Only on the most special of days do I light the neroli candle in my living room. The one-wick candle is potent enough to fill the high-ceiling room with the lush aroma of oranges, honey, and fresh greens. It’s a candle made by Malin+Goetz and it has been out of stock for over a year. I’m pretty sure 2020 wiped out the supply as neroli is considered to have anti-depressant effects.
Tickling my nose with one deep breath of this floral fusion, my mind travels to New York City. The sumptuous scent transports me to our last family vacation when we went to celebrate my niece’s wedding.
The trip was memorable for a lot of reasons, but this vacation I truly relished because I didn’t have to pack and entertain my three sons. They had all grown up. We were together, a blessing, and apart, as we were in New York. The only requirement was for them to show up for the wedding celebration.
Every time I light the neroli candle, I’m taken back to that lovely carefree weekend in the fall of 2019. The visuals of NYC were thrilling, but the smells slyly imbedded the trip into my mind.
We arrived at LaGuardia in the early morning. The sky and clouds were gray. The rain drizzled on us as we made our way through the airport construction to get a bus and then a cab. The exhaust fumes floated around pervasively and blended with the damp concrete barriers on our path. The grit of NYC lifted my spirits.
We checked into our hotel near Washington Square Park and headed out in the rain for the Whitney Museum. The air felt clammy and the sidewalks were slick, but the wet leaves sent us a crisp message from the park. It was fall.
After the museum, for a treat, and to sit for a minute or two, we walked into the Chelsea Market. First, sweet chocolate greeted my olfactory system, but then the whiff of pancetta followed. As we meandered around the crowded booths, like a cartoon character, my nose led me into Higher Standards. Escaping the market’s crowded hallway, once inside the shop I immediately relaxed. The power, I soon found out, of neroli. An intoxicating and calming scent. With my son, we nosed around the shop. I loved hanging around with him. The paraphernalia was beautiful. Truth be told, I needed an idea for his upcoming birthday. So, I purchased the Gandalf pipe for him and bought the heavenly candle for myself.
It’s miraculous how smells can transport you back to places and conjure up moments. Shopping with my son in a head shop was a blast. We laughed and joked. I was awestruck at how my youngest kid had become such a funny and charming young man.
For the wedding celebration, we all dressed up, walked down Bleecker Street, and climbed a steep staircase into an attic transformed into an art gallery. The party space had a high ceiling and a wrought iron staircase which led to the roof top. We came to celebrate and were welcomed with a basket of buttery popcorn. To kick off the evening we munched and talked. My taste buds still tingle thinking about the carrot dish served with dinner.
At the bar, we looked for our State’s signature cocktail, the Brandy Old-Fashioned. No such luck. The bartender offered to mix one up for us, but he knew little about the traditional Wisconnie drink.
On Sunday, my husband and I joined the queue that wrapped around the Richard Rodgers Theater to see Hamilton. Blissfully dry under the protection of the porte-cochère at the Marriot Marquis, fresh-ground coffee beans lured us into the hotel’s Starbux. After a quick purchase, while waiting in line, I sipped on my usual chai latte and inhaled the cinnamon… toasty and warm. As soon as we sat in our snug fitting seats, the smell of the theater reminded me of my grandpa’s sweater. A fragrance of cherries and sweet tobacco. Even if he’d been long gone, my first-time seeing of Hamilton felt like home.
I’d be remiss if I ignored the less than desirable aromas we encountered on our trip. But even though the eau de stale beer permeated the subway, once up on the street, the sour garbage invaded our nostrils. However, thanks to the street cleaners, the many pedestrians, and the vibrating city air, as soon as we turned the corner we were greeted with the mouth-watering combo of prosciutto and garlic.
This is the power of the nose. A blend of scents can be a travel guide for your memories. When I want to travel back to New York without leaving my living room, I simply light up the neroli candle. If anyone asks how I’m doing, I take in a deep breath and answer, “Can’t talk now. On vacation.”