Quiet London


A decade ago I purchased a small book entitled Quiet London. I treasure this book and take it with me every time I go to London. In total, author Siobhan Wall has written a quartet of quiet books including Quiet Paris, Quiet New York and Quiet Amsterdam.

The book promotes not only quiet places, but supremely interesting and unique places that the traveler wouldn’t ordinarily stumble upon. Here are just a few of the historical and beautiful places that I’ve explored thanks to this book:

The Foundling Museum. A former orphanage, the museum tells the story of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity. Established in the 18th century to care for babies at risk of abandonment, it housed around 25,000 children before its closure. Alongside works of art, objects and archive documents that reveal the story of the Hospital, a diverse programme of exhibitions, displays and events offer different ways of engaging with its history.


Benjamin Franklin House. The style of the unadorned interior of the house could be described as 18th-century minimalism, as most of Franklin’s furniture and belongings didn’t survive. The house comes to life, however, through the narratives told during organized tours makig it easy to imagine what it must have been like living here 300 years ago. Franklin was not only the unofficial United States Ambassador to Britain, he was also a prodigious inventor.

Carlyle’s House. Renowned Victorian writer Thomas Carlyle lived here from 1851 to 1881 with his wife Jane who was not only a prolific letter-writer herself, but who encouraged her illustrious rather shy husband. Built in 1708, this beautiful house located at 24 Cheyne Row in Chelsea is a joy to wander around.

Doctor Johnson’s House. There aren’t many residential 18th-century houses still standing in the City of London, but fortunately this is one of the few to survive. Built in 1700, this is where Samuel Johnson lived and where he wrote the first comprehensive English Dictionary.

Freud Museum Archive and Library. 

The Cinnamon Club. Set in the historic Grade II listed former Westminster Library, The Cinnamon Club is an institution in the world of Indian fine dining. The original modern Indian restaurant in London, The Cinnamon Club has a long history of serving innovative and creative Indian cuisine in a magnificently majestic setting.

3 bookshops – Primrose Hill Books. Persephone Books on a favorite street of mine in Bloomsbury: Lamb’s Conduit Street, and Daunt’s bookshop.

London Review Cake Shop. Steps away from the famous British Museum and located in Bloomsbury at 14 Bury Place. But to be honest, I think the management has changed because the quality of the cakes is not what it used to be. But the cake shop is inside a very nice bookshop. I pop in when I can to see the new book titles and have some Oolong tea.

Wallace Collection restaurant and the Courtauld Gallery Café. London museums have an added benefit: gorgeous coffee shops attached to them.

Bishopsgate Library. I spent a wonderful few hours here in July 2015 seeking cool refuge from the heat outdoors. See link of my city wanderings and the Bishopsgate Library here:


Too many places to mention. Buy the book! It’s divided into the following sections: Museums, Libraries, Bookshops, Restaurants and cafés, Places to have Afternoon Tea, Pubs and Wine Bars, Galleries, Hotels and Places to Stay.

I’m off to London on Saturday for six days. Stay tuned for a travel report when I get back (after the annual Lille flea market.)

the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation, and wandering the upper Marais


Yesterday I was torn between going to the Henri Cartier-Bresson Foundation in the Marais or the Jeu de Paume in the Tuileries Gardens to see the Sally Mann photography exhibition. Turns out I did neither on this lovely 4-day weekend in Paris. I figured the Sally Mann exhibition would be packed, so me and my camera headed to the Marais. I walked northward along the rue des Archives (taking these photos along the way.)



Big line-up at Hank vegan burger, I hear it’s really good. (Hank stands for Have A Nice Karma).


When I got to the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson at number 79 rue des Archives, I didn’t feel like going in. It was so pleasant outside, I preferred to wander. I recommend exploring the upper Marais, much less crowded and more interesting than the lower which is teeming with tourists and over-commercialized.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French humanist photographer considered a master of candid photography, and an early user of 35 mm film. He pioneered the genre of street photography, and viewed photography as capturing a decisive moment. Cartier-Bresson was one of the founding members of Magnum Photos in 1947. He died in 2004 at the age of 95.


I walked up to the rue de Bretagne and turned right. At number 47 is a lively and consistently good couscous restaurant called Chez Omar; a neighborhood fixture, it’s been there a long time. If you don’t care for couscous, they serve other Moroccan dishes, including some French food.


