It’s been more than a year since I did one of my monthly “grab bag” posts, inspired by the “Currently” series of posts that my friend, The Non-Blonde, does summarizing various personal things in her life from books, music, television shows, cooking, to other things. I don’t know why I stopped doing mine, but the hot, lazy days of summer and the long 4th of July holiday weekend in the U.S. seem like a good time to start again. There may not be a lot of interesting newspaper articles on the state of the fragrance industry for me to share with you as I did before, and all of it is a departure from my usual focus so it may not bear any interest for some of you but, sometimes, one just wants to hang out with friends (as so many of you have become), relax, and chat.
As some of you know, perfume actually ranks rather low on my list of passions and I’m far more interested in things like history, German shepherds, gastronomy, photography, or even television, for that matter. So, I’ll tell you what’s interested or amused me over the last six months, and then I hope you will then tell me your news.
General Perfume Industry News: Almost 2 and a half years after Estée Lauder began taking over niche perfume brands, L’Oreal, suddenly woke up and realised its rival was onto something. Or, more to the point, it realised that it was actually supposed to care about perfume, even if it was the mere pretense thereof, and that there was a trend that had passed it buy. “Better late than never,” it yawned. So, it took over Atelier Cologne. Yes, L’Oreal has suddenly realised niche perfumery is not just a thing, but a profitable one as well. (At least until they run the brand into the ground and ruin it, but that’s another issue.) Last month, they bought Elizabeth Arden as well, which might have been their version of a salvage, bargain-bin investment since the company hadn’t been doing well at all over the last 2 years. But it was the Atelier purchase that I found telling.
First, I should say that I, personally, I don’t classify Atelier Cologne as a real niche brand at all, and it’s not solely because its fragrances are sold in Sephora. It’s because its style of perfumery is largely mainstream in aesthetic, and hardly akin to something like Amouage, Tauer, Bogue, LM Parfums, Roja Dove, or so many others.
An actual, genuine niche brand would not fit or benefit L’Oreal’s portfolio and market segment, in my opinion, whereas something like Atelier is sufficiently mainstream in style that L’Oreal can buy it in an attempt to catch up with its rival, Estee Lauder. Plus, this way, L’Oreal can pretend to itself that it actually cares about olfaction or fragrances alongside all its mascaras, foundations, and lipsticks when the reality, in my opinion, is quite different. To me, L’Oreal is the Anti-Christ of the big perfume conglomerates, a parasitic vulture who will suck the lifeblood, creativity, distinctiveness, luxuriousness, and/or quality out of every brand it infects in order to squeeze the maximum amount of profits. They make LVMH’s treatment of Guerlain look like that of St. Francis of Assisi. Yes, I’m bitter, yes, I’m biased, and no, I will never, ever forgive L’Oreal for what they did to my beloved Yves Saint Laurent. But the point is, L’Oreal has suddenly woken up, and the “game is afoot,” to quote Sherlock Holmes. Just watch them scramble to take over more quasi-“niche” houses in the months and years ahead, and watch the perfume landscape change even more as a result.
New NYC Perfume Destination: Arabian Oud is coming to America! It will be opening a flagship store in Times Square in New York City in July. My thanks to Guy Henninger for alerting me to the news which was confirmed by Ahmed Chowdhury of Arabian Oud London.
History & Literature: The New York Times had a fascinating piece recently entitled “How J.R.R. Tolkien Found Mordor on the Western Front.” In it, Joseph Loconte argues that “Tolkien’s supreme literary achievement, ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ owes a great deal to his experience at the Somme,” that ghastly, useless 1916 WWI battle that was a scene of pure carnage. I think the author makes a compelling, powerful point:
The descriptions of battle scenes in “The Lord of the Rings” seem lifted from the grim memories of the trenches: the relentless artillery bombardment, the whiff of mustard gas, the bodies of dead soldiers discovered in craters of mud. In the Siege of Gondor, hateful orcs are “digging, digging lines of deep trenches in a huge ring,” while others maneuver “great engines for the casting of missiles.”
On the path to Mordor, stronghold of Sauron, the Dark Lord, the air is “filled with a bitter reek that caught their breath and parched their mouths.” Tolkien later acknowledged that the Dead Marshes, with their pools of muck and floating corpses, “owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme.”
Historical Curiosities & Cool Stuff: Facial reconstructions can be an iffy thing when historical evidence is scant, like when the subject was beheaded, her skull never found, and most portraits destroyed. That’s the case for poor Anne Boleyn, but there is a cool new reconstruction from two rare sketches and paintings left of her. If you don’t take it as “truth,” it’s fun to look at, particularly when the reconstruction resembles (as so many have noted) GOT’s Melisandre.
What made me sit up, though, was something partially related that I also saw on The Vintage News (a very cool Facebook site, by the way): the secret of Elizabeth I‘s ruby and ivory ring that she always wore. Upon her death in 1603, it was discovered that the ring opened to reveal two incredibly detailed, painted portraits inside, the Queen and her beheaded mother, Anne Boleyn. It’s touching that someone as fierce and independent as Elizabeth never forgot her mother (who she grew up without) and that she wanted Anne by her side every day, even if only visually. Supposedly, Elizabeth never told anyone what was inside the ring, which isn’t surprising given the nasty smear campaign against poor Anne after her death. More significantly, though, if you look carefully at Anne’s portrait, you’ll see that she is not shown with the raven black hair that is our modern image of her but with strawberry blond hair, just like Elizabeth.
The last thing from The Vintage News relates to Ancient Egypt, and it simply makes me laugh: a pair of Egyptian orange knitted socks, circa 240 AD, now in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Just look at the toes on those things! I grin each time I see them. The reactions of commentators in the thread are particularly fun because, as so many noted, it seems the ancient Egyptians were actually two-toed sloths, aliens, or early fashion devotees of the unfortunate modern trend of wearing socks with sandals. Clearly, our toes have evolved a long way since then, not to mention our knitting skills.
Television: As regular readers know, I’m a television junkie and it’s the only effective way of shutting off my whirling mind if I want to get over my insomnia. Over the last 8 months, old favourites like Game of Thrones, The Americans, Vikings, Downton Abbey, Grantchester, Band of Brothers, and even a complete re-watching of my beloved Star Trek: DS9 have kept me entranced, but my greatest obsession over the last 9 months has been an award-winning French series called Un Village Français, shown in America on MHZ Choice. It’s the searing, brutal indictment of the French (and everyone else) during the Nazi Occupation of a fictional French village from 1940 all the way through to the Liberation and the establishment of “order” under the new Gaullist Republic. Absolutely no-one comes out smelling of roses in this often discomforting, tense look at daily life under extremely difficult and ethically challenging circumstances, not the Resistance (at first), the Communists, the collaborating villagers, the Vichy bureaucrats, the Germans, or even some of the Americans in their brief, passing role much later on. At best, people are shown as human, torn, passive watchers, petty, or incompetent. At worst… well, let’s say there is a reason the French tried to sweep things like the Vel d’Hiv horror under the carpet for decades and decades.
