Nosy business

Summertime equals travel time for millions of Americans, and for most of them, travel means souvenirs. I’m a sucker for keepsakes. I don’t visit a new place without dragging home some trinket, T-shirt or totally worthless knick-knack. Fresh pictures are always part of the package.
I’ve always thought I was doing enough to preserve fond travel memories, but now I realize my memorabilia was missing an important ingredient: the distinct smell of a place. Thanks to a business called The Scent of Departure, travelers like me can now bring home the fragrance of their favorite destination in a bottle.
The stuff is sold in handy 1.7 oz. bottles perfect for passing security checkpoints at airports, which is the only place you can now get The Scent of Departure.
But if you’re willing to part with just $45 (American) you can bathe in the lush aromas of such romantic and far-flung places as Abu Dhabi, Budapest, Paris, Frankfort, Seoul, Keflavik, Munich, Milan, London and New York.
A company press release goes overboard with promises of nostril-hugging bliss, saying:
“Each perfume explores the most vibrant facets of a city in a subtle olfactory memento which distils faraway stories as you wear and experience them. Travel, scents and design ingenuity are woven together to create an evocative experience. Get ready for take off as you are invited to enjoy an enchanted and aromatic journey to your favorite cities!”
And what do these swell places smell like?

According to press releases, Paris overflows with the “charming scent” of white flowers, green crispy leaves, lime trees and roses. Guess the travel writer missed the bakeries. And street urinals.

Budapest, on the other hand, is “soft and spicy all at once, transported by a powdery wind of paprika spice.” Spicy? Paprika? Try the gumbo at Dupuys Oyster Shop in Abbeville, Louisiana, and save the airfare.

The blurb for the New York scent talks about the smell of “lilac and rose” in Central Park. Right. Just don’t go during a garbage strike.

In other words, the company has no clue how to capture what a city smells like. They can only duplicate the aromas of local flowers, foods and spices. But I still like the concept and admire the attempt. I’ve never longed to splash on a hint of Italian garlic, but if someone can duplicate that first hint of salt air as you approach the beach, I’d be a buyer.

Naturally, when the product came out, naysayers weren’t far behind.

My wife said she heard some TV chick mocking the concept and saying, “I want to smell like Sheboygan.” Since I have family in Sheboygan, I took offense. Sheboygan smells just fine. Certainly much better than the French Quarter in those romantic predawn hours after the bars close and before the streets are hosed down.

Few cities have a smell that permeates the air from border to border. Years ago, before heavy duty smokestack scrubbers were installed, the paper mills in Savannah bathed that whole city in a foul-smelling fog visitors and residents will never forget. Places like that are few and far between. It’s a blessing.

Some folks may pay to savor their favorite aromas. Not me. Not while so many glorious smells are out there for free.

Travel is nice, but some things are universal. Including smells. I don’t care where I am, if I can walk past a pit-cooked barbecue joint or a Krispy Kreme donut shop seconds after the “Hot” light goes on, I’ll be just fine.


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