The name alone conjures up images of grandeur and opulence the likes of which will never be seen again. Whatever historians may say to the contrary, she will always be remembered as the royal for whom no luxury was too costly, no jewel too rare, no hairstyle too high. It is fitting, therefore, that her name – so evocative of extravagance and exclusivity – should grace a small but unmissable perfume boutique in the 4th arrondissement.
Situated on Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine, a tiny square a few streets away from Rue de Rivoli, Marie Antoinette is so dinky that you might almost walk past it. This would be a great shame, as its bijou interior houses a variety of rare and wonderful scents in the form of candles, perfumes, colognes, and bath products, all of which are displayed clearly and with a tremendous eye for detail. It’s hard to know where to look when you first enter; multi-coloured rows of Porto soap vie for attention with equally appealing rows of Porto scented candles, both hand-wrapped in the company’s signature Art Deco packaging. Elsewhere, upside-down cognac glasses spritzed with perfume are used as a way to preserve and then ‘taste’ the scents created by an illustrious cognac house, whilst just a pace away stand lines of jewel-coloured flacons artfully arranged to show off the names of the essences inside them: Iskander, Equistrius, Cuir Ottoman, Ambre Russe, to name a few.
The real star of the show, however, is the shop’s owner. When questioned, he knew almost everything one could possibly want to know about the products in his boutique, all of which – as he told me – had personal significance. In the course of about 15 minutes, I learnt what cologne his grandfather had worn (Musgo Real’s Orange Amber), why Parfums d’Orsay’s ‘Le Dandy’ is so-called (‘le Dandy’ was a kind of hat worn in the 1900′s, and given that name by the extremely dandified Comte d’Orsay….), and that he himself is a scion of the Claus Porto scent empire. These fascinating facts, delivered charmingly and with enthusiasm, were for me the cherry on top of the proverbial cake, and earned Marie Antoinette a permanent place in my little black book of must-visit destinations.
Address: Place du Marché Sainte-Catherine, 5 rue d’Ormesson, 75004
Métro: Saint-Paul, line M1
Tel: 01 42 71 25 07
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 12:00 – 20:00h