asali arrived from her home in Copenhagen, Denmark. Asali is a guest perfume blogger at Ines's blog [Note: in 2014, she started her own blog,The Sounds of Scent]  – and she's the perfect person to team up with if you're going to vacation in Europe, because she's spent time in so many places, including Rome, where she once stayed during a two-month scholarship to study Italian. After fortifying ourselves with evening drinks, we all repaired to the flat for a quick perfume sniffing session, as she had brought a particular perfume goodie that she was keeping hush-hush about, only alluding to it in a teasingly mysterious email prior to our trip. I wondered what perfume could be so special that we had to delay dinner for it, and why Ines was looking so smug (she'd been let in on the secret). When the answer arrived, though, I clearly understood: in the grandest of perfume gestures, Asali had brought us a sample of the very rare and elusive Jacques Fath Iris Gris. By some strange magic, she'd managed to procure a bottle and was kind enough to gift both Ines and I with a precious milliliter of our own. Iris Gris obviously deserves its own post and not the snap assessment that I'll be giving it here, but for now I'll just say that this bottle ended up in the right hands. On Asali's skin, it is a tender green iris scent, lightly oriental, with delicate facets of peach and powder. On my skin, it is more austerely green and takes on a vetiver cast as it dries down, or at least that was my initial assessment. In the excitement of the moment, I didn't give Iris Gris the kind of lengthy assessment that I intend to devote to it later.

So, that was the kick-start to our joint perfume-and-sightseeing holiday. All four of us managed to stay in the same flat for four nights and three full days and to get along well, no doubt helped along by the fact that we were hardly ever there. Every day in Rome was sunny and warm – an extension of summer – and between the perfume shops, the must-see sites of interest, and the many amazing restaurants and cafés, we were literally on the move from late morning to late evening. Asali's savvy knowledge of the city enabled us, in the space of a single day, to visit two perfume shops where we spent a prolonged amount of time; to see the Trevi Fountain, the ornate basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo, and the Pantheon; and to duck into two cafés and one rather hip bar for coffee, snacks and drinks before we headed home for a late dinner at a restaurant near our flat. Because she had already seen the Vatican museum and St Peter's Basilica, she took a day by herself to explore lesser-known parts of the city while Mark, Ines and I took in the sights of the former.

Although Asali's prior familiarity with Rome meant that we did not spend as much time with her as we did with Ines, we still got to be in her company every evening, when all four of us would come together for drinks and a leisurely dinner, the latter of which usually started about eight and ended somewhere around eleven. The conversations we had in those hours were the icing on the cake of our vacation, because that's when we talked about everything else that we love (besides perfume), so these conversations were often about food, books and films. Certain stories got told too, because Asali had spent part of her summer vacation at Ines's beach hangout in Croatia, so naturally I wanted to hear about what they did there and to find out what happened the night the two of them went to a fisherman's party and stayed until four in the morning.

Photos are my own, except for the one at the top of the page (aerial view of Rome and the Colosseum) and the one of HB Profumerie.

I used to have many photos that accompanied this post -- a number of them of my friends Ines and Asali -- and I lost them when I had to transfer my website. This will now serve as a reminder to me to save my important photos, and not to operate under the premise that a website will be a safekeeper for them.

To read my most recent posts, return to Home Page

Venimus, Vidimus, Vicimus
How Three Perfumistas and a Husband Took Rome

My husband Mark in front of the Palazzo Orsini in Rome

A temple at the Roman Forum

Me standing on a bridge on the Tiber River.

September 28, 2013: