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).