Why I Shop for Beauty Products on Vacation
Of course pictures help recall a memorable vacation. But, for me, nothing brings back a treasured trip like a scent. Jasmine whisks me back to my honeymoon in Bali. Lavender conjures our tenth wedding anniversary in Napa. Cherry blossoms call to mind a magical trip I took with Shiseido to Tokyo. And rum punch and cigarette smoke remind me of Key West Spring Break 1994 (hah). Thus, when we travel, I always look for an aromatic token I can bring home to evoke happy memories of my trip, later on.
Two of my favorites finds:
Last April, we visited Tulum, Mexico, a surfer-chic resort town on the southeast (Caribbean) coast of the country. Shoreside aromas in Tulum were abundant from the second we arrived: salt water, sunshine-y air, fresh fish, my Sun Bum SPF 30—and the perfumeria at the Coqui Coqui Hotel. I smelled and tried on almost every scent in the shop but settled on two that really captured Tulum for me: Coqui Coqui Flor de Naranjo (a.k.a. Orange Blossom, which said fruity cocktails at sunset to me) and Coco Coco (a.k.a. Coconut, which makes me think warm skin and palm trees). Applying either, even in February, takes me back to sun-drenched sand, ice-cold cervezas and walking barefoot and bikini’d on the beach.
Alas, the Coqui Coqui Hotel was raided last June (I know. My god.), so the Perfumeria is no longer there. There are other Coqui Coqui locations in Mexico, however, (here are the specifics, if you’re traveling south of the border), and some scents are also now available at select boutiques in the U.S. (mostly in New York and California) and online at netaporter.com. In addition to fragrances, Coqui Coqui also makes candles, so even if you never get to Tulum, you can re-create that beachy ambiance at home.
My other favorite scent souvenir is not available in the States. Anywhere. Because it’s only available in Cuba, where we spent five days last week.
We took guided tours through Old Havana (or Habana Vieja to the locals), and it felt more like visiting an old, slightly-tired European city than that we were on an island just off the coast of Florida. We also traveled to Vinales, about two hours southwest of Havana to see tobacco farms, smoke cigars (one puff each; it was 11 a.m.) and ride horses through the countryside.
To me, Cuba smelled smoky, humid and spicy-sweet. So, when we stumbled upon the Habana 1791 Museo Del Perfume, where they make hand-crafted scents using local ingredients, I chose a blend of tobacco and chocolate, rather than a beachy floral. The shop keeper poured my custom combination into a small glass vial, plugged it with a cork (see, at right) and dipped it in wax to keep it sealed for the flight home. The cost: just $18 CUC (or about $20) for 3.4 oz, a relative bargain given how quickly one whiff transports me back to Mercaderes Street in Old Havana.
Are you scent sensitive—and buy scents, candles or oils when you travel too? I’d love to hear what you like and where you’ve been. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tell us all in the comments section below.