You can’t help your taste.

And so, much as I often feel like a true outsider in what I like – and what I don’t, I have learned to just go with my own flow and wait for my flower to open: because when I am confronted with what I find personally to be very ugly, I just close up inside like angry buds. Waikiki Beach was rather like this : never have I been more disappointed by a place in all my life.

While grateful and excited to be there, dropped straight into the heart of things, across the street from the historic Royal Hawaiian Center, my heart sank quickly, clenched, as we walked along the street with its stunted decorative palm trees; Guccis, Pradas, American Cheese Cake factories, holidaying tourists in shorts and socks and saggy t-shirts; just as with Disneyland – I remember D in the Riki Tiki Room or whatever it was called.. politely staring in front of him years ago to endure the clockwork spectacle though he was dying inside from the aesthetic vacuum that confronted him, where I receive no pleasure whatsoever myself either; or ‘resorts’ – which are deemed beautiful by the vast, probably sensible majority, but whose furnishings I almost always detest (we are addicted to the Netflix ‘Love Is Blind’ series at the moment, an emotionally gruelling reality show in which contestants first fall in love with each others’ voices through a wall and then go on ‘honeymoons’ to see if the physical connection works out, potentially ending in acceptance or rejection at the altar.. – the cultural differences between the American, Japanese and Brazilian versions are beyond fascinating, but the ‘paradises’ they make love in on their very first night together are on the whole, to me, completely hideous, with their plumped up cushions and matching wallpapers and carefully placed silver pineapples (I have long believed, in my heart, that almost all ‘interior designers’ are actually blind); at least in yesterday’s episode, in which the couples in Brazil stayed in the middle of the Amazon rainforest, in wooden huts with minimal overload, surrounded by tarantulas, sloths and macaws, I could watch the scenery quite happily and even momentarily wish I could stay there – the vegetation – the vast, glorious, natural, unmoulded untethered vegetation that closed in on the glass windows of their love nests – and which was certainly the true star of the show.

The hordes all unthinkingly descend on Waikiki Beach but there is nothing to enjoy. It is all hotels and bars, happy happy reggae, convenience stores selling flip flops and beachballs and not much beach. Admittedly, the banyan trees, which feel sacred, clustered with invisible, hidden, ecstatic birds – huge roots hanging down in self-protection – provoke true awe, and these trees are to be found everywhere in Oahu (I now know the inspiration behind Avatar) – but incredulous as you may be to read this, I am sure that the beaches in Britain are actually better. Granted, there may not be palm trees, but in the north coast of Wales, for example, the Gower Coast, if you get the weather (and that is the problem), in full sunshine is completely dazzling. Spectacular. As are the beaches where we holidayed as a family when I was a child, down in Bournemouth and Cornwall, and the agrophobically beautiful, windful space and solace that can be had from strolls on the end-of-the-world beaches that are everywhere up on the coast of Norfolk.

No one is forcing you to stay just on one street in one district in one tiny part of one island in the chain of Hawai’i, though.

And my pretentious (I can’t help it), utter aesthetical horrification in that one touristy area began to dissipate the second we turned a corner and explored other blocks, on the very first night. Suddenly the plastic veneer of the restaurants and stores with their sickening fonts disappeared, and you were plunged into other neighourhoods with real buildings, mysterious contents; plants, trees; neon grocery stores, a sense of realness.

A couple of days later, after all of the hubbub, when Christopher and Christine drove us around the coast, to the east of the island, at sunset, past the velvet undulating green mountains that made my jaw drop, it was as if we were in another world.

Which we were.

We stopped off at – (at least I think it was) – Kailua beach; strolled towards the sands.

Or, rather, in truth, I let the others go ahead because I just wanted to immerse myself in the utter beauty I was experiencing at my own pace, as if in a trance.

Plumeria trees everywhere. Gorgeous, sprawling vegetation; birds twittering (the birds in Hawai’i! – they are so abundant and calm and in their own, glorious world) … I was finally getting the experience I wanted.

I was awestruck .

The beach was only a beach. Nothing else. Nothing manmade. No artifice. No contamination.

So dreamy, and beautiful.

Back in the city, on later days, all of this had seeped into the blood. You could avoid the tacky areas, explore.

Away from Kalakaua Avenue, which made me feel ill, the streets were wider; more organic.