Un Village Français is not violently graphic, but it can be raw in a deeply emotional, visceral way. I watched two of the 1942-based episodes regarding the Jewish round-up through my fingers while struggling to contain my nausea, even though there wasn’t a camp or torture scene in sight. I truly did NOT want to watch the episodes and felt as though I had to force myself not to be an emotional coward. It’s odd; somehow, neither Schindler’s List nor Sophie’s Choice made me feel quite so… well, nauseous. Plus, I thought I’d be a bit more immune given that my academic background years and years ago concerned totalitarian regimes and the Nazis, focusing on the SS above all.
But those two or three French Village episodes were incredibly tough to watch, perhaps for the same reason that the show has power as a whole: it’s a microcosm and slice of life that focuses on the small things to say a whole hell of lot. And it doesn’t shy away from showing how every day, common, small people can engage in the mundaneness or the “banality of evil,” to quote Hannah Arendt — sometimes without even realising.
What is so brilliant, so unusual, and so nuanced about the series is that shows moral or ethical decline as an inch by inch progression on the scale, until you’re suddenly knee-deep in awful territory before you realise it or without having meant to do anything quite so horrifying. Few people are pure evil, but the war definitely permitted many people to feel free to demonstrate their underlying ugliness and deeply held feelings, while others took advantage of the circumstances to pursue their own agenda — no matter who got hurt. Then, there are the morally weak and inept who looked the other way, the idiotic sheep in various socio-political groups, and the rare handful who simply love power for its own sake and had a sadistic streak. As The New York Times put it in an article on the show: “Some of the most well-meaning people collaborate — faute de mieux — and some of the bravest resisters are downright unpleasant.” By the time you get to the rare handful people whose actions truly might be described as “evil”… well, it’s a compelling, historically accurate portrayal of the entire spectrum. I found it so engrossing, I couldn’t stop watching.
The other thing that makes Un Village Français stand out so much to me is that it exposes with unflinching candour and bluntness a part of history that some segments of French society spent decades trying to shove under the carpet. To be clear, it’s the older sectors, and I’m not judging because every country has its own dirty laundry or scars to deal with. But I grew up partially in France and for all my love of the country, I think the French have been tight-lipped about the true nature of the occupation and what some people did, not really dealing with it like other countries or candidly until the 1990s when there were a few trials and a presidential apology. It’s still mostly taboo, in my opinion. Look at how few people speak or know about Coco Chanel today. Or, as I mentioned earlier, the Vel d’Hiv horror that was only one of a wide-scale French round-up, under German orders, of French Jews, leading to French internment and transit camps on the way to Auschwitz. It’s not widely known or commonly discussed at all. (If you want to read a powerful, haunting, and disturbing historical novel on these matters, I recommend Sarah’s Key by Tatiana Rosnay which demonstrates very effectively why some people preferred to sweep what happened back in both Vichy and Nazi-occupied France under the rug.)
That’s what makes Un Village Français really stand out to me. No-one is spared from its searing indictments or honest portrayals, not even that most sacred of holy French cows, the Resistance. I thought the series’ 1940-41 years showed the Communists in a particularly bad light as petty, ideological, party sheep with little foresight or acumen. It was only later when the non-ideological partisans, the Maquis, drove things that the Resistance truly became the heroic thing that it is perceived today.
If you’re interested in watching Un Village Français and are not in France where it is a monumental hit (and still filming), you have a few options. You can buy it on Amazon. If you’re in America like me, there is also MHZ Choice which is a streaming service like Netflix online. There is a free 30-day trial period where you can watch everything. After that, it’s $7.99 a month. They have about 50-60 European series with new things added each month. There is a massive emphasis on Scandinavian Crime Noir and detective shows (the original Wallender, Beck, Hamilton), but also series in other genres or from other countries, like Italy, Germany, France (Spiral, Blood on the Vine, Maigret, etc.) Austria, or the Netherlands. And everything is subtitled in English. I absolutely love MHZ.
It’s where I fell hard for Inspector Montalbano which is set in the sunny, ancient towns of Sicily and which has the oddest comfort factor for me. Not one thing about it is intellectual or edgy, but it’s fun and has a touch of comedy in its tales of a grumpy, macho, but extremely charming and kind Italian inspector with his own internal code, and no patience for the Mafia or the petty bureaucrats who get in his way. While beautiful women are always after him, his major love is for seafood and Italian cuisine. Woe betide you if you interrupt him while he eats, or if you’re unkind to small children and animals.
MHZ is also where I watched Norway’s riveting The Heavy Water War (also known as “The Saboteurs“) about the Nazi attempts to develop a nuclear bomb under Werner Heisenberg, and the daring British SOE-Norwegian commando raid that sought to destroy the one factory that produced the heavy water (deuterium oxide) necessary for such a bomb. Although it was later discovered that the Nazi nuclear program was far less developed than people had thought, there was a genuine panic at the time that Hitler would get the bomb first, so one small factory perched on a snowy Norwegian ravine seemed to hold the key to the entire war. (The same events were the focus of the famous old film, “The Heroes of Telemark,” starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris.) The Heavy Water War is an excellent, tense, suspenseful, 6-episode show that I highly recommend.
Another interesting MHZ series comes from Germany and looks at life under Stasi-controlled East Germany in the 1980s. It’s called The Weissensee Saga. There is a highly annoying Romeo/Juliet thing going on, but what I found interesting was the way they showed the reach of the 1980s Stasi and the sheer extent of the informant state that they created via blackmail, coercion, or torture. Ooof. (Interestingly, a good number of the actors who played in the show were originally East German and had lived under the regime.) As you will see in a Guardian article on the show, a lot of people say that the series is the first to accurately portray what life was like back then.
To watch all these shows, I use a Roku device plugged into my television, but you can also watch on a tablet or streaming over a laptop. I’m afraid MHZ is limited to the U.S. for now but, if you live here, I highly, highly recommend signing up if you love European dramas or are looking for something different to watch. If you’re outside the U.S., most of these shows are available for purchase on Amazon.
