The scent of love

Fragonard Parfumeur, the dream-like perfume shop in the South of France

Scents evoke strong memories. The scent of hot, buttered popcorn at the movies with friends, or a smoky fire in the fireplace on a brisk evening. I always remember the scent of my grandma's split pea soup simmering on the stove while she enchanted me with stories of her youth.

One of the strongest relationships I've had between scent and memory is of a time when I visited the French Riviera. I took a guided tour of the region beginning in Nice, France. As we travelled up the steep and narrow rolling hills, before I could take in the vibrant landscape, the first thing I noticed was the fragrant flowers of lavender, fleur d'oranger, and violets.

The vibrant pinks, orange and purple of the flowers against the blue of the Mediterranean Sea was otherworldly. I stood on the side of the lower corniche watching the sparking water and taking in the scents. I didn't respond when the driver said we were leaving.

Eze, FranceJohn Harper

Gently shaken out of my trance, we resumed the trip on the way to Eze. Eze means Eagle's Nest; it gives residents and visitors a 1,401 foot view above sea level. It is a small Medieval village known for its beauty. It's a place that entices all the senses, especially olfaction. Along the narrow streets, you can inhale the scent of the sea, the flowers draped over the edges of neatly tucked-in window boxes, and the smells of local food vendors. I can look at my photos of that village and immediately smell my experience there.

Finally, my driver carefully backed down the tiny roadway and we continued on to what became my favorite and most memorable scent adventure. When we arrived at Fragonard, the parfumeur, I had to stop first and take in the view once again. Set on the side of a mountain overlooking a valley with beautiful greenery and lush surroundings, Fragonard is located at 7 avenue du Jardin Exotique, 06360 Eze, France. Just the location sounds dreamy!

Fragonard Parfumeur

My driver told me to take my time in the factory and I was ready. I took the tour and learned about how flowers are processed to become perfume and other beauty products. Being a beauty product junkie, I was ready to bring some of this bootie home. My nose was delighted to take on all the different scents and my hands and arms were anointed with every and all lotions, potions and serums.

As we rounded the tour to the final presentation, we were left at the entrance of the Fragonard store. Now was my turn to go wild. I picked up some bottles of perfume, trying to choose what would fit in my luggage and which would be less likely to break. Although, what a nice problem to have: perfume infused luggage! I did my share of damage, purchasing fragrant wonders for all my friends and family.

Fragonard Parfumeur

Next, I came upon a pure line of Argan Oil products called Vrai. The lovely sales woman explained to me, in her beautifully accented English that this oil would heal my dry skin, ease rough, irritated razor stubble and give a beautiful glow to my face and skin. As I did with all the other products in the parfumerie, I poured a little from the white tester bottle and ran it over my all-too-soaked arm. I smelled a natural and earthy fragrance that was a welcome change from the flowery scents I had been inhaling all day. Something told me I had to take this oil home. I bought a small bottle and tucked it away in my tote. The rest of my tour was just as inspiring and etched forever in my mind. Upon returning to my hotel in Nice I couldn't stop smelling that oil which was the top note on the tip of my nose.

I have used my Vrai oil from Parfumerie Fragonard every day since my unforgettable trip to the Cote D'Azur. Just the scent of the oil takes me back to that fairytale destination.

You can order Vrai Argan Oil direct from Fragonard at: us.fragonard.com

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There are several things about wine that can confuse the average person. If you haven't spent the last few years of your life learning everything there is to know about wine, you can be forgiven for picking up a box of the good stuff every now and then. However, if you want to know a little bit more about how to choose a good bottle, we can help you out. We've created a beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine so you can enjoy yourself a little more.

Know What Type of Wine To Choose

First things first, you're going to need to decide the type of wine that you're looking for in order to narrow your search. Are you looking for a red, white, sparkling, or rosé? The choices may seem overwhelming, but try to focus on what foods you'll be pairing the wine with. Reds go great with heavier meals like red meat, while whites tend to lend themselves towards lighter dishes like fish and cheeses. If you'll be drinking the wine on its own, consider what you've tried in the past and what type you tend to gravitate toward.

Know How Much You're Willing To Spend

It's no secret that a penchant for wine can become an expensive hobby. If you're just getting into the idea, don't waste your time or money with the extremely pricey bottles. A good place to start looking for decent bottles of wine is somewhere between the $10 and $30 price range. This will keep you from buying something too low quality without breaking your bank in the process.

Read the Labels Closely

A good bottle of wine will often give tasting notes right on the bottle. Because everyone's palette is different, you may not get the same notes when you try the wine, but it's a good place to start. Choose something with tasting notes that you already enjoy like berries or cocoa and try to see if you get any hints of that as you drink. The labels may also tell you about the wine's acidity, or how tart it is, and the wine's body, or the way it feels in your mouth.

A beginner's guide to picking a bottle of wine can only go so far without being overwhelming. The next part of your wine journey will need to be undertaken on your own. Try various types of wine and see what tastes best to you—that's what wine is really all about.

Distillery tours went on hiatus in 2020, but there are high hopes for 2021. While bourbon leaps immediately to mind when thoughts turn to distillery tours, interest in other spirits and how they're made is increasing. Here are a few of the best tours to thrill tequila lovers.

