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Almost French (from what I can remember) was a modern-day story about a Sydney woman adapting to her new life in big ‘ol gay Paree. You know, the romantic French way of living – baguette’s, good wine, charming streets and new love.
Perfume on the other hand, is set in the 1800’s and follows a young man who has an unbelievable talent for making perfume (there is much more to the story than this – it is actually a masterpiece), and is told entirely through the description of smell.
We came to Paris to meet up with my sister and her boyfriend (which was a fantastic few days – great to see familiar faces), and had originally planned to skip town straight away – but I managed to convince Nemara that our own “Almost French” experience was just waiting to happen.
I had visions of endless chocolate croissants, cobbled streets and charming French locals.
…however, the descriptions of the Paris streets – or rather, the smell of the Paris streets was firmly etched into my mind thanks to the Perfume book…
Here’s a rather graphic quote from the book Perfume:
“In the period of which we speak, there reigned in the cities a stench barely conceivable to us modern men and women. The streets stank of manure, the courtyards of urine, the stairwells stank of moldering wood and rat droppings, the kitchens of spoiled cabbage and mutton fat; the unaired parlors stank of stale dust, the bedrooms of greasy sheets, damp featherbeds, and the pungently sweet aroma of chamber pots.
The stench of sulfur rose from the chimneys, the stench of caustic lyes from the tanneries, and from the slaughterhouses came the stench of congealed blood. People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease.
The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces.The peasant stank as did the priest, the apprentice as did his master’s wife, the whole of the aristocracy stank, even the king himself stank, stank like a rank lion, and the queen like an old goat, summer and winter”
― Patrick Süskind
Hmmmm, so it doesn’t exactly paint that pretty Parisian picture now does it?
Now I don’t want to write Paris off, because this bustling town has certainly come a long hygenic way since the 1800’s, but there is absolutely no doubt.
In every alleyway, in every park, in every corner, in every metro station.
Google it! You’ll see I’m not alone in my observations!
Sure, if you swing through Paris for a couple of days, sticking to the well-known monuments and eating only in the Latin Quarter, you might well avoid the undercurrent of pungency lurking in this city.
Though after two weeks of “living like a touristy Parisian”, we can report that Paris is indeed beautiful, bursting with history and cultural one-off’s (and the most AMAZING chocolate croissants), but is weighed down by the sheer amount of people that are living there – and has a permanent fragrance that not even a good burst of rain could wash away.
“Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally. There is no remedy for it.”
― Patrick Süskind.
Look, it was an amazing experience – we got to see some incredible things, but in essence Paris was the kind of city where you want to have a shower the minute you walk in the door!
And on that note, here are some photo’s!