Hairy German News: My Teutonic Overlord has had an endless series of small health issues over the last 6 months, including a few flare-ups of his perianal fistulas which can be a dangerous, life-threatening condition if not gotten under rapid control. Luckily, we’ve managed that, but it’s been frustrating because everything seems triggered by some sort of allergy or another, and it never bloody ends! Not even the super-expensive, new “wonder drug” called Apoquel has been the answer. He had two awful attacks of the fistulas under it, complete with bleeding, oozing, pus-filled lesions, and other things whose details I’ll spare you. All this despite $400-$600 of medications each month, depending on what is going on. (Yes, it eats into the budget for full bottles of perfume, but I’d spend far more than that without hesitation to make my fluffy redhead healthy and happy.) For now, a combination cocktail which includes a big dose of steroids is doing the trick and he’s doing better, lounging by my side as I type and no doubt dreaming happily of how to torment the poor UPS man (whom he despises and who is terrified of him in turn).
Sources of Joy: For some reason, 2016 feels more difficult, stressful, or turbulent than most years. Terrorism, mass shootings, bombings, Brexit, the more divisive-than-usual American election… it’s emotionally and mentally exhausting sometimes, so I’ve been turning more than ever to small things that bring a moment’s escape, joy, or smile. Like, for example, German Shepherd photos. The way many of you look at cat ones or memes, I look at the GSD/Alsatian equivalent. And I want these two puppies so BADLY!! But my extremely possessive Imperial Overlord would never tolerate it. He doesn’t even like it when I talk on the phone to someone! So, he’d never accept my paying attention to new hairy children. Still, just look at them! So floofy, so fluffy, so adorable! And I love how GSDs transform from fat little balls of sweetness into the epitome of commanding, regal elegance:
When I’m not an abject, worshipful slave at the paws of The Holy German Emperors, I turn elsewhere for solace from the latest miserable news. One thing that has made me laugh out loud for more than 10 years now is the brilliant Tom Jones Sex Bomb routine by Olympic Gold medalist, Evgeni Plushenko, from the All-Stars Exhibition portion of the 2005 or 2006 World Championships. I think it’s absolutely hilarious, especially as it continues, building up and up. Showmanship and comedy par excellence. I defy you to watch the whole video and not smile even once.
So, that’s an accumulated listing of random stuff that caught my attention over the last 6-9 months. I’d love to hear about your recent obsessions, new loves, book or television discoveries, sources of joy, furry children, culinary delights, or anything else. I’ve been a bit wiped out lately, so I may lack the energy to respond to everything, but I’ll be eagerly reading anything that you’d like to share. And, to those of you in the States, happy 4th of July! I hope it’s been a wonderful holiday weekend.
I loved this post! Thank you for making me laugh out loud today (the thought of the Hairy German dreaming of how to best terrorize the poor UPS man, and the Evgeni Plushenko video), and for your thoughts on Un Village Français. I heard reviews, but haven’t seen it yet. Will watch, albeit with caution. And probably will need to get up and not look at the screen if things get really uncomfortable.
Am wishing you a very wonderful 4th, Kafka!
And to you, too, my dear Bacon Biscuit. I’m SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad you loved the Sex Bomb video. It’s been such a huge favourite of mine for years. Who knew that a gold, lamé bikini on ice could effectively serve as a momentary shot of Prozac against the world’s grimness? Heheheh 😛
PS — re. Un Village Français, it only gets really uncomfortable in Season 3. (Or was it 2? It’s basically the early 1942 part.) You’re safe until then. But please watch it, as I think you’d love it. In fact, MHZ would be a good choice for you in general given all the French stuff they show but, like I said, the first month is free. Today is a good weekend or time to start, if you’re not busy.
Well, Evgeni Plushenko has made my day. I’ve never seen that before, but it was so well worth the watch. The older I get, the more shameless I become.
Television: Mmmm. GoT, Bloodline has got me hooked. Ben Mendelssohn plays a wonderful villain and Kyle Chandler a good man falling into doing bad things. Love Outlander for its gorgeousness. The Americans, Vikings, Ray Donovan, Blacklist, House of Cards, and Blindspot do not disappoint. The summer drought looms.
Poiltics has me very fearful. I sincerely hope that like Indiana Jones, we will choose “wisely.” The uncovering of hate is scary.
As for perfume, I have decided that waiting for everyone’s end of the year lists is the way to go. Trying to sift through the mountains of incredible mediocrity that is being presented is pretty daunting.
All four of my dogs are doing well and send their respects to the German Emperor. They wish me to convey their esteem and continued wishes for healing. The long-haired miniature dachshund especially asks me to commend him to his countryman.
Hahaha to your reaction to Evgeni Plushenko! 😀 😀 Mine, too, Ellen, mine too… 😛
The Americans is such an outstanding series, and definitely one of my personal “Must See” favourites up there with GOT. As for Outlander, I was a huge fan of Season 1, but Season 2 has frustrated me. The Paris episodes were gorgeous — visually stunning eye-candy — but something about the futility of trying to change the Battle of Colloden… it frustrates me. I know I’m alone in that regard and that it is, in fact, the whole point, but I struggled nonetheless. Ellen, as a Vikings fan, have you watched The Last Kingdom on BBC America? It covers the same historical events, more of less. If you put aside the stellar performance of The Viking’s Travis Fimmel, the actual plotlines and drama of Last Kingdom might be better. I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it already.
The “Mountains of incredible mediocrity” (ROFL!!!) in perfume these days is indeed daunting. I’ve been preparing another one of my “Average, Banal, Bad & Ugly” lists actually. But have you found no new perfume loves lately? Given how much you love incense, I would think some of the Sultan Pasha attars would blow you away. I definitely thought of you back when trying and writing about them. Pure Incense has your name all over it!
Now, the most important of all: your own hairy children. Did you say FOUR?! How did I never know that about you? I thought you had one or two! Other than your own sort of Teutonic Master, the dachshund, what are the other breeds?
I will definitely look for The Last Kingdom. I understand your frustration with Outlander’s second season. Too slow moving and we all knew that history wasn’t going to be changed, but yes, the visuals were beautiful.
As I signed off, I realized that I had said nothing about Sultan Pasha. Thank you for reminding me. Mediocre? Never! There are things of his that I wasn’t crazy about honestly, but his artistry cannot be denied. Aurum D’angkhor, Reve Narcotique, and Incense Royale I think are swoon worthy in any market at any time. I was lucky enough to get some of his samples and I will treasure what remains.
