Fulham Road, food, and Fulham

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Gail’s baked goods are to die for. A relative newcomer to London, the bakery-restaurant has 32 locations scattered around the city. Their food and coffee can be summed up in one word: divine. I had breakfast regularly at the shop in the Fulham Road, either a cornbread muffin studded with feta and thyme and a ‘flat white’ coffee to go, or a sit-down to the most delicious bowl of creamy porridge generously drizzled with date syrup. Is it possible to swoon over a bowl of porridge? Yes, it is.

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I love Fulham because it used to be my ‘hood. Eleven years ago I lived in SW6, the London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. My turf was Fulham Road and the end of King’s Road (called New King’s Road). Below is a photo of the street I lived on, and a photo of the white house I lived in. It was my friend Maya’s house. She went to Kenya for a year and asked if I wanted to live in her house while she was away. I said yes. The timing was perfect because I was in-between jobs in Paris. 2005 was a great year. I worked as a temp in international law firms in Covent Garden and The City. I enrolled in a photography class at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design. It was an evening class and I loved riding home on the night bus, the number 14, always sitting in the front seat on the upper deck. (the best way to see London, my friends, is from the top of a double-decker bus).

I hung out and had a laugh a minute with my friend Sherry. In order to meet men (I really like Englishmen), I went to a singles dating event and ended up meeting Rosemary at the bar (with whom I became friends.) I whizzed back and forth to my apartment in Paris on the Eurostar. And I walked endlessly, exploring and discovering the diverse boroughs and neighborhoods of this extraordinary city.

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When Maya’s parents emigrated from Poland in the early 1950s, they purchased this house for £1,000.  In 2010, Maya sold it for £850,000. She became a rich woman overnight. But she barely had time to enjoy her newfound wealth because, sadly, she died of lung cancer two years later.

Here are some random photos of houses in the area. Each time I return to London I make a trip to Munster Road to walk by the white house, to say hello to no-one in particular, and to remember old times.

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Another favorite breakfast or lunch spot is Local Hero located at 640 Fulham Road, SW6 5RT. As you can see, the weather was glorious when I was there. Out back there’s a private garden.

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Bacon sandwich, eggs benedict, full English breakfast, porridge. You can’t get any of this in Paris!

I had just purchased three paperbacks from a charity shop for a pound apiece. Charity shops abound in London, there are several on Fulham and New King’s Road. I had the bacon sarny, my friend had the smashed avocado on toast topped with rocket, sumac and chilli.

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stay tuned…more to come.

Otherwise known as a thrift store, charity shops raise around £300m a year for a range of causes in the U.K. They sell mainly used goods (clothes, books, household items) donated by members of the public.

Here’s the address of a lovely-looking B&B in this area. I haven’t been there myself, but the reviews are positive.

http://www.londonbedbreakfast.co.uk/

Kensington Gardens, the Serpentine, and Planet Organic

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On another beautiful day I set out across Kensington Gardens in search of the Serpentine Gallery. For someone who’s normally stuck in an office all day, I revelled in my freedom and in the great outdoors with the grass, trees and big sky surrounding me. And such magnificent trees! Oak, plane, chestnut and maple, some very old and very large. It is the height of summer, a hot wind blows across the lawns, and in the Royal Parks of London the air shimmers in the sunlight.

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And then I came across this interesting structure which turned out to be a temporary pavilion in the middle of the park. The designer is Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.  Inside was a swank espresso bar.

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From Kensington Gardens I walked north to Bayswater Road then up Queensway to Westbourne Grove and to my favorite organic restaurant, supermarket, juice bar called PLANET ORGANIC. There are seven locations in London. I had a Fatigue Fighter juice because I love the color (beetroot, green apple, carrot, ginger and celery) and a salad combo.