Cross the road and walk up a side street to this beautiful glass-roofed building called Le Carreau du Temple (photo below). Built in 1863, it used to be a covered market. Now it’s a mixed-use public space hosting conferences, exhibitions and much more. It’s closed in August.


Located at the corner of rue Charlot and rue du Forez is a much-loved Asian fusion restaurant called Nanashi. The eating area is spacious and laidback, and the food fresh and tasty.  Another interesting road to walk along is the nearby Rue de Turenne.

Really worth visiting at number 39, rue de Bretagne is the Marché des Enfants-Rouges. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it – 

The Marché des Enfants Rouges is the oldest covered market in Paris. It was established in 1628 as the “petit marché du Marais” and is located at 39 Rue de Bretagne in the Marais (3rd) arrondissement. The market has been listed as a historic monument since 1982.

The name translates as “Market of the Red Children”, and refers to the nearby Hospice des Enfants-Rouges where orphans were clothed in red (the color of charity.) Today, the market offers fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and bread, as well as restaurants.

And that’s about it. Oh, I didn’t mention why we’re enjoying a 4-day weekend in France. August 15th was the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a Catholic holiday. In this fiercely ‘non-religious’ country that supposedly separates church and state and restricts religion to the private sphere, all banks, government buildings and many offices were closed. Because August 15 fell on a Thursday this year, my office gave us the Friday off as well.

Secularism in France … a myth?

Off to London next weekend, and the weekend after that: La Grande Braderie of Lille! (the annual huge flea market held every year on the first weekend of September).



American politicians who benefit from NRA funding

Well, heck, if the US press isn’t going to run this on their front pages, then I’ll do it on my blog. (And I’m not even American.)

Following the Las Vegas massacre of October 1, 2017, the New York Times ran the Opinion piece below entitled “Thoughts and Prayers and NRA Funding.”

Following the Parkland, Florida school shooting on February 14, 2018, FORTUNE magazine ran an article entitled “The Ten Politicians Who Have Benefited the Most from NRA Funding.”

In the 2016 election, the NRA spent $11,438,118 and $19,756,346 to oppose Hillary Clinton. That’s over $31 million spent on one presidential race.

Top 5 Senators That Benefited the Most From NRA Funding

John McCain (R, AZ) – $7.74 million

Richard Burr (R, NC) – $6.99 million

Roy Blunt (R, MO) – $4.55 million

Thom Tillis (R, NC) – $4.42 million

Cory Gardner (R, CO) – $3.88 million

And the list continues. Doesn’t this incense you? Make you mad as hell?

American inventors, Thomas Edison, the Wright brothers, Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, to name just a few, have given the world the most avant-garde, visionary, clever and cutting-edge innovations ever. I cannot believe that when it comes to achievable ways to stop the epidemic of gun violence in your country, you’re short on ideas.

What prevents important anti-gun bills from passing? Greed. Self-interest. Piggishness. Unethicalness.

Click on article below. Read it and weep my American friends.


revisiting Holland, and my blog is a chronicle of my life

I admit that I get immense satisfaction from my blog. Why? Because it allows me to look back at where I’ve been, what I’ve done, and with whom. Initially, I just wanted a place to post my photos. ‘Why not open an Instagram account?’, someone said. Because I realized that I also wanted to write. So to sum up, my blog is a combination of my three passions: travel, photography and writing. I also derive immense satisfaction from having YOU as my blog readers.

Two summers ago I went to Holland and had a really good time. I went by myself. Yes, it is possible to travel solo and have a good time! Today I revisited the place via my blog posts and photos. If I could, I’d go back again this August, but I’m already booked for London.


In The Hague (a lovely small city), I viewed the Dutch masters at a small bijou museum, purchased some marijuana (no, not in the museum, in a Dutch ‘coffee shop’), discovered a beautiful bookshop, stayed in a nice hotel, and more. Take a look!


food trucks


For years I had been (enviously) reading about the success of food trucks in Los Angeles, Seattle and Sydney while lamenting the fact that none existed in Paris. And then one day a taco truck called The Cantine California rolled into town, right on the heels of a burger truck called Le Camion Qui Fume, owned by a California native. As to be expected, these mobile kitchens were eyed with haughty sniffs of suspicion and disapproval by the natives here. After all, France is a world leader in la gastronomie française. Buy lunch from a truck and eat on the street with one’s hands?? Que le ciel nous en préserve !  (Heaven forbid!) But it’s surprising how quickly people adapt. Now there are long lines for a grilled cheese sandwich, a burger, fish and chips, Mexican, Lebanese and Vietnamese food … everything but French!