So my hairy friends are an interesting lot. The first is Sebastian,a hundred and ten pound show-worthy Great Pyrenees. Abandoned and rescued by the side of an expressway, he is a dog much content with his own company and although affectionate, keeps his own counsel. The second, Arthur, is a West Highland White Terrier, a loud, but cuddly Scot. Winston, is the dachshund whose delightful personality far outstrips his size. Last but not least is Lily. Lily is a Shih Tzu I think. She is a foundling, like Sebastian, rescued from a life on the streets. Being an elderly female, I have also determined that she is mostly deaf and only partially sighted. She is most happy to be able to eat and sleep in comfort. They are a good group.
I’m really pleased you got to try a few of the attars. There were things that I didn’t love either, but the talent is undeniable and the exceptional ones are truly exceptional. As you said, swoon worthy in any market at any time.
Sebastian sounds gorgeous!!!!!!! Great Pyrenees are one my favourite breeds, although I love the hairier, bigger Newfies even more. (I’ve always wanted a Newfie! I’m a sucker for giant breeds, but especially that one.) Arthur’s “loud” Scot description made me laugh, but what I enjoyed reading about was the spectrum of personalities you have there. And I have so much respect for you as a rescuer! Bravo, Ellen, bravo. I have no doubt that each and every one of your brood feels well-loved, safe, comforted, and cherished. Give them each a kiss from me, but particularly Sebastian.
I’m now into the end of Season 3 of Un Village Francais. A truly mesmerizing show with a brilliant cast. I’m binge watching and reading subtitles, but it is well worth it. Thank you for the recommendation.
Yay. Yay, yay, YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was the best news I’ve heard all day! I’m so thrilled I got someone else suckered in, and for the full binge ride en plus! Even better, you love it. “Truly mesmerizing”… hurrah!
You’re going through them rapidly, too, if you’re already at the end of Season 3. That’s such a great sign, Ellen. I’m so pleased. What has struck you the most about the story or the events that they’re showing? Has any part of the Occupation (or the show itself) come as a surprise so far?
You know, when I started watching the show last year, there were only one or one-and-half seasons up on MHZ, and I became so impatient to find out how the story ended that I wrote to them pleading and begging for them to get the rest. MHZ were sweet and funny in their reply, saying that they were subtitling as fast as they could go. LOL. 😀 But since then, all MHZ watchers have been sort of “rationed” (as my father once put it) to two new episodes each week. Definitely not conducive to binge-watching, but it made Tuesdays something to look forward to.
Now, though, I don’t know what I’m going to do because we’re all essentially caught up over here with the end of season 6 on MHZ. (I think it’s season 6, I tend to get my numbers confused when it comes to the show.) The show is currently filming Season 7 and isn’t even finished with it, I don’t think. It certainly hasn’t aired in France. Since they always get their show about a year before we do and since I think Season 7 will air in France in early 2017, I fear we won’t find out how everything ends until way, way, wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy later that year. 🙁
Given the rate you’re binging through Un Village Francais and given that the whole first month on MHZ is free, what else has caught your attention to watch next? Two of the same Village actors are in France’s other big hit, Spiral, but I couldn’t get into that show so much. If you’re a wine lover, you may enjoy Blood on the Vine. If you’re a history/WWII/spy lover, I recommend The Heavy Water War which is short and suspenseful, but also rather informative about nuclear development and British Special Operations in lesser known countries. If you want detective shows that have the comfort of Mac-n-Cheese mixed in with occasionally dark plots that have a lot of twists, give Inspector Montalbano a try.
Please let me know how the rest of your Village Francais watching/experience goes, okay? I’m really interested in what you think, as well as in any other shows that may grab your attention on MHZ.
I don’t actually have MHZ, but my son has found some circuitous way to get the series on my computer. I think what strikes me the most is the depth of the moral ambiguity for so many of the characters and also, the pettiness, and its consequences, of characters such as Madame Schwartz. I am disturbed by the antisemitism in the general population, but I had heard that before. The Resistance fueled by Communists who start out supporting the Nazis? That was news to me. And the disregard for the lives of ordinary citizens who pay the price for their bumbling is truly awful.
I suppose at this point, my favorite character is the Keveren(sp?) the older policeman. I find his moral ambiguity more to my personal liking. The contrasts between the various couples is also interesting. Lucienne and Kurt’s relationship will be tarred with the same brush as the relationship of Hortense and Heinrich (isn’t he just such a despicable villain), yet the former is much purer, to my way of thinking. Even Monsieur Beriot, as decent a man as he appears to be, capitalizes on a situation to obtain Lucienne.
Nothing ends well, as we know. Collaboration eventually will fail. I wonder, what will happen to the doctor/ mayor? I guess one has to ask, at what price do we survive and will we be able to live with ourselves later?
By the way, The Guernsey Potato Peel Literary Society was lovely. Such a sweet book in so many ways. It made me go back to reading some of the romantic poets. Sarah’s Key made me cry so that I had to put the book down for periods of time before continuing to read.
Still haven’t gotten to The Last Kingdom.
Hurrah for sons who can configure tech solutions for one’s shows. 😉 I loved hearing your thoughts on the show, and you said it well when you used the phrase “moral ambiguity.” There is that for so many of the characters. Even Monsieur Beriot, as you noted. (Even more so down the road, you will see.)
I particularly liked your point about the difference between the two French/German relationships. I think you find Lucienne’s one to be purer because there isn’t a power disparity between her and Kurt, despite his being a German. He’s a low ranking, nonideological soldier without any major, serious power of life and death over her and the French population — which is precisely what Mueller has. (He’s one of the most fascinating, riveting characters for me to watch. Particularly because of the way he is developed in later seasons and the spectrum of behavior throughout the seasons. Plus, the actor is brilliant. Apparently, he plays Nazis often. LOL. Given the way he looks, his skillful acting, and his multilingual fluency, I’m not surprised.)
Speaking of Heinrich and Hortense, I simply don’t understand her volte-face on him. You’re probably at the point in the series where that comment makes sense. If not, I hope I haven’t spoiled anything. All I’ll say is that one of the few plot or development flaws for me was the show’s failure to clarify and properly explain a decision by Hortense with regard to her relationship with him. One minute it was one thing, the next minute the exact opposite. With no reason given for the change. I still wonder about that.
With regard to the two books, had you read them before my post or were they other recommendations that you followed up on based on the comments here? Either way, The Guernsey Potato Peel Literary Society is wonderful, isn’t it? I’m so glad you enjoyed it as much as I do. As for Sarah’s Key, parts of it haunt me to this day, images of a few scenes (particularly the ones taking place within the actual Vel d’Hiv hippodrome) are seared onto my memory and, whenever they pop up, I almost feel compelled to shake my head to get them out.