Trees, succulents, flower bushes on every corner, in every nook.

And in this more hazily tropical context, some perfumes suddenly made a different kind of sense to me.

In smelling Dusita’s uniquely unusual Erawan, in the past, I had only been able to sense clary sage, an essential oil I am very sensitive to (it has psychotropic effects and its coarse, almost rancid greenness can make me shudder, even if I appreciate its vital role in fresh, chypric perfumes such as the original Miss Dior and Ma Griffe).

In the humid air, the poetry of Erawan, with its strange, jungle lightness, made much more sense; lighter, an ethereal buoyancy I hadn’t noticed before. The coumarinic liatrix, with a muguet/ petitgrain clasp in the top, all lift, but also hold the central vetiver Haiti/ clary sage at the heart. It is soothing, refreshing; enigmatic.

Under the tree, at that moment, I felt the perfume – and the perfumer – talking to my spirit directly.

Likewise, if the sickening pink and blue trash at Duty Free that goes for fragrance these days is like the perfumes at Daniel K Inouye airport: brash, chemical bouquets of tack that slur the soul, the cool earthiness of the extraordinarily elegant Sillage Blanc, a less talked about Dusita, but one that is essential for those that seek a touch of distance and aloofness and escape from all of that, is someone, at ease, unstressed, getting ready to go out at the top of their condo; post bath, in robe, about to dress, in white, for the cool evening outside.

If a tad strident in its potency (I recommend the tiniest amounts of this scent, in strategic places, as it lingers for hours), the beauty of the green, patchouli aromatic trail this perfume leaves – in the vein of Cabochard and other classics of its type but freshened in an unfussy, streamlined modern way with light florals bound with artemisia, Persian galbanum over (a less sweaty than those of the fifties), powdered leather and oakmoss – is unparalleled in the niche market, in a class of its own.

In Honolulu, I yearned for this person to leave their apartment once ready; walk from their doorstep into the evening light and let me swoon, on the air.


Filed under Flowers


  1. I loved that swift whisking from ugly streets to heavenly landscapes. Having the world of the birds barely visible as a constant backdrop sounds magical.

    • I feel that as I write all of this I am writing directly to you as you will know PRECISELY what I am talking about.

      After all, my first message to you was literally about the fonts.

      The birds – all of you would adore them. x

  2. What a beautiful piece of prose and the photos were absolutely gorgeous!

  3. Hanamini

    I do hope you return when you have time to immerse yourself in some of the other islands at some point. There is so much beauty to be found, both in rocky landscapes and lush greenery. I will have to revisit some of the Dusitas; I find them a little tricky apart from Melodie d’Amour and Cavatina. I’ll reread the above and see if that helps me put my finger on it. Thanks for the great posts.

    • I think you would like Sillage Blanc, at the right moment, even if it can be a little unwavering. Sometimes that particular, slightly bitter green chypric trail can be mesmerizing.

  4. Robin

    So much to comment on, but just can’t atm. Dropping by to say I love all this, and thanks for a mention of Le Sillage Blanc. I own it and it’s exactly as you describe. Beautiful heady stuff.

  5. I was really hoping you were going to somehow miss Waikiki Beach.
    Too bad you didn’t see Mahana Beach on Hawaii’s Papakolea coast. It is one of only four green sand beaches in the world. The beach sand on the Big Island’s undeveloped southern tip is rich in the mineral olivine (gem-quality olivine is known as peridot) giving it a luminous verdant glow. It’s quite rural too.
    Hilo is probably my favorite town on the Big Island, hope it is still as charming and tiny as it was in 2006 when I last visited.

    • I would 100 per cent sure love all those places, and as I said in the piece, the second we went just round Diamond Head on the East Coast, everything I saw blew my mind. The main problem was a tedious one: the buses were so ice cold with the air conditioning that I couldn’t actually stand to be on them for more than about 10 minutes, so we relied on friends to take us round not being able to drive.

      What I saw is definitely within me now – and I can imagine going back. I want to see more!

  6. Sarah F.

    I’m glad you and D got out of Waikiki and were able to explore elsewhere. By chance, did you guys get to Kailua via the Pali? Everytime I get to be a passenger on that drive, I always love the fresh green scent that’s in the air.

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