Some heritage is meant to be inhaled.
Empress Joséphine’s roses at Malmaison are a prime example. Visually beautiful, yes, but their real power lies in their luscious perfume. Stick your nose in one of the enormous blossoms and you are instantly, forcefully, transported.
The Château de Malmaison was the home of Joséphine and her then-husband Napoléon (you can read more about their love affair here). Joséphine was passionate about the gardens on Malmaison’s grounds; her rose garden became famous with over 250 species of roses.
While the Empire-style furnishings of the château are spectacularly over-the-top, what keeps bringing me back to Malmaison year after year is the promise of fields full of olfactory delights.
This year, the Yves Piaget blossoms were almost the end of me. As I inhaled their delicious aroma, I was bombarded with sense memories: my grandmother’s rose garden, Pierre Hermé pastries, my first perfume… I sighed with pleasure, and I leisurely made my way around the rose plant, sniffing every blossom to discern the subtle differences.
One of my favorite memories of all time took place in Joséphine’s rose garden. My mom was visiting from the States, and we spent a day together at Malmaison at the height of rose season. It was our first time seeing the grounds in their full glory. My mom is a person who appreciates beauty: she fully engages with it, absorbs the luscious details, lets her imagination run wild. Spending an afternoon with her in a rose garden is a joyful experience. We leisurely made our way around the grounds, and literally (I do not use that word lightly) stopped at each rose plant to sniff its blossoms and appraise its perfume. Mingled with the pleasure of spending an afternoon with my mom and a feast of aromas, was the giddiness of being in a budding relationship with the man who, it turns out, will become my husband next month.
Bref, the roses of Malmaison bring up many feelings for me.
Address: Avenue du château de Malmaison, 92500 Rueil-Malmaison ∣ Métro: Autobus 258, stop "Le Château" ∣ Opening hours:Wednesday to Monday, hours depend on the season