These were not odours from my childhood. Not clean Canadian aromas like my Grandmother’s rhubarb pie or a rural bakery’s cinnamon buns reheated. Nor were these a schoolgirl’s remembrances of the smell of freshly sharpened yellow pencils coupled with skunky nervous perspiration.
Scents of a first teenage trip to Spain were the oily smell of shoe polish from the limpiabotas (shoeshiners) in the square. Of course, coming of age and racing up the staircase to my hotel room, I felt transported by the “green” Heno de Pravia soap smell on my skin. Not very sexy by name Heno de Pravia actually refers to hay so more wholesome than the spicy Maja or vintage 1916 by Myrurgia. Luckily I didn’t know the translation of heno yet so everything was a sensual discovery.
Everyone still smoked everywhere in those days, so the haze of strong cigarettes (Gitanes?) and even cigars lingered in lobbies and stairways. As one of my relatives was a cigarmaker, this smelt cozy, familiar. To this day, I think of my dignified old ‘Pop’ whenever my nostrils flare someone lighting a cigar. Spain proffered so many aromas, like a real grown-up place not an sterilized tourist destination.
Those places may not smell the same now but if I catch a whiff of anything similar, I am transported to that time, my first trip to Spain.