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Back through the park to the Royal Albert concert hall (beloved by Londoners) when I saw an extraordinary sight. People were lined up for miles on this ordinary Monday evening, some sitting on the sidewalk reading, chatting in groups and even eating an early supper, picnic-style on the pavement. I approached a group. “Excuse me,” I said, “Why are people queuing around the block?” I felt like an anthropologist conducting research on the behavior of Londoners. 

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They explained something about lottery tickets to the summer season of concerts called the BBC Promenade Concerts, otherwise known as “The Proms”. I admit that I walked away slightly baffled.

Right beside the Royal Albert Hall is this imposing Victorian Gothic-looking edifice called Queen Alexandra’s House. Built in 1884, it’s a residence for female students attending the Royal College of Music, Royal College of Art and Royal College of Science. When I was 19 or 20, I stayed here for a week during the summer when all the students were away on vacation. It was a spooky place, creaky and empty. I swear I was the only guest there; it was just me and a strict Housemistress who rattled her keys as she strode the empty halls. I remember watching a late-night movie on the black and white TV set, alone in the common room, before creeping back to my room at midnight. The next morning a thin, gruel-like porridge was served to me in the basement refectory. Weak tea and cold toast followed. I swear, the scene could have been straight out of Oliver Twist or Rebecca with the strict Housemistress playing Mrs. Danvers.

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more to come!

London 2016 … part one

Just back from ten fabulous days in London. I feel energized, invigorated, inspired and just plain glad to be living a short train ride away from such a grand city. London is more than a world-class capital, London is the world. Utterly cosmopolitan, it continues to amaze and bedazzle the traveler with its constant transforming, trending, creating and modernizing.

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The food in London is outstanding. The quality, variety and availability of first-class international food far surpasses that in Paris (as a food-centric Parisian, that’s my honest opinion). Not to mention the service. Smiling, helpful, professional. What a joy to just walk around before popping into a café or cake shop for afternoon tea or coffee. Below are pastries from Carluccio’s, a chain of Italian restaurants offering superb food at reasonable prices in a casual family-friendly environment. That chocolate cake is to die for.

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One day I visited the Geffrye Museum in Shoreditch, East London, just minutes from the City of London. It showcases the history of British homes and gardens. The grounds are beautiful.

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Another day, a stunningly beautiful day, I went to the Tate Modern art gallery to see the retrospective of American artist Georgia O’Keeffe. Tube to Mansion House then a 5-minute walk to the Millenium Bridge, officially known as the London Millennium Footbridge. It’s a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians stretching across the River Thames. Crossing it, with the sun blazing down, a cool breeze blowing in, and the river traffic coursing underneath, was a truly exhilarating experience.

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My favorite is this one, entitled The Barns, Lake George (1926).

LOTS MORE TO COME!

burkini brouhaha

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AFP Photo / Valery Hache

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I’m going to wade in here (pardon the pun) and offer my opinion on this thorny issue. Thorny because it’s not straightforward, there’s more to the subject than meets the eye. The burkini, in and of itself, is a side issue. It’s what the French call ‘du maquillage‘ which means makeup or a cover for a much larger and pernicious issue.

It’s all very well for other countries to snicker and ridicule the French for their treatment of the burkini. Go ahead and laugh. But it’s not you who, starting from March 2012 to today, have buried 244 innocents and seen 727 injured due to horrific terrorist attacks – slaughters, really, as if we were living under 7th century caliphate rule. All committed on French soil by radicalized French Muslims as they beheaded their victims, slit throats, stabbed, gunned down or mowed down with a truck while shouting “Allah Akbar”.

And outside of France, just next door in Belgium, three suicide bombings took place in March 2016: two at Brussels Airport, and one at Maalbeek metro station in central Brussels. Thirty-two dead and more than 300 injured. The three perpetrators, Muslim Belgian nationals of Moroccan descent, belonged to a terrorist cell, the same cell involved in the November 2015 Paris massacre at the Bataclan theatre.

