Rich roses and dark cloisters – Cassandra’s blog – June 2015
In April of 2014, when normally it would still be a bit parky, we had a burst of summer. Same thing happened this year actually – 40º in early May!
Cassandra’s blog with Jonathan’s comments in manly blue and Cass’s rebuttals in ladylike pink
Very lucky for those who’d chosen to visit, including our nephew Noah and his girlfriend Becca…
… and their adorable little boy Marley our great nephew, though Cass has difficulty saying the words ‘great nephew’ (the pre-fixes ‘great’ or ‘grand’ being verboten!) he calls me Cass and I call him Marley – that will do, thank you. So we were able to go out and about, have lunch at the beach and swim (well, they did; the water was arctic!).
Marley would appear at our bedroom door at about 8am so that his parents could get a bit more sleep and we’d watch endless episodes of Peppa Pig and Scooby Doo. Parents may be familiar Having been a massive Scooby fan myself as a child, I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, and if there’s anything nicer than being leaned on trustingly by a cuddly 2 and a half year old, I’m not sure what it is insert wildly inappropriate Sienna Miller joke here words sometimes fail me and I. Can’t. Even.
We’d heard that there was a fiesta day in the village of Simat, which is at the bottom of the mountain. There are two roads up and down to our village: the one we usually use, and the one that leads to Simat de Valldigna – and we’d barely ever set foot there, so off we went. The fiesta was one big street party, with stalls of food, stalls of beer, and very happy people casting off the memory of winter. Noah (Londoner) couldn’t believe he could buy a plate of fried potatoes with an egg on top for one euro, so he scoffed three plates quickly, in case they changed their minds. That boy can eat! There was also an outdoor disco for the kids, and Becca and Marley danced delightedly to “I Wanna Be Like You” from the Jungle Book wish we had photos – Becca is six foot and Marley is, well, not. Yet. And just as incongruous: it was still only midday! Again, not sure who had more fun. We could cheerfully have spent all day there, but we’d invited some friends over for a barbecue later so we decided to head back home, via a little tour of Simat village. Okay, okay, so I’d forgotten exactly where I’d parked the car – can’t believe you’re still going on about it!
Simat has a famous monastery, dating back to the 13th Century, and we were a bit embarrassed that we’d never been to see it. In fact we had seen it, from a lookout spot on the way down, but never visited it As we walked through the gates, I was surprised to feel…something. I will confess here that I am a nightmare at museums and galleries. A NIGHTMARE! I said it first, so your shouty caps don’t work I know it makes me a philistine, and I do wish I were different, but it honestly feels like a medical condition: the moment I walk in the door I feel submerged, oppressed, and desperate to escape. One of the many things I love about Noah is that he has it too, and we refer to it, not very originally, as “Gallery Legs”. It’s a bonding thing, OK? It makes it very difficult indeed for me to be quite as contemplative and scholarly as I am. That is EXACTLY how the rest of us refer to you! How did you know?
As we walked around the monastery, I was aware of utter stillness (if you discount Marley running in twenty directions as fast as his little legs would carry him), the dry coolness of the ancient walls and the oaky grandeur of the towering wooden doors. I love that these types of doors – giant, tall ones, with a normal sized one set within them – were to accommodate both people on foot and people on horseback.
Then, spellbindingly, we came across a mature rose garden in full bloom (swoon), with lavender growing at the end of each row of rose bushes, and the whole thing bordered by orange groves in blossom. It was one of those sensory moments I’ll never forget, when even the sky seemed fragranced, and it couldn’t have been a more obvious inspiration (there really should have been a clap of thunder, or a choir of angels) for a candle. The name came to us right then and there: Sacred Roses (rich roses and dark cloisters).
Jeanne-Marie Faugier was the wonderful perfumer behind the original four fragrances but she’d decided to go back to live in Paris, so I met with a new perfumer, Marianne Martin, for the first time, wondering, as you do, whether we’d be able to work together as successfully. And it wasn’t a straightforward brief either, because we’d decided that the scent of the stone walls of the monastery was a significant part of what we’d experienced, and particular to what made it a La Montaña fragrance.
Thrillingly, Marianne absolutely understood what we were talking about (she’d lived in Spain for some years, too), and Sacred Roses came to life in her hands. The only real direction I gave was that I wanted it to be a deep, velvety rose, not a dainty, sweet one we neither of us like those marshmallow ones see the Winter Oranges blog: cloying, sickly scents are FORBIDDEN in La Montaña candles so far – I still fancy an horchata and ensaimada one (Tastes of Spain blog coming soon!), so she blended Damask rose oil (also known as rose otto) with lavender and orange flower, as well as warm geranium and violet, and woods and musk to include the resinous scent of the wooden doors.
The genius note, in my opinion, was using chamomile to evoke the monastery walls (because, frankly, I had NO idea how she was going to do that!) but, somehow, that age-old herb has just the right qualities to suggest ancient stone. Who knew? I did, of course; but sometimes part of teaching is letting people discover things for themselves. Like that you’re an idiot, you mean. Ouch!
And so, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Sacred Roses. Enjoy. No religion necessary.