loving London – final post

According to the French Consulate, there are approximately 300,000 to 400,000 French people living in England.  And I kept bumping into them as I made my way around the country’s capital.  And here’s the funny thing – they’re far more friendly and garrulous in London than they are in Paris.

Walking along the Fulham Road one sunny morning, I spied the relatively new Whole Foods Market across the road.  Starving because I hadn’t yet eaten breakfast, I popped in to have a look around.  The first thing I saw was this gleaming espresso machine.  I ordered a double espresso with whole milk.

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As I walked around with my coffee, I saw a bar with counter service offering charcuterie, cheese and pickles.  It looked like my kind of place.  I climbed onto a high stool, glanced at the menu and ordered a grilled cheese sandwich with onion chutney. And – quelle surprise – the man standing before me was a Frenchman.  We chatted while I ate.  Pascal is originally from Brittany, but has been living in London for a decade and a half.  Like most of the French people I’ve talked to, he’s in no hurry to return to France.  By the way, the sandwich, served with pickles, was extra.  Merci, Pascal !

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According to a BBC article, here are a few reasons why the French stay in the U.K. 

a gateway to globalization and also as a way of breaking away from stifling French bureacracy.

far more choice and flexibility

If you want security and beautiful long vacations, stay in France.  But if you’re seeking adventure and wanting to learn new skills, come to London.

I pondered that last comment and decided that, at this stage in my life and my career, I preferred beautiful long vacations.  But there’s no job security in France or elsewhere.  Believe me, I know.

Here are three French teenagers on their way to the Lycée Français Charles De Gaulle, wholly owned by the French Government, in South Kensington.

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A friend of mine told me about a book event scheduled to take place in one of my favourite London bookshops. I went early for late-afternoon tea in their renowned cake shop. The London Review Bookshop is located in Bloomsbury, just down the road from the British Museum.

IMG_4634Their cakes are divine. Here’s a slice of “no-wheat rose and pistachio” and below that a “deeply satisfying chocolate and Guinness” slice. Oh my!IMG_4633IMG_4630I chose Apple and Earl Grey cake served with Iron Buddha, “an intensely floral Oolong tea”.IMG_4623IMG_4624IMG_4627

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Professor of English Literature at Oxford University, led a talk about his latest book entitled The Story of Alice. It’s a double biography of the author Lewis Carroll and his subject, Alice Liddell. Joining him was Vanessa Tait, author of The Looking Glass House. Ms. Tait is the great grand-daughter of Alice Liddell. As you know, Alice Liddell was the real-life inspiration for Alice. Here’s Ms. Tait here, the woman standing on the left.

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SPITALFIELDS

Straddling central London (The City district) and London’s East End, the Spitalfields quarter is old, historical and interesting.  The problem though, as is clearly evident, is that important bits of this fascinating district are being eaten away by land developers and, as a sad result, its history is being erased.  I had been talking about the subject with a staff member of Raven Row, an art exhibition centre that I had visited, located at the end of a Spitalfield’s lane. As The City (London’s financial district) expands, old brick houses, lanes and shops are being demolished to make way for soulless office towers.  Below are a few of these narrow lanes and brick buildings.  What you can’t see are the office towers that literally surround and dwarf the diminishing historical area.  It makes for an odd architectural juxtaposition.

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BISHOPSGATE INSTITUTE

Now this place is after my own heart.  If I lived in London, I would be a member.  If I had a lot of money, I would make a generous donation.

Every city in the entire world should have a place like this!

Bishopsgate Institute’s vision: Dedicated to opening minds, challenging perceptions and enriching lives.

Since 1895 we have been a home for ideas and debate, learning and enquiry; a place where culture, heritage and learning meet, and where independent thought is cherished.

Our mission is to provide welcoming and inspiring spaces for people with a thirst for knowledge to learn and flourish. Through our library, historic collections, courses and cultural events, we enrich, entertain, and stimulate independent thought in a vibrant city environment.

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As I walked down the halls stopping and staring at the then-provocative quotes uttered by visionaries, free-thinkers, authors and activists, some from a hundred years ago, I thought how relevant and topical they still are today.

I wrote down some of my favourites –

The word heretic ought to be a term of honour. (Charles Bradlaugh, politician and freethinker, 1833-1891)

Too proud to be enslaved to any, even a God, the Atheist obeys no Command but that of his conscience. (Charles Bradlaugh)

Our ignorance of history causes us to slander our own times. (Gustave Flaubert)

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. (Vernon Howard)

There’s a wonderful library, open to all. Seeking refuge from the heat, and also to rest my weary feet, I went into the cool, hushed interior and sat at a desk. I ended up viewing slides of mid-19th century London – landmarks, buildings, streets, social and cultural scenes. They were, in fact, old glass sides that had been digitized and transformed into a slideshow. Fascinating!

I could spend hours in this place.  Below is the institute’s website.   Please go.  Londoners reading this:  please make a donation.  Because what’s more important than opening minds?  There are interesting lectures, courses, and cultural events.  There is also a cafe on-site.

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http://www.bishopsgate.org.uk

http://www.ravenrow.org/about/

A last favourite quote by Alvin Toffler – The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

“My country is my world, and my religion is to do good.”  Thomas Paine, 1737 – 1809, English-American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

7 thoughts on “loving London – final post

  1. What a wonderful post, Juliet! I love following you on your journeys – and making notes for when I’m there too. Thanks for taking us with you.

  2. What an informative, interesting and entertaining post. In fact your entire blog is sheer delight. Love your perspective. Keep up the good work, Juliet in Paris!

  3. Just fabulous. Thanks so much for giving us insight into “your London”. I will make a point of visiting all of these wonderful places.

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