Taking a breather from the jubilee weekend patriotism for something *gasp* French…
Photo: French musician in Columbia Road Flower Market by Nicola Albon
Guest Post Written by Tim Green
Paris: 5 hour working days; London: 9 hour working days,
Paris: 2 hour wine lunches; London: lunch is for wimps
Paris: long picturesque walks home; London: cattle truck home
Paris: Couture and color; London: Macs and shades of black
Okay, I exaggerate. But for the transigent soul who has experienced the quirks, the belle air and vitalities of a Parisian lifestyle landing back in a a cold wet London proved a horrible shock. Where were the little bakeries with their scents of fresh bread wafting into the air, where were the macaroon shops, the little winding streets I knew, the small bars with surly waiters serving bordeaux to rambustuous patrons on cobbled streets?
Well actually this and a lot more does exist. And in its droves. For much of Paris is already here, you just need to know where to look.
The French have come over the channel in their masses in the past decade. Indeed London is said to be the sixth biggest French city in terms of French population now– not bad considering the traditional (and mostly mythical) enmity between the two nations.
I too found myself taking this path over the sea three years ago. I was lured back by the excitemenet of seeing again whatLondon had to offer me after a ten year hiatus and the challenge of leaving a life I had grown used to. And it was a challenge indeed!
First call was a job. Having a helpful recruitment agency in London was paramount– luckily my Parisian friend Guy recommended me the perfect one– and they found me a copywriter job in the fashionable East end. This part of Londonhas some real Gallic atmosphere. Restaurants such as the piglovers delight Brawn in Colombia market (authentic pigs trotters), Boundary in Shoreditch or Les Trois Garcons stab at what seems to be a national preoccupation for the French side– namely eating. But despite their endeavour these places lacked something of the real authenticity of a Parisian traiteur with its ancient oil stained walls.
London’s answer to St Germain is Hampstead in north London, THE enclave for the French. Famous footballers, rugby players, bankers and vedettes have made this their home in recent times. I found Hampstead to be neat and refined– more tranquil than the Montparnasse but lacking the artistic atmosphere of the hilly French arrondissement. Still this leafy zone has some Parisian-lite food places like La Cocotte or the bemusing Cafe Rouge, a cliched Godard film set full of screaming children.
Beyond food and Londoners have embraced French fashion with a newfound vigour.
Go to central London and you will find many of the high-Paris fashion shops. But apart from the typical names in Bond Streetyou also have the smaller cult boutiques and labels– APC on Dover Street, Le Mauvais Garcon in Spitalfields or Aime in Notting Hill.
I was soon getting into the swing of things with the food and fashion though I lacked a certain something. Then one day my friend invited me to dine with him south of the river in Clapham. He took me to a place called Gastro— it was amazing. Just as though one has been transported back to le coins of St Germain itself.
Here is one of the best French restaurants of the whole city. Dark, smouldering and classic, beautifully balanced menus and wine served in those crappy half-cracked glasses exactly as they were in the Marais! Nothing had prepared me for this beautiful slice of Paris in London. And then after that we went around the corner and finally I found the macaroons I craved in the aptly entitled Macaron. Rows of them!
It seems my life here is now complete.
Tim Green is a copywriter and supports media recruitment agency http://www.yellowcatrecruitment.co.uk/