A range of short blog stories will follow in the next several weeks about beautiful long old-fashioned train journeys across Europe. The goal? To find the world’s very best natural and organic cosmetic ingredients.
For Paul Penders products, the ingredients must be simply the ultimate in quality. I go out myself regularly to search for them wherever in the world I may happen to be, and… by train! China, Southeast Asia, India, North America, Eastern Europe, or as 5 months ago and again this month, Southern Europe.
My last travel experience was in Italy. I was searching for the best olive oil and actually found it! Sitting in the fast train from Paris to Rome! In our cabin, the right person appeared; he was sitting right across from me in a comfortable chair. We started talking (what else one can do on a train in Italy!) and I discovered he owned a small organic vineyard. Then he mentioned he had a small organic production olive oil farm – family-owned in Sicily! We visited him a few days later. It turned out to be the best olive oil we could ever find and…. we made great new friends as well.
As I write this blog in May 2013, I am still traveling, now in Marseille, France – importantly to me, it’s the largest natural soap capital in the world.
Our search for the newest and best ingredients has brought us to France and Spain on this journey. The objective this time is to find the very best essential oils.
We found some very intriguing places in Southern France; near Avignon, there is in a small town, a “Musee de la Lavande.” Visiting the museum was a real pleasure and a learning experience as well. They gave us insider information about the highest quality organic lavender and lavender essential oil, as well as the growing and production processes.
We journeyed on to Spain in search of sea plankton at the Atlantic coast, as described by a friend from the US but I couldn’t find the source. However, there I also looked at rock mountains that yield mica the color of gold. This mica is an ingredient we can use in our natural color cosmetics. How much more organic can that be?
While in France, I talked to upscale hair salons in Paris and Aix-en-Provence about washing hair naturally.
We are developing a totally new and exciting natural shampoo; the best I have ever made in 40 years in the natural beauty industry. It has two separate layers and the bottle must be shaken before use to mix the ingredients. It is simply the best for moisturizing hair. An unusual feature, at the bottom of the container, you will see a little mineral mud that comes from a jungle waterfall in Malaysia. We got wonderful reviews of the new shampoo from a selected test panel from several different countries. Dr. Gatot is our experienced senior cosmetic chemist who is working hard on the many little details involved in making the final formulation.
Many stories emerged on this trip. In between the 6 weeks of traveling, I also visited some of my family and friends as well. And there is a real story in itself about the train! To me a Eurrail pass beats flying, hands down. In one of the next blog issues, I will tell you more about this amazing rail pass and how to take advantage of it – it’s luxury 1st class traveling and very cheap actually!
All these interesting experiences have had the same ultimate goal – finding better quality cosmetic products, more natural ingredients, and ultimately the best skin care, hair care, body care and mineral beauty products possible.
We never have wanted to be the largest company but we are trying to be the best!
Lastly, I am asking you to rate us — how are we doing?
We always love hearing from you.
Thanks for your trust in our 100% vegetarian natural herbal cosmetics made with organic ingredients and proudly carrying the official Halal certificate for each and every one of our products.
Part 1: Grasse, France – The Perfume Capital of the World
It started on the train — a long journey from the city of Nice in France to Rome, Italy.
On European trains, people sharing a cabin immediately start up a conversation. You can meet the most fascinating people this way and get into the most interesting discussions. Our train seat-mates began to speak passionately with lots of vivid gestures. Their topic apparently was politics. I do not speak Italian but I could hear and recognize a few names and it just seemed natural to join the conversation.
In just 10 minutes, it had become a heated but friendly conversation between people who had never seen each other before and most probably never will see each other again.
We spoke a motley combination of Italian, English, French, Dutch (me), even a bit of Malay as I introduced my wife and explained we had come from Malaysia and were traveling through Europe on a ‘working vacation.’
We all had a good time exchanging views and developed great respect for one another. It was with real regret that we waved our companions off at their various stations.
This was a working vacation — crisscrossing Europe by train with a fantastic Eurail pass deal on these fast trains that in fact are better than flying. Why fly? Flying has such problems including going to busy airports and waiting and waiting… It is so much easier to relax on a train. In the end, it usually takes the same amount of time. If you fly, you will then need to take transport from the airport to your destination. If you arrive by train, it will take you to a station right in the middle of the city where you want to be!
Hours later, the only one left in our cabin was a man who said he was from Catania on the island of Sicily. Like us, he would need to spend the night on this very comfortable train which soon would be loaded on to an amazing “train ferry” to cross the channel from the Italian mainland to Sicily.
A train ferry — we had never seen this before. Maybe we should show this picture to Amtrak in the U.S. — how a train driving at 240KM per hour simply stops and is rolled onto a ferry to make the crossing of the Straits of Messina to Sicily, then on the other side, the train rushes off the ferry on its way to its destination. Woah Italy!
I asked our Sicilian companion what he did for a living.
“Well,” he said – in very good English – “I own a small plantation of 600 olive oil trees and also a small vineyard. Everything is grown without using pesticides. We produce a very limited amount of quality olive oil and wine.”
I couldn’t believe my ears! I have been committed to using only organically grown ingredients for our Paul Penders products for almost 40 years – and had hoped to learn more on this trip about sources for organic olive oil and wines. He also was interested to hear my story about natural organic cosmetics and the history of our small company.
That last hour on the train was spent talking with Mr. Sawillaci Gaetano. We shared our mutual passions and philosophies of life. Like me, he loves to travel and has been many times to San Francisco – my spiritual home.
We really bonded as we talked about the ways both of us earn a living — not by becoming bigger but by nurturing smallness as a business concept and deepening that concept out as much as we can.
He was not in it for the money. Because his plantation has only 600 trees, he can produce no more than few thousand bottles of the purest olive oil and of fine wine – very small productions indeed but made with great passion. Most of the crop is used for family and friends.
Mr. Gaetano keeps life simple and rich with a beautiful philosophy and a respect for tradition. That philosophy extends to hospitality – before we parted, he invited me to visit his property in Catania.
I’ll tell you more about my visit to his organic farm and some of my other wonderful experiences in Europe in upcoming blogs.
By Paul Penders
Did I ever tell you before how I got to know all these friends of mine in all kinds of countries? I don’t believe I did.
Before I settled down, got married and children I used to travel a lot. That already started when I was in college. I spent some time in Europe as an exchange student. After that I went back many times for my job as a wine merchant. As you will know, Europe is still the heart of wine production in the world. France obviously, but also Italy, Spain and Germany. I was always looking for fine wines for my company to buy and sell. That is how I got to know another of my friends that this story is about.
Aziza lives in Dortmund, being married to a German man called Manfred, but she actually comes from Malaysia. From Dortmund to the Southwest of Germany there are large wine estates, one of them being owned by Aziza and her husband. They produce a very fine white wine that I immediately decided to buy for my company.
As it turned out, Aziza and I got along really well so I went back as often as I possibly could. I was there when her daughter Sophie was born!
Sophie is now 5 years old and well aware of her background. One evening Aziza, keeping her Asian heritage alive, had died Sophie’s hands with henna. Something very common in Asian and Arabian culture, but not that much in Germany.
When Sophie went to school next day naturally her girlfriends asked about the painting on her hands, so Sophie explained to them it was henna. Her girlfriends, completely astonished all shouted out: What? Were they done by Hannah Montana? They all wanted to meet her and Sophie had to ask Aziza for help to explain she did NOT know Hannah Montana, but that she does know henna and how to dye hands with it.
After the girls had overcome their disappointment of not getting to meet Hannah Montana, they all went to school the next day with a beautiful henna painting on their hands.