Thursday, April 19, 2018

Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX and the Flight From Hell

I have a love/hate relationship with the world's duty free shops. On the positive side, access to perfumes that my local stores don't carry. On the negative, how many can you effectively try? And there is the risk of reeking of perfume as you enter the airplane, and the reason I always carry wet wipes. So recently when I found that my flight from New Zealand to the USA was delayed for six hours due to mechanical issues, I knew I'd have time for a long browse in duty free. It's interesting how many airports are building their terminals where you have no choice but to walk through duty free and this was the case in Auckland. The perfume selection was large but mostly the usual suspects easily found in department stores. They had the Bvlgari Le Gemme collection which I have yet to warm up to but what I saw that did get my attention was the Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano collection. I've had the opportunity to try a few of the original six and I liked what I smelled. Plus the bottles are beautiful, with glass that resembles a cut crystal goblet and the pale juices inside of various pastel hues.

This collection was released in 2016 and was inspired by a sixteenth century villa and garden designed by Andrea Palladio in the Veneto region of Italy. This is the area where Bottega Veneta was founded. The project was directed by Creative Director Tomas Maier, and each different fragrance is meant to represent a different moment or turn in the path at the Parco Palladiano gardens.

I had already tried the first six of the collection which are totally unisex but other than VI they seem slightly geared more toward men. The three newest additions to the collection, Parco Palladiano VII, VIII and IX, are more feminine. I was most interested in trying VII, with notes of lavender, or VIII scented with orange blossom, but it was IX that I ultimately found the most interesting. I was sniffing the nozzles when at this juncture a sales person came scurrying my way. She thrust a handful of paper strips toward me but I said that I prefer to test on my skin, and sprayed a small bit on my arm.

Her eyebrows drew up in alarm. "My, you just sprayed anyway," she said, again waving her strips of paper in front of me. She positioned herself between me and the perfume, effectively blocking any more attempts I might make to outwit her perfume policing practices. I had been inclined towards buying IX, but discouraged and annoyed by her attitude decided to let it sit on my skin for awhile and see what I thought. After all, I had plenty of time.



The violet note was neither sweet or green, but rather gravitated toward woodiness. The scent had a patrician stateliness about it, and after all, isn't that what the entire Bottega Veneta line is about? It is that rare line that really hasn't made a misstep as far as I'm concerned, either in its mass market or more exclusive line. The scent wasn't ground-breakingingly inventive, but it did exude taste and elegance, and that is what their audience desires. The violet note was subtle to my nose, sort of like finding wild violets beneath an old majestic tree, with the woody notes cushioning the floral. Much later the scent began a slow burn, sizzling on my skin like a small ember, very much in the manner of a chypre. A muskiness began to emerge. Now it was really getting interesting.

Meanwhile, at Gate 10 it is now 9 pm, six hours past our intended departure time and a storm which has been blowing all day is getting worse. There are groans up and down the hallway of the airport terminal as they announce the airport has closed all runways for the time being. I wander back to duty free but the woman warrior is still there so I take my meal voucher and get something to eat. At 11:30 that night they reopen the airport and there is a line of planes waiting to take off. We eventually taxi toward the runway, awaiting our turn. And we sit. The plane is being rocked by the winds and there is a sensation of being in turbulence, but our wheels have yet to leave the ground. As a nervous flyer I am not excited about soaring into the stormy skies. We will wait out the winds, our pilot tells us. Winds of 170 km per hour are blasting the airport. But it's going to get better. So we sit for three hours. I watch Three Billboards. Around 2:30 am the pilot informs us that the runway is littered with debris blown in by high winds and we won't be flying tonight. I smell my hand. It's been six hours since I sprayed  IX and it's still emitting a classy calm which I personally absolutely do not feel.  We disembark the airplane only to be told there are no hotel rooms in Auckland, a city of over a million, not a one. Too tired to argue we take the offered blanket and pillow and stake out our seats to sleep on at Gate 10. I would like to go buy IX, but I am like a homeless person guarding my turf. No way am I going to risk losing my blanket, pillow, and spot.

The aftermath of a night sleeping at the gate.

