February in my home town is dark and rainy. Smart Portlanders book flights for Mexico and other parts south. My budget usually keeps me home with stacks of novels and something braising in the oven, but this year I’m going to spend a week at a friend’s house in Palm Springs. I’ve never been there, and my brain is loaded with visions of the desert, palm trees, old steakhouses, and, hopefully, a good thrift shop or two.
I’ll be traveling with a modest carry-on suitcase, so I’ll probably take only a decant of a good all-purpose vintage fragrance with a warm-day, cool-night feel, like Rochas Audace. But if I were to pack a steamer trunk, here are five perfumes I’d include, along with possible wardrobe choices:
L’Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu: A hike will be part of my agenda (or, as I like to think of it, “a pleasant walk outdoors”), and I’ll want a fragrance that captures the briskness of desert air, conifers and clay soil. Plus a pinch of glamour. A modest application of Timbuktu fits the bill. Since I don’t own pants — who needs all that tug and pinch? — I’ll be hiking in Sorel boots and a vintage floral cotton day dress, with a cardigan I can tie around my waist if need be.
Guerlain Shalimar: Back in the day when businessmen drank martinis at lunch, Palm Springs was a favorite of celebrities, including Frank Sinatra. According to the Celebrity Fragrance Guide, Shirley MacLaine — the Rat Pack’s only gal — wore Shalimar. (Nice choice for a redhead, Shirley.) A drop of Shalimar is just the thing for scoping out a bar of Dean Martin’s vintage. A shantung silk early 1960s cocktail dress completes the ensemble. Since we’re dreaming, I’ll add a pair of Roger Vivier flats.
Bottega Veneta Knot: Did I mention there’s a pool? Knot is a good one to wear lounging at its edge, under an umbrella and coated with sunscreen, of course. Knot's crisp orange blossom goes well with the Thea Porter caftan I’d wear (I wish) or my very full-coverage maillot. As a bonus, Knot segues nicely to Shalimar.
Chanel Cuir de Russie: I plan to do lots of writing, so I need an unobtrusive, smart fragrance to help me focus. Cuir de Russie is a good taskmaster. It’s beautiful, but not easy or particularly pretty. Cuir de Russie’s iris and leather-whip edge would keep me at the laptop. Writing brings down my body temperature, so I’ll wear a loose dress with leggings and a light shawl I can use to wrap whatever needs swaddling.
Ayurvedic Recipe Shea Avocado Cream: This cream smells of lemongrass, and I get it at my co-op. Its fragrance is pungent for about a minute, then fades to a fresh, calming murmur. I’m taking a budget flight and don’t want to wear scent that will bother nearby passengers on what are sure to be slivers of seats crammed cheek-by-jowl, but quiet lemongrass — and moisture — will be medicine.
What would be some fragrances you would choose for a winter getaway? (And does anyone have recommendations for Palm Springs?)
Note: top image is The Desert Retreat, Palm Springs, Calif. [cropped] from The Tichnor Brothers Collection of postcards at the Boston Public Library.