paris × london – places + things 🌝

Sunday, January 20, 2019

We always try to escape from the war zone that is Berlin around New Year’s Eve to a country where fireworks are either not being sold, (are preferably illegal), or people have enough sense to not set their money on fire and turn their city into a rubbish dump in the process. We went to Paris this time, spent NYE there and then travelled to London. Both cities aren’t new to us. When I’m already familiar with a city, I don’t feel pressured to do the whole sightseeing marathon, and instead just wander around, spend hours in bookstores or reading in cafés, saunter, be une flaneuse. Also, after Christmas and around NYE especially, I don’t have the energy to be a hyperactive-keen-to-see-new-places kind of tourist. So, here are just a few (of my favourite or new to me) places we went to and some things I bought there. A travel scrapbook, if you will.

Whenever we’re in Paris I have to go to Shakespeare & Company. Although it might be considered a tourist trap with overpriced books by some. I don’t care. I have to get a tote bag and a book (with a stamp).

The Poetry Anthology I ended up getting, caught my eye the moment I climbed up the stairs to the poetry section on the second floor. I picked it up, opened it at a random page and to a poem by Stevie Smith – “not waving, but drowning“ – one of my favourite poems. It felt like the book said yes to me, so I had to get it of course.

» Staying Alive' is an international anthology of 500 life-affirming poems fired by belief in the human and the spiritual at a time when much in the world feels unreal, inhuman and hollow. These are poems of great personal force connecting our aspirations with our humanity, helping us stay alive to the world and stay true to ourselves. «

See, taking pictures isn’t allowed in Shakespeare & Company. And that’s a good thing, because you’d never be able to browse the bookshelves in peace if everyone was waving their phones and cameras around. So I took this cheeky picture secretly and thought I was being very clever, only to discover later that I had my finger in front of the lens. I think that’s what’s called karma. Anywho.

When it comes to vegan and vegetarian food, Paris can be tricky. I had researched some vegan/vegetarian places beforehand, but when you want to get something to eat spontaneously (at a more traditional french café or brasserie), the most vegetarian thing you can get is a cheese sandwich … or a tuna salad. „Mais fish n’est pas meat.“ It is for me. Same goes for chicken btw.
But one day we went to Wild & the Moon to get breakfast, which was right down my street (acai-bowl + smoothie #basic) and very delicious. 
There are some more branches of this restaurants in Paris – you can look them up here.

No matter how often I’ve been to the Louvre … when in Paris, I have to go to the Louvre. Encore une fois. I do have to say though that the masses of people there stress me out. I also sometimes enjoy the hustle and bustle there and I appreciate the fact that so, so many people want to spend their time looking at old paintings and sculptures. All hope’s not lost – people still believe in art. The Louvre is an impressive and magical – and sometimes stressful – place. (J’adore nonetheless.)

I will never ever get tired of London, fear not, Samuel Johnson.

» Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford. «
Samuel Johnson

The place we stayed at was an absolute (birthday) treat. It was recommended to us by Cormoran Strike himself, believe it or not. Well, not really, but I’d like to think so. In fact, I was planning on turning our whole visit into a ”Cormoran Strike’s London“ Tour, but instead we just ended up staying at the Hazlitt’s and hung out in Soho and around Denmark Street a lot. The Hotel is tucked away in a street next to Soho Square with individually furnished and decorated rooms, that feel cozy and very personal. There’s a library where we sat by the fire one evening and did some reading. (As you do.)

Something we did for the very first time in London (and ever), was participating in a (free) themed walking tour. We went for the Harry Potter Tour (of course) and discovered some magical places around Central London. Some that were sets in the movies or just inspiration for fictional places like Diagon Alley. ⚡️

There are two museums/galleries I try to visit every time I’m in London: the Tate Modern and the National Gallery. This time we only got round to do the National Gallery, but on top also went to the Victoria & Albert Museum for the very first time. London museums are just out of this world – I really loved the V&A.

That’s where I got this hair slide. 🎀 I’m going to be really honest now, so please don’t judge. When it comes to clothes and accessories, I tend to lean towards slightly (slightly!) ugly-ish things. (Maybe you’re like ”girl, we’ve noticed.😏“) I came to find that the pieces (of clothing etc.) I absolutely love, love, love for years and years are not the conventionally pretty things, but the, well – there’s no nice way of saying this –, the slightly ugly. I do consider this hair slide very nice but also kind of … you know. AND I LOVE IT. Well, weird.

Moving on, shall we? Since we stayed in Soho and right around the corner from Foyles, we did spend a lot of time (and a bit of money) there. It’s such a luxury to have a bookstore full of English language books to browse. Here are (just two of) the books I picked up.

Since books and food are probably the things I love most in life, let’s talk about food next.

We had breakfast at 26 grains one time, which was so delicious and exactly how I want my breakfast to be. Pear Porridge, made with oat milk, some delicious toppings and green tea. The place is tiny and you can’t book a table in advance, but we were lucky and got two seats right away.

There are so, so many cute cafés in London, but I still find it thrilling when I just stumble upon a place without prior recommendation or research, just by chance – like Gail’s for example, where we had coffee and a fruit scone right after we’d arrived at King’s Cross. We just sat there and people-watched for a while and let the fact that we’re (really!) back in London again sink in.

Another great café to hang out in and people-watch was Ole & Steen Lagkagehuset on Charing Cross Road. It’s one of those places where people settle down with their laptops and spend half of their day. I don’t know how café owners feel about that, but I for my part love it. You’re being left alone and not shoved out the door as soon as you’ve finished your coffee. A perfect place to have lunch, then coffee, maybe later even dinner, read and … yes, people-watch. On our very last day in London, a few hours before we had to got to the airport, we did exactly that. We ate and read and saw London’s busy life passing by in front of the café’s large windows.

One evening, instead of just ordering room service in our very cozy Hotel, we actually went out and had dinner in a nearby pub. We were really surprised by how vegetarian and vegan friendly London Pub food is. Maybe that’s not new or surprising at all, but after the former mentioned not-so-vegan-or-even-vegetarian-traditional-french-places in Paris, a “real pub“ with a veggie burger or vegan lasagne on the menu was a delight!

Speaking of traditional places offering vegan food: I wanted to have afternoon tea (the real deal) on my birthday and came across a Hotel in Knightsbridge offering vegetarian and vegan afternoon teas. We booked a table a few weeks in advance and spend ~2hours eating the most delicious vegan sandwiches, scones, and little cakes.

Before I finally wrap this up, one last “thing“ I got in London. We went to see Wicked one evening and strolled round Belgravia a few hours before the performance. By pure chance, we discovered this shop that sold art, jewelry and miscellaneous (but lovingly curated) things from India and the Middle East. It was one of those shops that draws you in right away. Right next to the door I found these ceramic figs. I took one in my hand and immediately felt that I wanted this to be my #marylebows2k19birthdaybash souvenir. It sparked joy, yanno?
So here is my very beautiful ceramic fig. It might also help me with my 2k19 effort to give less of a fig in general.

Wow, you’ve actually made it this far? Well done, thank you! Hope you enjoyed and see you next time!

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