Oh, by the way, with regard to the antisemitism of the French population, I personally think the degree of it was far more overt than in some other European countries and it was more widespread throughout the population. When they refer to “youpin” in Un Village Francais, it’s not merely the French word for “jews.” It’s the really awful pejorative “kike.” Basically, it’s like using the n-word.
You know, the French anti-semitic Far Right (and even institutional antisemitism) has a long, long tradition in France, going back to the Dreyfus Affair (and even further back before that). The famous French writer, philosopher, and democracy advocate, Emile Zola (the source of my Hairy German’s name) had his famous “J’Accuse” thing precisely over the anti-semitism of the government. The Dreyfus Affair is one of the most important events of modern(ish) French history, and it resulted in something called the Action Francaise, a right-wing, ethic nationalistic, anti-semitic movement that was HUGE in the 1930s and that almost triggered a sort of political civil war within France at one point. You can read about all that here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_far-right_movements_in_France
The explanations there really are useful or helpful to go along with your viewing of Un Village Francais, particularly once you get to the militia that make up an important part of Seasons 5 and 6.
In answer to your question, I had actually read both books, as well as Schinler’s List, before I read your blog. Like you, certain scenes stick in my head. I recommend The Last of the Just, by Andre Schwartz-Bart and History:A Novel by Ilsa Morante. The former about France in WWII and the later in Italy. History concerns itself about a boy and his dog juxtaposed against the macrocosm of the war raging in Italy. It is a book which has haunted me for years and was the reason that I named my first Great Pyrenees, Bella. I wept through the entire book and was just a mess at its end.
Regarding French antisemitism, it is why, to this day, that I have an aversion to buying Chanel fragrances. I have bought one or two, but I have a hard time with it. Logically, I can see that one should be able to separate the art from the artist, the creation from the creator, but something about Chanel, illogically, seems to continue to bother me.
Not having gotten further, Hortense’s fascination with Heinrich(I agree with your observations regrading him and the actor who plays him) and her acceptance of his unimaginable cruelty truly repels me. To betray Daniel and Gustave is reprehensible. That’s not “love” in any recognizable form. The ease in which she seems capable of abandoning her own child also bothers me since her previous frantic desire to keep him at all costs, to the exclusion of his actual father, was so intense.
Certain characters are perhaps more reprehensible than others, the sous prefect and Marchetti to name two, but the concept of what happens in the process of survival is one of the key elements in this series. There is this slippery slope of small moral betrayals which just lead to more and more of a moral death. A cautionary tale.
Whew! I haven’t written this much since I don’t know when.
Thank you for the book recommendations, Ellen. I don’t mean to keep you because I know you’ve already commented a lot more than you normally do, but I must ask a question about “History,” nothing happens to the dog, does it? Because I have difficulty reading or watch things involving animals. I can weep about a lot of things, but weeping about animals…
With regard to Hortense and the children, including her ostensible “own” child, it’s all too bizarre for me. And it gets more bizarre as the show progresses. I won’t explain further so as not to spoil things to you. I’ll just say that her illogical behavior and her constant volte-face on a number of different things aren’t really explained by the writers, at least not in my opinion.
I agree that the issue of survival is a big one in terms of how people behave, but I’d argue that applies to those *outside* of power and under it’s heel, rather than to those wielding it like Marchetti or the Sous Prefect. Marchetti, in particular.
As for Chanel, I agree with you. I find myself no longer able to review any of the fragrances that celebrate her life, like the ones in the Exclusifs Collection as opposed to the regular line which are not inspired by her, events in her life, etc. etc. They’re unrelated, like “Chance,” for example, as opposed to say, “Misia.” I find it impossible to put my anger and issues aside. As another reader, Feral Jasmine, always puts it so well: there is a difference between struggling to survive when one is powerless and oppressed, versus actually profiting and flourishing under Nazi rule, living it up as part of the powerful elite. Plus, in her case, she was an actual Nazi agent, code name and all, seeking to advance their plans. That puts her in a whole other category that goes beyond mere collaboration, imo, and it’s several steps too too far for me. For you too, it seems.
Don’t feel obligated to respond, my dear. I could talk about this for days, but I know you don’t write frequently or at length and I don’t want to keep you unnecessarily. I simply wanted to reply to a few of your points, and didn’t want you to think I was ignoring your comment or the time you spent writing it. I’ll look into the non-dog book you recommended. Thank you for that. 🙂
I didn’t know you are a fellow Trekkie! More reason to adore you! I hope Un Village Français comes to Netflix or Amazon Prime! Just finished Poldark and the last season of Downton (wah); waiting for more Vikings and Poldark. . . am enjoying Worricker right now but not as much as the period pieces, as I’m a sucker for the clothes and the majesty of nature. Modern dramas have little of that.
Hurray for steroids! They’re keeping my kitty alive and happy, too!
Funny thing, I met someone today (and had marvelous conversation) who works for a company owned by Estee Lauder. On our daily walk, I told the husband my feelings about EL: I imagine a giant carnivorous, voracious, zillion-tentacled sea monster. I did not mention this to the new potential friend!
One more funny-ish thing: I bought a decant of something I mistakenly thought you’d raved about. When I got the package, I ripped it open and spritzed. Horrors! What was the smell? Urinal cakes. An award-winning fragrance, beloved and lauded by many. The fastest scrub I’ve ever performed!!! I got on here, wanting to know, desperately, why you liked it. It wasn’t you. It was Luca Turin!!
In you I trust! I am enjoying Exquis Noir on this fine coolish day!
Cheers, virtual hugs, and thanks for the round-up. I can not believe it’s been an entire year since the last!!
I’m a huge, HUGE Trekkie! 😀 I’ll take Trek over Star Wars any day. (Maybe I should hide and put on a flak jacket after saying that, lol. I like Star Wars, but not like Trek. DS9 is one of my favourite series ever! The Cardassians are THE best villians!) As for Un Village Francais, why not sign up for the free month? The summer television drought is a perfect time to start watching it if you’re interested.
Was the urinal cakes scrubber Zoologist’s Bat, or something else? Given what Luca Turin’s recommended lately and how I know Bat smells, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was that one. I’ve chosen not to cover that and 5 or 6 other fragrances that Turin has recently loved because of my rule against writing scathing reviews for fragrances from new or tiny companies.
Give a big hug to your own furry child from me, Julie. I’m glad they found a solution to her issues because she’s very sweet. While long-term use of steroids isn’t great or ideal, sometimes it’s really the only thing that seems to help. (And, thankfully, it’s not expensive, either.)
