When I was 16, my first vacation to Europe surprised me. But at the end of the trip for a long time to stay with me rather than the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace or canals of Venice, but ordinary aspects of life: the locals take for granted the things: road marking and the color of the logo, posters, a local snack food in the shop window, and the place of the sound and the smell of the most important.
First off, the grossly maligned Queen Marie Antoinette of France did not say “let them eat cake!”. I hesitate to mention it because every website in the world has now copied our list of historical myths from 2007 in which we taught the internet this little fact, but twelve years later we have a new audience so it bears repeating just in case.
Queen Marie, and her husband King Louis XVI, lived in Versailles Palace. It is a magnificent place that I strongly recommend you visit when you are next in France. We all imagine that life was full of delightful perfumes, pastries, princes, and pompadours but what we don’t imagine are the other two ‘p’s: piss, and poop. Plumbing was rather lacking in the 18th century and Versailles Palace had minimal built in facilities (flush toilets were in the royal apartments only). As a consequence when nature called, the main option was a little porcelain pot called a bourdaloue. Women had no underwear so they just hitched up their skirts and went to town (as you see in the image above). But the palace is big and sometimes people would be caught unawares. In those cases a quiet corner would suffice. After all, servants would clean up after you later. Combined with the smoke from failing chimneys and a lack of care from overworked servants, the grand Palace of Versailles was a very smelly place to be.
The historic French candle maker (Cire Trudon) actually makes a candle scented like the floors of Versailles, which they describe thus: “this regal perfume radiates vapours of wax, candelabra and palace. A sumptuous trail of incense weaves through a tapestry of coniferous trees, cut with solar rays of citrus fruits.” For that truly authentic palace smell, you will need to add your own ‘p’s. The candle scent is actually quite subtle and extremely elegant. It is available for the rather expensive price of $100 on Amazon.