These photos were taken during my lunch hour at La Défense, Europe’s largest business district on Paris’s west side. This is where I work. The Esplanade de la Défense is a long walkway lined on either side with trees, apartments, restaurants and skyscrapers. It’s dedicated entirely to pedestrians, which is why I like wandering around here.


Walking from my office on this summery breezy day to the far end of La Défense, it was nice to stop at the many shaded squares along the way and watch office colleagues playing boules (pétanque) on their lunch hour, as if they were in a provençal village rather than this major business district that houses the headquarters of multinational giants such as TOTAL, EDF, Areva, Axa, GDF Suez and Société Générale, to name a few. La Défense is the largest purposely-built business district in Europe.


The further you walk towards La Grande Arche at the end of the Esplanade, the thicker and higher the buildings. But there’s still lots of open space. And lots going on.



Here’s what I wrote in another blog post on the same topic – some people loathe La Défense because of its concrete slabs and dehumanizing uniformity. They say the place is devoid of charm or soul. I happen to disagree. I find a poetic expression in the design of this urban space. I think the planners have done an excellent job in humanizing the concrete landscape with the presence of outdoor art installations, grassy squares and benches, fountains (one which vigorously splashes up and down in tune with classical music played loudly on speakers), whimsical sculptures, seasonal markets, a summer jazz festival, etc. And again, the best part is: no cars! Come on out for a visit!

How to get there – It’s real easy. Just jump onto the westbound line 1 metro, direction La Défense, to the Esplanade de la Défense stop. At the far end, there’s a massive shopping mall called Les Quatre Temps complete with restaurants, boutiques and a multiplex movie theater called the UGC Ciné Cité with 16 screens. Opposite, there are more restaurants and stores in the CNIT building. You can also take an elevator to the roof of La Grande Arche, the Danish-designed white cube, and look out at the stunning view of Paris.

Word of caution – I’d avoid walking around this area late at night.

summer fruit, heatwave gone

It rained all night and the temperature plunged dramatically from 42°C to 22°C, can you believe it? Bliss! How wonderful it was to throw a blanket onto the bed and curl up under the covers. Fingers crossed that that’s the last we’ll see of that horrible heatwave.

July and August are my favorite months in Paris. Why? Because the city, and my neighborhood in particular, empties of Parisians. Suddenly a quiet descends and it’s wonderful. Families head to the mountains, the seaside, the countryside and those left behind can breathe and reclaim the city.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to walk to my local Sunday market to stock up on fresh fruit. Melons are in abundance this summer, Monoprix was selling them for a euro apiece last week. Here are some photos from my last visit to my local Sunday morning market –


Mountains of Cavaillon melons from the Vaucluse region side by side with peaches, cherries and heaps of fragrant basil. I plan to make a batch of pesto as well as tomato sauce from scratch.

IMG_4837IMG_4855IMG_4853IMG_4839We’re spoiled for choice in this land of abundance. Here’s a trio of fresh-caught rouget, bass and shrimp (prawns). IMG_4860IMG_4852IMG_4859

I can’t get enough of these cherry tomatoes, they are “extra“!

I came across this stall where the most beautiful hand-woven baskets were being sold. The saleswoman told me they were made from plastic. Which means not only durable, but waterproof (great for the beach). I also loved her rings and bracelets.

IMG_4871These ones you could slip your laptop into. Or papers and magazines.IMG_4879She works with a Mexican associate, she told me, hence the bright colors.IMG_4875IMG_4869

I loved them. Unfortunately I had no cash left. Even though I have a surplus of carry-all bags, I’ll return next Sunday to buy one.


Here’s the smoothie I made when I got home: melon, papaya, apple, coconut milk, orange juice and ginger-root. As usual, I forgot the mint. Why do I always forget to buy fresh mint?