Hi Kafkaesque, thanks for sparing my life here 🙂 I don’t think I could survive your scathing review of Bat. To be honest, I don’t read your perfume reviews often because they are a bit long for me, but I am very aware of your influence in the fragrance community. Your decision not to write negative reviews for small/startup niche houses in fact have given them a chance to find their shortcomings and become better through the first round of sales.
I think I have sound taste in perfumes (able to tell the difference between mundane perfumes and good & creative ones, and understand why people go crazy over certain perfumes that I think are “urinal cakes”), I firmly believe Bat is not a bad composition, (we spent half a year developing it), but can see why it turns a lot of people off.
All the best,
Hello Mr. Wong, thank you for your note. I have not said what my issues were with the Bat. You’re making assumptions based on someone else’s comment regarding “urinal cakes.” For what it’s worth, I appreciate the creative idea and theory behind your composition.
All the best to you in your endeavours,
Oh dear! I wish I commented asap, as I consider Victor a friend, and it was NOT Bat!! I would prefer not to say publicly what scent this was as I don’t want to hurt what I think is another small business (and one that I want to like)!
I LOATHED this scent, and the hubby did, too, I know we all have different perceptions, so I am quite perplexed. I will email you the name.
Hail, fellow Trekkie! Y’know what I also do NOT like at all? Star Wars! Not in the least.
There. I said it.
What was the scrubber you hated?!
Kafka, thank you for another intellectually curious post.
The French show sounds interesting, and a book (that was made into a movie a few years ago), Sarah’s key was incredible. GOT has been a major watching spree this season, and I agree on the Americans – incredible show. Being originally from Russia, I have to say the KGB is portrayed very realistically, and mentality of the agents that they are doing it for a greater good is very realistic. Makes you wonder what these folks thought about Perestroika and fall of Soviet Union, when everything they held dear disappeared overnight.
I hope the hairy German feels better.
In Parfum news – thank you for getting me hooked on Sultan Pasha’s creations – his work is amazing and I am a proud owner of a few little bottles. I had to sell a lot of mediocre bottles (looking at you Jo Malone), but it is all worth it. Also really looking forward to the launch of new SHL 777 – it truly sounds up my alley based on your review
You’re very welcome, Marianna, both for the post and for the perfume suggestions. I’m so glad the Sultan Pasha attars captured your heart. Which ones did you end up getting?
As for Sarah’s Key, I actually mentioned it in the post and you’re right that it’s incredible. The book more so than the movie, I thought, but then films often fail to capture the full weight, horror, or power of the written word. The book though… I remember scenes that it portrayed even to this day, and I usually shudder at the images in my head. Un Village Francais is child’s play in comparison. I hope you get the chance to see it if you’re really interested in that era. (It’s free to watch for a month on MHZ if you are in the states.)
I didn’t know you were Russian originally. That makes your perceptions of The Americans even more intriguing and interesting to me. I agree with you that most thought that they were doing it for the greater good. The blood-stained shadow of The Great War cast a long, long reach, and it made their view of the Cold War as an existential fight even more understandable. As for their reaction was in the immediate days after the fall of the Soviet Union, from what I’ve read, they saw Gorbachev as a traitor. He still seems to be quite controversial judging by a recent NY Times article on him, his legacy within Russia, and perceptions at the time in certain political cadres. I can look up a link if you’re interested. 🙂
Edited to add: here it is, from June 1st of this year, “Reviled by Many Russians, Mikhail Gorbachev Still Has Lots to Say:” http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/02/world/europe/mikhail-gorbachev-interview-vladimir-putin.html
Oh yes Gorbachev was perceived as a traitor especially the older generation. Both him and his wife were uniformly hated and disposed – and true he made some mistakes (his economic policies did not make the most sense) but I truly believe politically he has done a huge service to this country.
For Sultans parfums I ended up getting Incense Royal, Ame Sombre, Reve Narcotique, and Sohan d’Iris. Iris has mr arrived yet but I am looking very much forward to it. I also have been dipping into flowers, so based on your recommendations I got Hiram Green’s Moon Bloom and Shangri-La. Shangri-la is a winner and I have been reaching for it a lot since I got it. I also got Miyako by Auphorie and if you are interested in trying it, I can send you a sample. I like it a lot but it is daily temperemental
It’s an extremely kind and generous offer, Marianna, and I may take you up on it sometime. For now, though, I’m rather drowning in perfume vials, so I hope you’ll understand if I’ll most gratefully and appreciatively decline for the time being. 🙂
Re. the attars, I haven’t tried Sohan d’Iris yet, but the rest are super choices. I’m really happy to hear that Ame Sombre captured your heart because it’s not one that most people seem to talk about. It’s almost like an underdog in my eyes, and yet, it’s one of the sexiest of the lot in my opinion! Rowrrrrrr! 😛 Hiram Green’s Shangri-La is also a great scent. All of them are a long, long way from Jo Malone, and a big hurray for that! I know you smell fantastic no matter which one of them you choose to wear.
Ha!! I have come a long way from Jo Malone and other mall scents. 🙂
Always delighted to hear more about the Hairy German. My big black bear-dog Jack has lymphoma and we nearly lost him shortly after diagnosis, but with an elaborate med regimen and ketogenic diet he is doing so well that we were all able to go on a hiking vacation recently. But I know how you feel when His Highness isn’t doing well.
So no perfume for me, since the extra money needs to go for dog-meds. But I love hearing what you think about this and that. I can imagine visiting the US Arabian Oud store one day.
Collaborationism is a fascinating psychological phenomenon, isn’t it? I think that quite often the collaborationists think that they are bastions within a corrupt system, or even subverting the corrupt system from within, when in fact they are riding rather cozily in the belly of the beast. As I said before with regard to Coco and Misia, nobody can be blamed for surviving, but thriving under the Nazis was different and blameworthy. Examples of the collaborationist mentality spring up wherever there is a substantial power differential.
I’m so upset to hear about Big Jack. Poor, poor baby! (And poor you, most definitely poor you as well!) What meds help lymphoma in dogs and what is the ketogenic diet? Did he go through any chemo? I’m very glad to hear he’s doing well now, but I hope you’ll keep me updated on his condition. And if you ever start to worry about him, let me know so that I can try to cheer you up or send a small care package, okay?
His lymphoma is gastric and, unfortunately, chemo is not considered worthwhile given his location, cell type, degree of metastasis, etc. He is doing wonderfully well at present and we are so grateful. The ketogenic diet is all grass-fed meat and fat, no carbs of any sort, and so far is clearly helping a lot. His energy level is high. Once again he barks furiously at coyotes from my bedroom balcony, and loudly demands that they all be rounded up and sent back where they came from. I explain to him each morning about 6:30 that, actually, they came from here and preceded us, but he isn’t buying it.
