The Scent of Chanel

Speaking of scents, were we? Well, no we weren’t speaking of scents, but when I think of France my mind settles on the scents of France.

France was our vacation spot during my preteen years. It may sound exotic and adventurous, but when you are living in England your choices for summer vacations are (1) travel to the south of England, or perhaps the beaches in Wales and take your chances with the weather, or (2) drive south, take the car ferry or the Chunnel to France, or fly to Spain, Italy, or Switzerland where the weather is much more predictable. Summer in England can be wet, and by wet I don’t mean soaked to the bone flash thunder storms, but rather I mean cold temperatures, high wind, and constant “could last for days” drizzle. Summer in England can necessitate having a “summer” raincoat.

Two trips to France stand out…both have some all-be-it-distant connection to Coco Chanel. This month’s selection for the Silicon Valley Moms Group Book Club is Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by Chris Greenhalgh.

On one of the trips to France, I was taken out of school in the spring the year I was 8 years old. My dad had a business trip to Paris. While my dad listened to lectures on nuclear engineering, my mother attended events for the “wives”…this was the 70s so there were no “spouses.” My sister and I tagged along.

One of the events was a Paris fashion show. Now my recollection of the fashion show is limited to:

  • I wore a floor length pink/purple/yellow dress.
  • I stood on a chair to see the models on the runway.
  • I spilled an orange drink in my mother’s purse.

I don’t recall any of the dresses. I have no idea where the fashion show took place. The designer? It could have been someone famous like Chanel
or Yves St. Laurent, but was more than likely an up-and-coming designer. I really have no recollection. And since I grew up in the era of cameras with 12 or 24 photos on each roll of film, my mother took no photos at the fashion show. In fact, I think there are 3 photos from our entire trip to Paris!

My second recollection of a trip to France involves driving, driving, and more driving. As a preteen I spent hours in the back of my parent’s car as we drove to different parts of France. No TV. No DVDs. No handheld games. All we had was a Sony Walkman, books, and Polo mints. Polo mints? Polos are an English version of Lifesavers. Each of us would put a Polo on our tongues…the person with the most intact Polo was the winner. My dad always cheated and put in another Polo. I think it was a way to ensure silence from my sister and me!

On this trip, we drove to the South of France. Our ancient car just about made it on the 24-hours plus journey. Once in the South of France, we either swam, sailed the small boat we transported on the top of the car, or took day trips.

Source: Fragonard Perfumeur.

Source: Fragonard Perfumeur.

One of the most memorable places we visited was the Fragonard perfume factory in Grasse. My parents were constantly stopping to tour vineyards and cognac factories. Oh and of course sampling the wines. Hey! I don’t recall a designated driver! My sister and I would enjoy the tours, but we were never able to sample the wines or cognac. Lest you feel sorry for us — it was a good thing as I was 14 and my sister 12!

At the Fragonard perfume factory I saw how perfumes were made and then tested out many of the fragrances. Fragonard made the essence for perfumes such as Chanel, Miss Dior, and many others. For years I had a small bottle of Le Cinq, which was a version of Chanel No. 5 before Chanel added the secret ingredient. I bought my bottle of Le Cinq with my pocket money. Le Cinq cost a fraction of the real Chanel No. 5.

I was provided with a copy of Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky by the publisher and the Silicon Valley Moms Group.

1 comment for “The Scent of Chanel

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