France has the largest Muslim population in Europe, between 5 to 6 million or 10% of the total population. They come mainly from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia (former French colonies.) As a non-religious republic – secularism is seen today as one of the cornerstones of the identity of France – many French view the burkini swimming costume as not only incompatible with Western liberal values, but as a defiant expression of Islam and refusal to integrate into French society.

They view the burkini in the same light as the niqab, which is banned here. And therein lies the real problem, the larger and pernicious issue that rattles the French and makes them jittery: Islamic resurgence. Islamic reawakening, Islamic revival or fundamentalism, call it what you want. It’s the phenomenon that concerns us ALL today – us in the West – and it entails a significant change or groundswell that engulfs the entire Muslim ummah (the global Muslim community.) The change is not of the Islamic religion, but of how Muslims view, practice, and implement the requirements of Islam.

For resurgent Muslims, it’s imperative that their lives be governed by the Sharia (Islamic law derived from the religious precepts of the Quran dating back to the 6th century.) So how does this fit into our modern secular democracies?

It doesn’t. Which is why the burka-niqab is banned here. Because it’s a medieval relic that many find abhorrent, an affront to French values and way of life. (Many moderate, modern Muslims share this point of view.) Medieval Middle Eastern garb has no place in today’s modern, Western world.

Why is the onus on the West to ‘tolerate’ a cult that fetishizes the woman’s body?

But it’s just clothing, some people say, what’s the big deal? It’s true that prohibiting the burkini makes French authorities look like fascist fashion police, just like the hardliners in Iran or Saudi Arabia. But many people view the burkini as a symbol, or the tip, of radical Islam. And that’s unwelcome here. Best to nip it in the bud, is the majority view.  (Tuer dans loeuf, which means ‘kill it in the egg’).

Mathieu Bock-Côté, Doctor of Sociology and commentator at the Journal de Montréal and Radio-Canada wrote “L’islamisme s’approprie le corps des femmes pour marquer sa présence physique et symbolique…” The word “s’approprie” means “to appropriate or take ownership”. “Islamism takes ownership of women’s bodies to mark its physical and symbolic presence.”

Plus les hommes seront éclairés, et plus ils seront libres. The more enlightened men (and women) are, the more they will be free.

Voltaire  

French writer and philosopher, 1694-1778

four art exhibitions to see in London

William Eggleston at the National Portrait Gallery

Self-taught and never having to work for a living, Eggleston was born into a family of wealthy cotton planters in Memphis, Tennessee in 1939. He is a pioneering American photographer renowned for his vivid, poetic and mysterious images. This exhibition of 100 works surveys Eggleston’s full career from the 1960s to the present day and is the most comprehensive display of his portrait photography ever. 

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Kids sitting on the bumper, idling in the backyard, hanging on to their beer bottles in the nightclub; the hippy chick and the Updike housewife, the rheumy-eyed pastor and the southern belle at 80, still swinging girlishly on her porch. Eggleston is the Thornton Wilder of the lens, his portraits a growing community of figures as familiar, almost, as the cast of Wilder’s Our Town except that their story will never be resolved.

Etel Adnan at The Serpentine Galleries

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Located in Kensington Gardens, Central London, The Serpentine Galleries presents the works of painter, essayist and poet Etel Adnan, who was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon. In her first solo exhibition in a UK public institution, the Serpentine shows work from across her career and including paintings, drawings, poetry, film and tapestry.

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Adnan is a prolific author and politically engaged artist who addresses issues of identity, displacement and memory, working across different continents and languages. She wrote a novel about the Lebanese Civil War and a book of poems about The Arab Apocalypse. She has also addressed the more recent conflicts and aggressions in the Arab world. In her visual art, central themes range from alienation and war to poetic expression and imaginary landscapes.

http://www.serpentinegalleries.org/exhibitions-events/etel-adnan-weight-world

David Hockney at The Royal Academy

Though Hockney’s mastery and energy are never in doubt, his show of portraits sees likeness and personality often sacrificed to surface detail.