Seriously, thanks for your inquiry, because it is rather dreadful to lean exactly what your beloved companion will die of. And if I need sympathy I will turn to you, big time.
I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but may I ask what is the degree of metastasis? 🙁 The good news is that he seems happy, well, and comfortable, so that’s the most important thing. And I laughed at his reaction to the coyotes every morning. How dare they have the temerity of venturing into his domain?! 😀 You may not be getting much sleep at the crack of dawn, but it’s a great sign that he’s so alert and feeling so irascibly vocal about things. May he bark furiously for years and years to come at those dastardly coyotes.
Stage IV. But there has been so much improvement since his crisis and diagnosis that we dare to hope he will be with us for a while. We have a great canine oncology team and he is incredibly strong-willed.
His nemeses are coyotes and hot-air balloons, both of which he considers contrary to nature. Oh, and Dior Oud Ispahan. HATES that stuff. Won’t stay in the bedroom if I spray it. I know some people who feel the same way.
Stage IV. My heart hurts for you. I’m going to send you a private message, if that’s okay.
You already know that my most recent obsession is Lucy, the female pup who was born to the emaciated stray who showed up at my parents’ home. I love her brother as well, but there’s something between Lucy and me that is magic.
Their mother died when they were about 4 months old (heartworm, I think, she was old and hadn’t been cared for). Ingrid, my folks’ housekeeper, and I consoled ourselves with the knowledge that she didn’t die homeless or starving, thanks to us. I had planned to take her to the vet along with the puppies as soon as I was off for the summer, but she died suddenly.
I’m having to drive to my parents’ home every other day now to take care of errands, my father’s banking, grocery shopping, etc. and it’s an extra special pleasure now that I know Lucy and her brother Oso will be there. They are so happy to see me that they really melted my heart and now I know why so many people love dogs. They have been recently spayed and neutered, and have 40 acres to enjoy (they occasionally chase my father’s cows and I think it’s because the mother was either a Blue Heeler, or had a lot of that in her. I’ve been told that Blue Heelers are used on farms and ranches).
I just finished the first GoT book, but will next read The Midnight Assassin, about the 1st American serial killer in late 1800’s Austin, Tx., then I’ll read Vol. 2 of GoT, then The Witches, by Stacy Schiff who wrote an incredible, award winning bio. of Cleopatra a few years ago. This one is a detailed account of the Salem witch trials. AND THEN, I’m going to read the new Walter Mosley mystery.
I haven’t been excited by a perfume in months, but I have been disappointed by many.
As far as television goes, I’m a fan of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, OITNB, The Americans, Penny Dreadful, GoT, and Grace and Frankie (Lily Tomlin, Martin Sheen, and especially Sam Waterston are terrific). I just saw and really loved the new movie adaptation of Far From The Madding Crowd. The Lady in the Van was really great, too.
Lately, I’ve been listening a lot to the Hotel Costes cds, Mario Biondi, the remastered Warm Leatherette by Grace Jones, and the new double cd by Louie Vega. There’s a song on there called Elevator that is ear candy to me. I can’t stop listening to it!
I, too was interested in the ring worn by Elizabeth I. I love The Vintage News and My Modern Met on facebook.
I could go on, but I won’t, dear K. I have a lot on my plate right now with my parents, so I haven’t read some of your posts as carefully as I usually do. I’m hoping July will be the month I can catch up on so many things. xxooxxoo
I so thoroughly enjoyed reading all this, Ed, and it was wonderful to catch up after all this time. I had to smile at your heart melting over Lucy and how it finally clicked for you why dogs can so special, so completely magical, and in a way that is quite different to cats. I was sorry to hear that mother died, but I’m so glad the puppies have someone as kind as you to take care of them. While your father’s land sounds like a wonderful place to run and frolic, I’m sure she would love to be with you just as much. Probably even more. Do you think that you might eventually take Lucy for yourself? Or is that impossible because it would also require taking her brother, and that might be too much for your cats?
Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra book was great, so I’m intrigued by your mention of her new one on the Salem trials. Let me know what you think of it when you read it. I may pick it up if you think it’s as good as the Cleopatra one.
I didn’t know you watched Penny Dreadful! Eva Green was brilliant in it. Simply incredible acting. I can see why the producers felt they needed to end the series, though.
I saw Far From the Madding Crowd on the plane some time back and liked it, too. Quite visually lovely. I haven’t seen The Lady in the Van. That’s the Maggie Smith film, right? I’ll put it on my Netflix list since you recommend it and enjoyed it, so thank you for the tip. (I’ll also look into the remastered Warm Leatherette, as I like Grace Jones.)
Just out of historical curiosity, was the first (known) American serial killer really in Austin? I thought it was the Chicago chap with that hotel that no-one left? Or was that technically a decade later in the 1890s?
According to the new book by Skip Hollandsworth, the first serial killer came from Austin. His first killing was in 1884, and his last was in 1885. Once the killings stopped, Jack the Ripper began his reign of terror, and some believe the mystery serial killer from Austin went to England to kill some more. I doubt it.
Believe me, I’m already worrying about what to do about the dogs if something happens to my father. I can’t see myself taking both dogs, esp. since they are bonded to each other AND I don’t know how the cats could handle two medium-sized dogs, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Yesterday, I bought them gel-filled mats that stay cool, and that will tell you all you need to know about my conversion to puppy love.
Eva Green certainly was brilliant in Penny Dreadful. Only last week, I realized that she played Angelique, the blonde witch, in the Johnny Depp/Dark Shadows film.
I’ll refrain from commenting on how the first American serial killer came from *Texas*…. [ducks and flees] 😛 😉
Loved you new blog ! I was also fascinated by the toe socks ? By the date it would have been under Ptolemaic Egypt , so I guess the Greeks must have descended from geese ?
Haha, geese! Possibly, but I think lobsters are more plausible with those claws. Er.. toes. 😉
Thanks for sharing. I have a new job about which I am very optimistic. I am currently reading Barkskins, the latest novel by the great Annie Proulx, having recently enjoyed non-fiction Grunt by another fave of mine, Mary Roach. I was thrilled with the second season of Netflix’ Bloodline and delighted with the second season of their Grace & Frankie. Lily Tomlin is a national treasure. Saw Wiener-Dog, the latest Todd Solondz opus, yesterday. Not his best and NOT recommended for dog lovers. The ending would traumatize. Have a great 4th. Unseasonably cool and rainy here. Much love to you and yourn.
I’m so happy you’re enjoying your new job. That’s wonderful, Rich. How’s the commute? Not like the other one, I hope?
