Valentine’s Day musings

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, which means that by then I’ll have completed a streak of wearing a different perfume each day for 45 days, just like I did last year—although I didn’t commit to it this year. Sometimes a destination can be reached without setting it as such!

We celebrated early over the weekend by going out for English-style afternoon tea. It’s something we did on a trip to London in the summer of 2019, and we really enjoyed the atmosphere, so I started booking them for this occasion back in the States. The first couple of times, it was a surprise for my other half, but the reproducibility has made this indulgence a new tradition.

This time, we went to a highly rated place in Boston that upped the game by not only including a glass of champagne or sparkling wine, but pairing each tea with a liqueur. I had the fruity-floral “strawberry and rhubarb pie” tea with amaretto (how have I not tried this before? It’s so delicious!) and he had a Duchess Earl Grey with Grand Marnier. The service was impeccable at first, and I was quite impressed… until a young couple who both looked like fashion models arrived and sat at the table next to ours, and stole the attention of our server without even trying.

At one point, she approached them with a Polaroid camera and some comment about them being one of her favorite couples, and offered them a photo as part of their “experience.” An instant printout, compliments of the house. We thought she would turn to us next and offer us the same, if only out of politeness as we were right there. But no. I even had to flag her down to tell us what our sandwiches were, as she had promised to come back and do because I had stepped away when they’d been brought; by way of explanation, she hadn’t realized that I had returned.

I probably didn’t help our cause by saying privately, but out loud, “I feel like a spurned Mastiff.”

(In 2020, shortly before the world shut down, my other half treated me to an AKC Meet the Breeds event in New York, where we got to meet most of the American Kennel Club–registered purebred dogs. I spent so much time stooping down to pet dogs that my legs were sore for days afterward. The Leonbergers got the largest share of my affection. Toward the end, I met a Mastiff and started petting him; he seemed very indifferent, and suddenly another Leonberger appeared behind me. Quicker than you could say “woof,” I had turned around and started hugging the Leonberger instead. The Mastiff’s expression didn’t change, but then I felt bad for him…)

Maybe that’s why while I was in Arizona over Christmas break, we were walking down the street and everyone I was with pointed out a Mastiff in the back of a truck—by the time I looked, it had disappeared from sight, probably having laid back down, so I didn’t get to see it. Incidentally, one of the recent requests I received for a dog portrait is of a Mastiff, so hopefully after I’ve finished that, I will have reset my Mastiff karma.

Meeting a Leonberger at AKC Meet the Breeds 2020

The perfume that scented my afternoon tea saga was a sample of strangelove meltmyheart, a lovely, smooth, chocolate-orris fragrance that would have paired well with the crème de cacao that accompanied a rose-vanilla black tea. It feels richer as it warms up, the way a gauzy cashmere sweater might.

Afterwards, we took a leisurely stroll down Newbury Street, the main high-end shopping street in Boston. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a Byredo boutique had opened—although I haven’t found a love from this brand, I’m always happy to see more perfumeries. I was curious to smell Bal d’Afrique again because the first time I had encountered it years ago, it was very pineapple forward to me. After reading Old Herbaceous’ description in her recent Notes on Notes post detailing marigold, buchu, and vetiver, among other notes, I wanted to find out what I had missed. It was still very fruity in a tropical way, and although I used to have marigold essential oil and had even put it in a hair conditioner base once, I didn’t recognize it here. I could detect the vetiver at one point on the blotter, but what really lingered for me was a musky rosewood-like scent.

I wasn’t familiar with the extraits, and tried Sellier on skin—a good choice, as it turned out when it was still hanging onto my coat sleeve in the closet later. A warm, smoky leather with a woody/papyrus backdrop; I hate to say it but it reminded me very much of Le Labo Santal 33. With more gravitas; maybe like its older brother. Slightly darker and stronger on the leather.

The Le Labo boutique was just a few doors down, and the window was displaying the new home scent, Ambroxyde 17. It didn’t occur to me that this was new or that I should smell it, although I was drawn to the visual arrangement. Instead, I was keen to revisit some old scents that I hadn’t formed strong opinions about when I’d first tried them. Vetiver 46 managed to surprise me like an old friend I didn’t know I had—so well balanced with freshness and rooty sweetness. Is it the frankincense on one end and the vanilla-amber base on the other? Is it because the scent had been incepted during my early days of scent exploration? I was seriously considering getting a travel spray of it soon, but now after a day the blotter is showing a sour afternote and I’m not sure anymore…

Diptyque Eau Rihla is another story—this is a beautiful leather that opens with a raspberry note and is supported by woods. After several days now, the leather remains on the blotter, but it’s still smooth. It’s not the first one like it by any means but I feel it has its own place.

