Getting “Perfumed” in Paris (down to my feet)

My beauty regime in Paris is somewhat basic. I’m taking the jolie-laide approach, like Charlotte Gainsbourg.

In October we didn’t have hot water for five days because we tripped the fuse and didn’t know how to fix it. Luckily the messy hair look is de rigeur in Paris. I mentioned to Murray I might not highlight my hair while we lived here. “You dye your hair?” he said.

Like Parisiennes, I’ve discovered that a lick of bright lipstick is usually enough to pull oneself together for the shops or the school run. But after five months of pounding the pavement in Paris, my feet were another matter.

Rather than subject myself to one of the chains, I decide to go straight to the top: the Guerlain spa on the Champs Elysées.

I arrive at number 68 and am ushered up a private elevator next to the perfume shop that opened in 1913. Monsieur Guerlain made the first perfume bottle, designed by Baccarat crystal, in the shape of a turtle, a trompe l’oeil reference to the delays in the opening. There is some serious history here: in 1853, Guerlain launched its iconic perfume L’Eau Imperiale for the marriage of Empress Eugenie to Napolean III.

I’m feeling rather like an Empress myself as I am ushered to the “salon” where I am offered a hot towel scented with the company’s famous Eau de Linge, a laundry water, and a tray of Guerlain tea.

My aesthetician Chloé sets me on a ultra-lush bed and does my pedicure by hand, massaging my feet with a “gommage” and polishing my toenails with a tiny white brush. The Guerlain polish she applies is scented with the Petite Robe Noir fragrance, the most “gourmande” of the range, smelling of vanilla, red fruit and a touch of pistachio. I’m ushered back to the salon where Chloe asks if I would like to be “perfumed.” She shows me a vanity full of Guerlain bottles (much like the one in Jacqueline Kennedy’s boudoir in the recent film Jackie) and proceeds to spray me with four or five large pumps of Petite Robe Noire. So this is how French women manage to still smell of perfume by the end of the work day!

Shoes back on, my sweet smelling feet are hidden, and off I go down the Champs Elysées to pick up my daughter from school, a cloud of perfume wafting behind me.