Sunday, August 16, 2015


How does London compare to Paris?  Have I fallen in love with London?  Can I imagine Chris and I making our home in London?
London looking a bit like Paris.
These questions are never far from my mind whether I am tucked up in my tiny flat drinking a cup of Marks & Spencer Everyday Tea and reading the Evening Standard or whether I am straddling a bench at my "local" and sipping a half pint.  

Like Paris, part of London's allure is found in its contrasts.  Every morning I walk to work starting in the village-esque Belsize Park towards Camden Town. Camden Town is at its best  in the early morning and nearly deserted except for Camden Council workers and market vendors awaiting their deliveries of fresh oranges and kegs of beer.  I continue along Camden High Street, passing bars, countless Pret A Manger coffee shops, betting shops, and my favourite named UK store Poundland.  I take a slight left at the Mornington Crescent Tube station and walk along Eversholt Street towards Euston Station. As I near Euston, I am met by the real London commuters as they emerge from the depths of the station with lukewarm coffees and resigned faces.  We all pile up at the Euston Road crossing, elbows sharp and feet shuffling to jostle for premium curb space, the daring ones racing across the road before the light changes with their Waitrose carrier bags bashing against their legs. 

Camden Lock
It's madness but it somehow works.  And it's not unlike Paris where a few quick turns will either find you tearing your hair out near Maison Laduree's tearoom line on the Champs or sipping a coup de Champagne at a tucked away brasserie behind Avenue Montaigne. 

In Paris, as I have written many times before, I feel like the best version of myself.  In Paris, I feel confident and self-assured. I love the feeling of being consumed by Paris and being swept-up by its sensuality and vibrancy.  Paris is, and has, my heart.

In London, I feel like I am discovering myself all over again.  I have many days where it's hard to imagine I could have ever lived a different life and I can see Chris and me settled, happy and successful in London.  And then there are days when I question our sanity and I think how much easier it would have been just taking twice-a-year vacations to Paris. 

The stunning Hampstead Heath
London has more attitude than Paris and its vibrancy is sharper, less romantic.  In London, I tend to feel more swallowed-up, rather than swept-up.  London has an undeniable energy and I always feel like I am part of something much bigger, much more exciting, than myself.  It's like I have a permanent walk-on role in the constantly changing scene that is London. 

I can be anonymous in London without being lonely.  This is something that is harder to accomplish in Paris, where so much of what makes Paris beautiful and challenging is being solitary and being kept just a little on the outside.  London's anonymity is friendlier and less isolating. 

In Paris, I have Frenchy Bitchface.  In London, I have London Boredface modeled after my fellow Tube passengers.  Less fierce than Frenchy Bitchface, London Boredface is primarily used on public transport.  London Boredface requires a look of placid indifference no matter how hot the train is, no matter how smelly your neighbour is, no matter that curry flavoured Pringles are being consumed two inches from your sweating face, no matter that a giant, hairy, ungroomed dog is drooling on your shoe, etc. Just set your London Boredface and carry on with your commute. 

I am falling in love with London.  London is giving me the opportunity to chase our dream.  London demands that I see new perspectives, consider new possibilities and keep an open heart and an open mind.  London is teaching me to be brave and reminding me why I should never settle for anything less than our dream. 

Moments of perfect happiness...
I attended an event at a massive office tower in Canary Wharf with my colleagues.  After it was over, slightly buzzed on wine and high-end canapes, we rode the Tube together.  We sat in a row in our wrinkled semi-formal clothes, laughing and bumping against each other, reliving moments from our evening.

Things you don't say to Londoners on the Tube...
A colleague and I were walking between trains on the Tube when we were stopped by a loud, heavily-accented voice for directions.  I kept quiet knowing my sense of London direction is still questionable.  Upon hearing my colleague's accent - proper English, of course! - he began a monologue about why, and how, Chicago is superior to London.  In Every Single Way.  It takes a special talent to be that loud and annoying in an underground station during rush hour.

How posh people speak...
According to one of my colleagues, posh people can take any noun and make it into a verb.  For example,  "I got absolutely bookcased last night" to describe being extremely drunk. 

Snubbed by my own kind...
This morning I spotted a a group of Canadian tourists standing on the platform of the Belsize Park Tube Station.  It was obvious they were Canadian because they were wearing the entire HBC Olympic Team clothing collection.  They were studying their printed Tube map so hard that they were nearly tipping forward and falling onto the tracks.  I approached and offered my assistance to the "Canadian Mum".  She replied with a curt "no".  Didn't she recognize a fellow Canadian? True, I wasn't wearing a red hoody but my entire outfit, sauf mes Bensimon sneakers, was purchased at Canadian Superstore, aka Joe Fresh!