So, those are some things I’ve smelled recently. I wish you all a happy Valentine’s Day—or a happy Tuesday (one of 4160!, give or take…)!

16 thoughts on “Valentine’s Day musings

  1. How lovely! I’ve always wanted to try the high (or low) tea experience. I’d even planned it on an itinerary to go see the groundhog for Groundhog Day in 2020, but then the trip fell through and then the pandemic happened and I just checked and the tea place looks like it’s gone. Someday I’ll find another. These teas just sound so delicious — a friend of mine once gave me a single teabag of a delicious strawberry rhubarb tea. I wonder whether it was the same one?


    1. Thanks! I wonder if your tipping comment is from a US or ex-US perspective? In my experience, not tipping in the US is not really a reasonable option unless the restaurant explicitly states that tipping is not necessary because the servers are paid a living wage. Otherwise, it is just a matter of percentage. I wish we would be able to follow the example of countries that do this universally. These days many restaurants also add a kitchen administration fee for back-of-house staff, and it is listed before the subtotal (pre-tax amount), which means you have to subtract it before calculating tip otherwise you end up tipping a percentage of that fee as well. I have plenty of gripes about the system (and, tangentially related, rating systems for ride shares, where anything less than a 5 out of 5 is “bad” so mediocre service ends up getting the same rating as superior service…) and these gripes are always intensified when I get to visit a country where these are not regular issues.


  2. Loved your high tea story, even though it wasn’t the highest experience for you this time. At least, you enjoyed the drinks.

    I look forward to seeing your karma-resetting drawing 🙂

    Bal d’Afrique is absolutely gorgeous on my skin in tropical weather! I also like Le Tulipe and Mojave Ghost. Not enough to pay full price for a FB, but I bought decants and wear them.

    I hope to smell new Dyptique perfumes, but I won’t be surprised if I never see them at our stores.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A happy V Day to those couples who celebrate it. DH is currently in hospital with decimated blood counts & sepsis, so no celebration for us, not that we celebrate V Day anyway.
    I’m still concentrating on thinking things. Yesterday I picked out a very elderly bottle of JML Black Vetyver Cafe from my full bottles to thunk box. This was gifted to me when it was super trendy as a friend had bought it blind & couldn’t get on with it. Neither could I so I have rarely worn it since. It’s a 9ml size from way back & whilst stored there has been some obvious evaporation.
    I was stunned when I spritzed it yesterday, the top notes have gone off & for a few minutes I thought a scrub would be needed but no. A beautifully legible espresso grounds & earthiness bloomed, I now understand why everyone raved about this all those years ago & boy is it tenacious! It’s still very noticeable on my wrists almost a full 24hrs after application. Not what JML are known for.
    So my V Day is a new love of a bottle that will go into regular rotation rather than be in the thunk it box


    1. Such a shame I’m just now seeing this comment as it had landed in my spam. 😦 More proof that AI is not smart enough to take over the world yet!
      Sending positive thoughts to you and your DH during this difficult stretch of time.
      I’m glad you found a new love from within your collection. It sounds like the evaporation made a sort of extrait concentrating the heart and base notes. My strangelove sample vials did something similar after sitting in their original box for less than a year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Your Strangelove samples evaporated 😢 I hope they were press samples & you didn’t pay the seventymillion dollars they were marketed at!
        DH home & feeling brighter after his transfusions & having the infected line removed.
        Going to stay in a 14th century cottage for the week on Friday as a post chemo treat. Will feedback on the food & perfume. Ludlow is a town famed for its food, farmers market & being where medieval Prince’s of Wales held court


        1. I wish! No, I bought the discovery set after deliberating for a while because of the price. Had used up one vial (deadofnight, the funky oud that’s probably my favorite) and left the others to sit after an initial try, not realizing they would evaporate. I wrote to the brand about it and they were kind enough to explain that the sample vials weren’t crimped like the full sizes were and offer to send me a couple of free replacement samples, which I accepted.

          I am glad that your DH is better. Enjoy your Ludlow getaway! Sounds like a nice escape and you both deserve a treat.

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Happy Valentine’s Day! The tea sounds fantastic, pity about the service. I’m probably due for a revisit on some Le Labo scents. It’s been a while. That Diptyque is one I need to try. Something at the back of my mind tells me it was exclusive to the Middle East. Hopefully, it is now getting wider distribution.


    1. Thanks – to you as well! The SA at Saks did mention that Eau Rihla was a boutique exclusive and one she was “not even supposed to have” – this was a great consolation prize for not yet having the new L’Eau Papier!

      Liked by 1 person

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