I got lost trying to find my accomodation the first time I went to Paris.
It was grey and rainy and I ran into a video shop for help, trying to understand the attendant’s broken English and relay my dilemma with a French vocabulary that didn’t extend much further than “bonjour”.
I couldn’t event tell you where it was that I stayed now. It was a little hostel somewhere way on the outskirts of the city, that I’d found online and booked via email. Given this was 2007, it seemed like a pretty big deal at the time.
Eventually I found my way there, dragged my bag up four flights of stairs, and stumbled into a tiny room with a bed, TV and window. It also had a small ensuite shower with barely enough space to stand in.
I didn’t love Paris on that first visit; the weather was glum and I think I’d built up a huge expectation for the place in my head. What I did love was Monoprix and their shelves of beauty products with undecipherable (to me) names. I spent ages in there on that trip, poring over products like a kid in a candy store.
What I bought was a shower gel that remains the single best shower gel I’ve ever used in my life. Whenever I see it on a shelf anywhere I always make a point of buying a bottle or two, it’s that damn good.
For those who grew up in Australia in the 1980s and 90s, think this: caramel Paddlepop in a bottle. The brand is called Cottage and while they make plenty of other wonderful scents, the caramel is just sweet sugary goodness in a bottle for those who like to smell good enough to eat.
Later that night I took the bottle back to my room and used it, then lay on the single bed to watch a French version of Temptation Island. I was in a city I was just coping with, all by myself, on the other side of the world.
And every time I smell that shower gel again it takes me back there.