The smell is a sense that brings you back memories, you know those moments when a scent – coming out of the blue – reminds you of a moment, a person or a city, and you are instantly thrown in the vortex of your memories. You can recognise a person by their smell, just like you can recognise a city by its perfumes and odors. It says everything about their personality – either gas, dust and concrete, or fresh natural smells, coffee, pine, but maybe, the best identifiers are the scents given by all sorts of cuisines present in the multicultural cities.
Chandler Burr, GQ’s globe-trotting scent critic, anoints the 10 best – and single worst – smelling cities in the world.
10.Dallas is described as having the characteristic smell of the New World: with wide streets, gas stations and exit signs, car exhaust and dust. Although it almost has a non-scent scent, it can be “tasted” best during the thunderstorms when it takes a three-dimensional quality.
9. London – from my point of view, it is probably, the best smelling city in the world, but then again, I haven’t had the chance to visit the cities Chandler did. However, London’s streets, the wet pavement, the green parks, the Thames, the multicultural dishes make it the one of the best and most energetic cities in the world, I’m sure of that.
8. Mombasa has a unique smell, apparently, according to GQ’s writer, who says that he was impressed by its dryish tropical air, rough terra cotta bakes by the sun, palm oil and spices “One of my strongest sense memories was of the four-bare-walled stores the Mijikendas and Swahilis kept. They used fluorescent lights, so they had that distinct metallic, oldish smell places that use fluorescent always have.”
7. Mumbai is kind of an “Avatar” for your nose, of course, we’re talking about India, so imagine that unique mixture of the salty smell of ocean, tropical rot, motor exhaust and frying palm oil. And above all, your nose will pick up every spice imaginable, which makes it the smell of a vibrant city on the move.
6. Bogota. Its perfume could be compared to those of a new car,an urban aftershave, it represents the product of a bustling downtown centre. It is strange in a way, but you can detect the scent of its altitude – 8,612 feet above sea level, due to the exotic winds, the rain and the greenery that rises from the Andes in the East.
5. Rome. There is no other city with more scents than Rome, not even its “ancient” competitors such as Milan, Naples or Madrid. When I think of Rome I think of Old Spice but not in an ocean-cinnamon way, neither in the negative way, but in that classic masculine cologne. However, the author says that its ancient walls make the air hard to breath. In his view, or better said, nose: “Rome smells like L.A., but with 2,000-year-old stone and 500-year-old palazzi, peeling paint, and espresso-spiked decadence.”
4. San Francisco. I’d rather start with the author’s last remark about this spectacular city. “It may be the most beautiful-smelling skyline in the world“. I’ve never been to San Francisco but this description urges me to breathe its scent of soft clouds, cold ocean, old wood and a “weird dry dampness”. It is isolating, but soft, and I bet the city’s perfume mixed with the scent of dry California desert can drive you crazy – in a very constructive way.
3. New Orleans. I remember I had a teacher in high school who was from New Orleans and she brought us some beads from Mardi Gras and some sweets so that we could taste a bit of this fantastic city. It fills your lungs with a scent of humidity coming from wood porches and plaster walls. And then it’s the Mississippi’s (watch the spelling, Huck!) fresh water colliding with the brine of the Gulf. I’d rather say it’s a colourful perfume hovering above New Orleans.
2. Pleasantville, NY. According to Mr.Burr, this small city is an oasis of maple, oak and pine that smell cyclically different as the seasons turn. It represents a gateway from New York’s asphalt canyons and, it seems, that it could remind you of the smell of “America as it was”, even though you can’t actually remember something you haven’t experienced.
1. Los Angeles. It smells like the sun and it has the effect of drugs: shifting, comforting, cool like a blanket.
It is the best smelling city on the Planet, maybe due to the ocean breeze from Santa Monica, the dry desert air from the West, the “astringent balm of eucalyptus, pine, honeysuckle, and jasmine from the hills,” and the car exhaust from the strangely beautiful converters. And above all it lies the smell of heat: sun block, hot asphalt, engines and the energy of a bustling flashy city.
The worst smelling city, in his opinion, is.. a famous, romantic city that smells of cigarettes, coffee, trains, croissants, butter and..dog shit. Take a wild guess!
Which is the smelliest city for you?