Tequila Herradura

Ride in style on the Herradura Express, a distillery sponsored train ride that runs from Guadalajara to the town of Amatitán for a distillery tour and tastings, followed by lunch featuring live entertainment. The train then takes visitors back to Guadalajara by evening. Herradura is housed in the last tequila-producing Hacienda in the world, Hacienda San Jose del Refugio. Casa Herradura will be closed for visits and tours until Mexican health officials declare the coronavirus emergency over.

La Rojeña

Producer of Jose Cuervo, La Rojeña has a train of its own called the Jose Cuervo Express (currently on hiatus due to COVID-19) to bring visitors to the oldest distillery in the town of Tequila. Jose Cuervo offers distillery tours, tastings, and tours of the agave fields. Mundo Cuervo (Cuervo world) also has its own hotel, Solar de las Animas. Check for COVID-19 hours and restrictions before booking.

Casa Sauza

Founded in 1873, Casa Sauza offers four levels of tours including a visit to the La Perseverancia distillery, a visit to the Quinta Sauza estate, and for those willing to spend more, barrel tastings and a barbeque or a three-course meal. Casa Sauza is on hiatus until COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, but should go on the distillery tour bucket list.

La Cofradia

The only tequila distillery with a hotel inside, La Cofradia offers many experiences in addition to distillery tours. Choose a hike through natural trails, biking, or horseback riding through the agave fields. Rooms made of giant tequila barrels sit among the agave plants for a unique stay. Visiting La Cofradia is sure to be a tour that thrills tequila lovers. Contact the hotel directly for information about lockdown closures.

A distillery tour offers education about tequila's history and manufacture. Bone up on your tequila terms and tips for choosing quality tequila before you go, so you'll understand what you're tasting.

We don't know how to feel about winter this year. Sure, nobody likes the cold and dreary months, but there's something special about the Holiday season that just seems to be missing. Maybe the thought of staying inside and cozying up to a nice book isn't very enticing given the last few months. The joyful winter wonderland that we usually associate with winter seems to be missing.

That's why our editors decided to take it upon themselves and spread some delight with seasonal meals, courtesy of HelloFresh. For those who don't know what HelloFresh is, it's a meal-kit delivery service with dozens of easy-to-prepare recipes to choose from. Simply select which meals you want as well as how many servings and a neatly organized cardboard box will arrive at your doorstep within the week. Nobody wants to go out in the Winter anyway, and with HelloFresh, you don't have to!

To celebrate the arrival of the coldest season, we decided to highlight some of our favorite (and heartiest) recipes from HelloFresh that are perfect for the Holiday season. Here are five wholesome and balanced meals that will warm you up in no time.

Veggie Loaded Kale & Risoni Soup

A hearty and warm soup is a Winter staple and this veggie loaded kale and risoni soup from HelloFresh absolutely hits it out of the park. All anybody wants during the colder months is to feel cozy and nurtured--just like the flavorful bowl of nutrients. Warm and creamy risoni compliments the seasonal veggies perfectly and the side of garlic bread is a sure-fire cure for any winter blues. With 22 meals to pick from each week, this one is sure to be a household favorite.

Cheesy Red Pesto Chicken Melts

Everyone is familiar with classic green pesto, but have you ever tried red pesto? Red pesto offers way more complexity and oomph than its green counterpart. It is incredibly bright with rich notes of umami, roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, and fresh basil and garlic. This rendition also features hits of chargrilled capsicum for a little extra zest. You get the exact amount of each ingredient and seasoning, as well as super detailed recipe cards, that make meal prep a breeze. Spread it over a glistening chicken bread and sprinkle with cheese for delectable chicken melts.

Winter Risotto

Risotto is a great winter warmer. It's packed full of veggies so your body will light up like fire, but it's also silky, sumptuous and a real crowd pleaser. HelloFresh's Winter Risotto features a heart helping of kale that pairs perfectly with nutty Parmesan and crunchy walnuts for a robust taste. Did we mention that it also comes with fennel seeds sprinkled throughout? This unique seasoning adds a distinctive, yet delicious flavor to this classic winter staple. We know these meals are pretty hardy, which is why we love having the option to pause our subscription or cancel a week when need be.

Cheat's Italian Pork & Veggie Bolognese

A bolognese that only takes 30 minutes to make? Sign us up! This one is chock full of all the rich flavors of a classic Italian sauce. In fact, we're getting some serious Italian grandmother vibes with this recipe. Silky baby Spanish and grated carrots melt into a hearty meat sauce, offering a mouth-watering meal for anyone looking for a little zest. It's delivery quality, but much more affordable, plus you get to cook it yourself!

Smokey Mild Chorizo & Bean Chilli

Yet another clever twist on a weekday favorite! The paprika and garlic flavored cured sausage is a staple in our chopping baskets since it goes well with practically anything. Not only is Chorizo loved for its taste, but also for its ability to infuse sauces with its tantalizing flavor. This time around, HelloFresh has decided to spice up a classic bowl of bean chili with Spanish styling of a smokey mild chorizo. The end result? A mix of chorizo, red kidney beans, corn and avocado, and an irresistible flavor that everyone will love. This is just one of dozens of unique HelloFresh recipes you won't find anywhere else!

Gone are the days of trekking through the frigid cold just for a few groceries. Sign-up for HelloFresh today and get your ingredients delivered right to your doorstep. Time to start cozying up the right way, with a delicious meal and a nice cup of hot cocoa.

Update: Our friends at HelloFresh are extending a special Black Friday offer to our readers. Follow this link to get $90 off across 4 boxes including free shipping!