Thank you for the warning about Wiener-Dog, it’s much appreciated. I’m not the sort who can take traumatic, painful, or emotional animal stories lightly or shrug them off easily. They upset me far too much, so I’ll stay well away from that one.
The commute is much the same but the destination is a red-hot hipster neighborhood which is exploding.
With you on this one! When invited to a movie, my standard question is ” Do any dogs die in it?” If so, I won’t go.
I love “The Americans.” Great acting but it’s gotten rather slow in this last season. I’m ready for those stinkin’ spies to get caught and shot or whatever. My favorite character, Nina, is gone now and also Martha, my second favorite character. I despise the rest of them except for the poor daughter of Phillip and Elizabeth.
Sarah’s Key is a wonderful book, loved it. There was collaboration everywhere. My father in law was with the OSS during WWII and chased Nazi spies in England and Scandinavia, particularly Denmark. There were rats everywhere. I recommend the Guernsey Potato Peel Pie society or something like that. Also about Nazi Collaborators and a good read. Don’t be too tough on all the French. My family is from Alsace, but then they did get the heck out in 1740!
Your father in law must have some fascinating stories! I’d love to hear them some day. And, yes, other countries obviously had collaborationist issues as well. I’ve actually been to Copenhagen’s WWII/Nazi Occupation museum, and it’s got some fascinating exhibits. As for the British aristocratic Right, Oswald’s fascists, and Coco Chanel’s Hitler-supporting Duke/lover, the less said the better.
The Guernsey Potato Peel Literary Society is actually one of my favourite light-ish novels that I’ve read in the last 10 or 15 years. It’s hilarious, adorable, sweet, moving, but with subtle, surprising depth as well under all its seeming froth. I haven’t re-read it in a while so I must dig it up from wherever it’s gone to in the bowels of my library because it would be a perfect book for the summer. Thank you for reminding me, Ricky!
BTW, Martha was also a favourite of mine on The Americans. It’s funny how “Poor Martha” rapidly turned into “Poor, poor Martha” and “Oh God, poor, poor, POOR Martha” for everyone as the series went on. LOLOLOL! I’ll write this following comment in a way intended to avoid spoilers for anyone who hasn’t seen the most recent season yet, but I was surprised at what happened. I never ever thought it would go that way when things were happening with her in earlier, prior seasons. I’m sure you understand what I’m talking about. “Poor, poor Martha”… lol 😉
A refreshing change of pace from your usually comprehensive perfume reviews 🙂
Sorry to hear about your dog’s health, and I wish him a speedy recovery.
For perfumes, I managed to try Aurum d’Angkor and Ame Sombre G1 when someone bought and brought them over for a perfume meetup (imagine the shocked look on my face when it happened). On my skin, Aurum d’Angkor is a HUGE bouquet of jasmine… more jasmine than oud, surprisingly. Ame Sombre is a blast of rose and frankincense… seriously, both notes only. My friend said that the amount of application affects the degree of the scents, but maybe the hot weather didn’t do any favours for me.
Also, apart from the Atelier Cologne, D&G has also been acquired by Shiseido. Seems like it’s open season for the big guys to glomp the little guys, and it makes me wonder who’s next. It’s frightening, come to think of it.
In other news, I spent the last few months thinking where to go in Europe for my year-end trip. It’s a toss-up between Rome and Barcelona and after some time, I decided to go with the former. I’ve never been to Europe so this is exciting for me.
I haven’t been watching WWII shows as of late, but as for books, I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Unexpectedly amazing book. Next WWII historical fiction book is All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Heard so much about it, so I feel obliged to pick it up.
It sounds to me like you definitely applied way, way too much of the attars. Less is more, and enables the notes to really emerge. The jasmine he uses is particularly powerful, imo, and tends to bulldozer over everything else if one applies too much. I’ve heard that from a number of people regarding several of the attars, so it’s clearly not just my experience alone. Your friend is really right when he talks about the difference that quantity makes with this line, and it’s something I tried to emphasize several times in the reviews due to the sheer impact it makes. Huge! So I really hope you can try them again, my dear. 🙂
As for the books, thank you for mentioning them. I’d completely forgotten about All The Light! What I’d heard about the boy’s story had particularly interested me because of the academy in the story. In real life or history, the really elite schools for the top tier of the Hitler Youth were really quite… something. I’ve written a note to myself to get the book next time I place an Amazon order.
I hadn’t heard about The Nightingale, though. It looks interesting. Thank you for the tip!
With regard to your year-end trip, it sounds like a great time to visit Rome. My suggestion is to reserve, book, and pay for tickets ahead of time to the most popular attractions. The Colosseum, the Vatican museums… all of them are best dealt with by pre-arranged tickets in order to skip through the massive lines. I can’t recall how much more it is to pre-order, but it’s a few euros at most. All you do is print out your voucher and ticket number, take it with you, and go through the express line to present it at the special ticket window. Print several copies and keep them in separate places lest your luggage is lost, etc. You’ll see it’s well worth it. 🙂
What made you choose Rome over Barcelona? Both are great cities, so I’m merely curious how one decides between them or what was the final, extra lure?
When are you going, for how long, and what is the thing you’re most excited to see? For me, with my particular interests, it was obviously the historical stuff involving Ancient Rome. Poor Julius Caesar and the shabby, itsy bitsy mound that is his “tomb,” or what’s left of it. 🙁 I was never an Octavian/Augustus fan, and I always thought Caesar deserved so much more, particularly in comparison.
Actually, I had to narrow it down from a couple of selected cities, namely London, Rome, Barcelona, Berlin and Paris. I had a few criteria: food, places to visit (including perfume stores), language, accommodation, experiential novelty, etc. It’s REALLY difficult to narrow them, though ><
After narrowing down to Rome versus Barcelona, it's really a toss-up between the two but there was only one deal breaker: the airfare. It's so much cheaper to travel to the former that it decided the destination for me! Of course, it would only be a matter of time before I visit other European cities.
I am travelling from the 21st to 30th December so I have plenty of time. A friend told me that I need at least 5 days for Rome so I wonder which other cities in Italy I should visit. Florence, Milan, Naples… I don't know.
I'll definitely make a visit to the places you mention. Travel planning is fun but man, is it taxing :[
Guy here again, Arabian Oud NYC is now open on Times Square. Despite expensive location, prices are very reasonable. Kafka, I sent you pictures with the store’s permission. Feel free to use. They have all the items you reviewed any many more, including a shelf full of pure oud oils from different regions and aged at different times. I bought Kalemat, Ghroob and Woody.