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The wild beauty of Georgia O’Keeffe at The Tate Modern

O’Keeffe’s paintings are often seen as displays of flamboyant female sexuality. But a broader reading of her art suggests that it came from the life of a new kind of woman.

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a perfect summer’s day, Sunday

The weather was so perfect today I wanted to preserve it in a bottle: hot, cobalt-blue sky, blazing sunshine, and a cool breeze blowing in from somewhere. Impossible to stay indoors!  So I met a friend in my most favorite large park in Paris.

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I must really like this park because it’s on the other side of the city from where I live. I make one change on the metro, from the number one central line to the number 14 line. But the travel time to get there is worth it.

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Bercy Village is located at the end of Bercy Park (metro stop Cour Saint-Émilion on the number 14 line.) Tastefully designed and spread out along a single pedestrian street, it houses an even number of shops and restaurants. It’s what I call a “feel good” place.

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This is my most favorite shop. Gorgeous soaps, bath products, body creams as well as clothes, jewelry and a few home furnishings. If you’re looking for gifts – for yourself or for others – this is the place to go. It’s also beautifully air-conditioned.

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Here are their signature glycerine soaps which cost 5 euros apiece. I bought a green one (Verveine which is lemon verbena). I also bought a gift box of four jasmine soaps for only 12 euros per box. The prices at Fragonard are reasonable, the quality excellent.

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Towards 4 pm my friend had to leave, so we separated and I sought out a quiet, shaded place in which to sit and read my book. I spied a bench with two elderly ladies sitting at one end. “This looks nice and quiet,” I thought, “The perfect spot.” I said “Bonjour” to the ladies and asked if they’d mind if I shared the bench. “Not at all,” they replied.  So I sat at the other end and pulled out my book. But the two elderly ladies were far from quiet. They were giggling and taking selfies on their iPhone and jumping up and down to pose, first one and then the other. At one point one lady was even video-taping the other one. 

I imagined myself saying, “Hey, will you kids keep it down?! I’m trying to read a book here.”

Jeesh…old people today…they’re not like they used to be.

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cancelled!

We are quite literally, as the Brits say, gobsmacked. We learned today that the gigantic, annual, much-loved flea market of Lille will be cancelled this year. I saw the news on the TV screen this morning and stopped dead in my tracks. Then I ran to the phone to call my friends in Lille. They already knew. We’re all shattered by the news.

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Because the Lille flea market, otherwise known as La Grande Braderie de Lille which takes place every year during the first weekend in September and welcomes between two to three million visitors, is a tradition dating back to the 12th century. I’ve been going every year for the past 5 years. I had already purchased my train tickets for this year.

The BBC says – One of Europe’s biggest flea markets, in the northern French city of Lille, has been cancelled because of security fears after recent Islamist violence.

Martine Aubry, Lille’s mayor, says – Cancelling the event has been a painful decision but there were “risks we cannot reduce”.

Juliet in Paris says – So I guess this means that the jihadists have won.

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Here’s what saddens me the most – having to tell the kids why their favorite annual event has been cancelled. They, like everyone else, loved the flea market. Each year they staked out their own little spot, set up a stand and sold the wares they had collected over the year (old toys, outgrown clothes, games, books, etc.)  It was a good education. It taught them not only social skills, but how to sell, barter, make change and handle money. They also practiced their English because visitors came from all over: the U.K., Germany, Belgium, etc.

Thank goodness I’ve got archives of past flea markets, the links are below. Because who knows?  Maybe the Lille flea market will be no more…forever. I said to my office colleagues today – we are witnessing the sad transformation of France right before our eyes.

https://julietinparis.net/2014/09/09/giant-flea-market-in-lille/

https://julietinparis.net/2013/09/02/the-mother-of-all-flea-markets-2/

https://julietinparis.net/2013/06/15/the-mother-of-all-flea-markets/