I grab about three hours sleep to awaken at 6 am. It is now fourteen hours and counting since our flight should have left. I wander down to duty free. It is lit brightly like a football stadium but erily empty at this hour of the morning. No one is guarding the Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano bottles. I go and spray them in order down one arm and up the other, I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII and IX. I give IX an extra blast on top of my hand. I feel a strange satisfaction at this bit of anarchy but realize that now I can't really tell what any of them smell like. I also realize all I want to really buy is a toothbrush. My mouth tastes like I ran my tongue down the carpeted corridors. Maybe I'll come back for you IX, I say half heartedly.

There is an announcement. At 10:30 we are to report to the ticketing counter where they will be re-issuing our tickets. Our flight now has a new number. We cannot be NZ28, as there will be today's flight NZ28 departing only three hours after our scheduled 1 pm departure. We are now NZ 6080. It never occurs to me they will change the seats we were in last night. I had a perfectly acceptable aisle seat near the front of economy that I had booked months before. The gentlemen who sat next to me, a tall sportsman on a fishing trip, was not too happy with his middle seat but I told him to wake me whenever he wanted out, no problem. I get to the counter to be issued a ticket with a seat in the middle near the back. The same thing is happening to a young woman next to me. We both politely resist this move. When they see that the two of us are not moving until they try to change our seats they finally do so. As the young man slides the ticket toward me I notice he looks a bit apologetic, but I think nothing of it. It's an aisle seat. The young lady and I shake hands, congratulating ourselves on our negotiating skills, glowing with success at what polite but firm conversation can accomplish.

After waiting all this time, there is suddenly a mad rush towards to gate for our 1 pm departure. I think about IX but there is no way I am risking missing this flight.  Finally 22 hours after our scheduled departure, we are leaving. I get on the plane and start walking, looking for row 61. I pass my former seat and see that the man seated in the middle last night has somehow wrangled my aisle seat. Watch out for karma, dude, I think, and continue walking.  "Wow", I think. "I'm far back." Well yes, as it turns out, the last row. The seats only recline about an inch, but the worst indignity is that about 18 inches to my left is the bathroom door, opening directly to my side. Everytime the door is opened I get a full view. I am not happy and now realize why the agent looked a bit shamefaced when he handed me the ticket.

"Really, this is your seat?", says the flight attendant.  "They usually don't seat anyone here but crew." I am joined by my two other seat mates in our row of three, literally the three worst seats on the airplane. I will make the best of this, I tell myself. It's only fourteen hours. It will be over before I know it. I take a breath of IX, close my eyes, and the fragrance brings a visualization of elegant ladies dancing at a cotillion one hundred years ago. They had no showers, no hygienic toiletries to speak of, yet they could exude this elegance. I am regretting not buying IX. The scent is getting faint now and it is literally my lifeline to civilized humanity.

Nine hours into the flight and the situation is dire. I press the back of my hand to my nose and breathe in to calm myself, like a Victorian lady overcome with vapors as she faces the miasma of the odors on the streets outside and presses a scented hankie to her nose. How I regret not buying the bottle of IX. If I had it now I would spray myself from head to toe, to hell with the unwritten etiquette code of being a considerate unscented seat mate. The constant banging of the toilet door has kept me awake all night. I've amused myself by non stop viewing, first was Top of the Lake, Part Two, Chinadoll. Then it's The Greatest Showman. Checking first to see that my seat mate is asleep and can't see me, I rewind the bit where Zac Efron and Zendaya sing to each other as they swing on trapezes. They both look so pretty, and so clean. The fizzle and warmth has long died from IX. It's just a wisp of woody musk now but I keep the back of my hand pressed to my nose, desperate to not let the last vapors disappear.

Two hours until touchdown. Everyone who has been sleeping is stirring. The bathroom is seeing a lot of attention now, in anticipation of arrival. I bring my hand for the reassuring boost of scented support from IX but it has all but disappeared. My fatigued brain thinks I hear the ghost of IX whisper, don't worry, you've got this!

I'm back on terra firma for a few days now, and I find that Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX stays on my mind. It literally was my only comfort during this ghastly ordeal, and I feel a longing for its polished elegance and noble air. The only place I see it for sale here in the USA is Bergdorf Goodman. Or I might just wait until my next trip through duty free for old time's sake. Bottega Veneta Parco Palladiano IX, you made me a better woman than I am. You made me want to live up to your high standards and polished ways, bringing out traits of civility and humor in an unfortunate situation. You literally carried me through this ordeal, one breath at a time and I thank you.

Photos from Bottega Veneta website.