This last week or two I’ve taken a kind of summer break.  They’ve been having a lot of ads on Pandora about how you shouldn’t let your summer go to waste and sit indoors all day.  You should go to Las Vegas!  Well, they lost me at Las Vegas, but it did make me think, Yeah, I want to enjoy some more of summertime.   I want to feel the sun and not have an agenda and I want to read good books all weekend and have a lot of peace and quiet and ice cream.

So I did it.  I took a break from non-essential house work, I took a break from having company over (or rather, the Chief obligingly gave me a break from his friends), I took one day off of work last Friday just because, and tomorrow I am going to the beach.

In honor of summer vacations and the joys of the senses, I give you two of the best, most beloved summer fragrances out there that you’ve probably never heard of.

First is Bronze Goddess by Estee Lauder. 

Total disclaimer: I am not a bronze goddess.  Ahem.  My skin is rather pale and I like it that way!  It tans a little bit, stubbornly, over the course of a whole summer’s worth of lunchtime walks.  Also, I don’t particularly love beach culture, the smell of sunscreen, or tropical blossoms.  And yet somehow this islandy-beachy fragrance delivers just such an atmosphere in a way that makes it widely beloved.   Victoria likes it on her white Russian skin in winter to remind her of brighter days.  Robin wore it through an entire vacation.  These are picky ladies! 

As I described this fragrance I found myself writing in a dreamlike mood, and that is a match for the atmosphere it creates.  The sea’s salty film – overheated skin – sandy warmth all baked together in slick sunscreen over hours and hours relaxing in pleasure and leisure at the beach.  Warm and approachable yet elegant, the hot baked languor is slowly visited by a single tendril of frangipani.  Not sweet, not nearly overwhelming enough to to become tropical, it is as if the fragrance of the beachside gardens has infused itself into her very hair.  Or perhaps the sun has gone down, and she has pinned up her hair and slipped into a simple silvery-black evening dress and flat jeweled sandals to savor a delicious dinner for two in an intimate coastal bistro, sitting on the outdoor patio where the flowering vines grow along the railings and the sea casts back the twinkle of the lights of town.

This is delicious and evocative, creating a fantasy of yourself – you could actually be this woman, and it is wonderful.  Through the base notes of all that warm salty suncreened heated skin comes a thread of warm cedar woods, grounding the coconut milk and flowers, and later a bit of gardenia.  Really a wonderful magical scent.  I’m glad it exists.  Four stars.

When I am not in the mood to be transported to a beach fantasy, I often reach for Philosykos by Diptyque. 

I suppose a Greek isle is surrounded by beaches, but it is also full of Mediterranean plant life.  As a fragrance, Philosykos is about the fig tree – its contrasts, bark, moist earth, green-white sap, unripe fruit, the fuzz on the palmate leaves.   I first tried this scent on a cool, cloudy day and was not particularly impressed with the sap, leaf, dirt and fruit medley.  It was like trying to drink a mint julep in fall – why would you? 

But then the dog days of summer arrived, and one hot and sweaty Saturday I gave it another chance… and it came alive.   This scent sinks into your skin and is released back to you by your body heat with added depth.  I like to spray it in the bend of my elbow to maximize this effect and its longevity.  With a snap of fig leaves and green twigs, Philoskyos weaves a shady bower overhead on the hottest days.  Just as being surrounded by the color green can make you feel cooler, this fragrance makes a hot day not only bearable but downright wonderful.   I swear the temperature drops five degrees when I have it on.  It’s like running through the sprinklers, or (blog title reference alert) sitting under a fig tree on a Sunday afternoon.  Five stars.