Sunday, November 15, 2015

Mots d'Amour

I received a text in Victoria as the world was finding out about the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January.  One of my best friends was texting me from a high speed train en route to Paris.  It was her first trip there and she wanted directions and advice.

Minutes later I sat in front of my television watching the horrific news unfold.  I was shocked and saddened but more than anything I wished to be in Paris.  I wanted to be with my city.

I lay in bed on Friday night in London listening to BBC radio report on the chaotic and senseless killings in Paris.  I drifted in and out of sleep as the death toll rose and the extent of the tragedy became clear.  I woke to dozens of messages from friends and family wanting to make sure I was safe in London.

Again I was shocked and saddened and my heart broke for Paris.  And again, more than anything, I wished to be in Paris.  Now living so close, I checked the Eurostar schedule hoping to find a last minute deal so I could walk the streets of my city instead of staring zombie-like at the same, devastating news coverage.  I wanted to hold my city close.   
I have been teased that I only see Paris through sparkly and pink-coloured glasses.  My Paris is one where the Seine always glitters in the moonlight and the croissants are always warm and buttery.  My Paris is long, romantic walks in the Luxembourg Gardens with stolen kisses behind palm trees and sunlit glimpses of the Eiffel Tower.  I have been told on several occasions that my Paris isn't real. 

When I visited Paris in April, a few months after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, I found the city somewhat changed.  Subtle changes that revealed a slightly darker version of Paris where it was harder to make eye contact with strangers and a light tension could be felt on the streets.  A city I have always found so welcoming and warm suddenly felt closed and careful.  I smiled through the bag searches and skirted the areas that seemed overrun with armed police officers.  I reclaimed my home at Le Petit Cler and spent happy hours writing and drinking sharp shots of espresso.

My blog is not about politics and I am going to leave those difficult conversations and commentary to the professionals.  My blog is about Paris and my blog is about love.

Terrible things can happen anywhere.  I only have to look at my family and my close friends to see that appalling, life-changing things happen with barely a whisper, much less a shower of bullets.  We have a choice as to how we react to things.  With my family and my close friends, I have been awed and inspired by their determination as they faced challenges and fear.  Every single one of them has kept going.

Does love conquer fear?

Through my sparkly and pink-coloured glasses, I believe that love conquers fear.  I believe that Paris will always be the City of Light and the City of Love.  Paris will always be my city.  My thoughts, my prayers, my love and my heart are with Paris and to all those affected by this terrible tragedy.  

 For always and forever,  I'd rather be in Paris.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


I was born in Canada.  I live in London.  And my stubborn heart still belongs to Paris.

What does it mean?

I can't describe the restlessness I have felt since I was old enough to understand that Victoria is an island and somewhat remote from the rest of the world.  I wanted to escape Victoria long before Paris or London and long before I understood how my escape would change my life, and Chris's life, forever.

The incomparable view of the Gulf Islands flying from Victoria to Vancouver.
Almost any ex-pat will describe similar feelings of restlessness and a certain sense of disconnection to their own country.  I met an Australian colleague that lives in France but spends a lot of her time working in London.  She travels back to Australia yearly.  She spoke about not wanting to live in Australia but not feeling entirely at home in France despite her French husband and children.  She explained that it's one of the difficulties of being an ex-pat - that sense of not knowing, or not feeling, that you belong in any country.

I am starting to get a sense of these feelings.

It's funny how desperate I have become for any slight connection to Canada.  Last week I saw a man in Bloomsbury wearing a Toronto Blue Jays ball cap and jersey and I had to stop myself from tackling him with a bear hug.  My pre-London self would have thought his style tacky and tasteless.

In the past five months, I have showed my colleagues photographs of marauding urban raccoons, tried to explain the precise location of the Gulf Islands and, countless times, dispelled the myth that Canada is covered in ice and snow.  I am quick to correct anyone who mistakenly identifies my accent as American and often I start conversations with, "I am from Canada".

I feel more connected to Canada living abroad.

Londoners are proud.  If you meet a Londoner who loves London, they LOVE London.  And every time I meet one, I am charmed and excited by how much pleasure they find in London.  I forget every small thing that can make London difficult at times; from costly rent to having an unwashed armpit thrust in my face on the Tube. 

Most days it's impossible not to love London.

I spent Canadian Thanksgiving working at some events in Paris.  It was a busy weekend and my first, tiny taste of being a professional in Paris.  Saturday started with an early morning and ended with a late night.  At 11:30pm, I found myself stomping along the moonlit Seine without so much as a glance at the glittery bridges or twinkling Eiffel Tower.  My stomach was growling with hunger, my feet hurt and I was becoming angrier by the moment.

Paris who?

I stopped, slapped myself - very hard! - mentally, and reminded myself that I was in Paris.  Paris.  I slowed my pace, took a few deep breaths and took a petit pause on Pont Alexandre, to swoon over the stunning view of Madame Eiffel. 

On Sunday I had a blissful, free day to wander Paris with no agenda.  I went to Jardin du Luxembourg and stood surrounded by a riot of autumn colours, leaves crunching underfoot, smartly dressed Parisians with their faces turned to the sun, and glimpses of Saint Sulpice and the Eiffel Tower.  My throat tightened and I felt tears prick my eyes.  After so many trips and trying to find different paths to Paris, I was standing in my favourite city in the world on a sunny October day.  Everything seemed possible in that moment. 

Paris still has my heart.

There are moments when I am overwhelmed by not knowing where Chris and I will ultimately live.  Moments where I wonder where home is or even what home means. 

In these moments of doubt, I remind myself that living and working in London is a privilege; I remind myself that I am lucky to love, and to know, three amazing countries and cities; and I remind myself that while it's difficult being apart from Chris, we are chasing our dream and no matter where we settle, it will be together and we will have answered the hard questions that arose during our first visit to Paris and London in 2007.  

Paris sunrise
Things ex-pats in London say (overheard on my nightly commute up Haverstock Hill)...
"I haven't been to Notting Hill yet but I had my groceries delivered from their Whole Foods."

Moments of London misery...
During a rare rush hour Tube journey, a man squeezed himself onto the train carrying a steaming bag of take-out.  It smelled like a rotting baby diaper had exploded and everyone was shifting into invisible areas of space to escape the smell.  Despite being told that it's "common to eat on the street", this same rule doesn't seem to apply to the Tube.  It's not uncommon to see people consume entire meals, not just handheld food like burgers or kebabs, on the Tube but food that requires cutlery and tricky balancing acts.

Things you will never see North Americans do (especially on the West Coast)...
While enjoying a glass of wine at Cafe Central on rue Cler, the Parisians sitting next to me devoured a basket of white bread while simultaneously smoking cigarettes.

Moments of perfect happiness...
I have had a crush on Rosa Bonheur since it opened on the Seine in 2013.  In Paris a few weeks ago, I had dinner there with the incredible daughter of one of my best social media friends, Cassie.  I met Cassie online over 5 years ago but we have never met in person (hurry up. December!) and her daughter is doing a semester abroad in Paris.  Dining outside on Rosa Bonheur's  gently bobbing barge we shared wine, pizza and a salad drenched in olive oil and runny, creamy cheese - "to be healthy" - while talking and laughing.  At 8pm, right on cue, the Eiffel Tower exploded into its light show and all the uber hip and chic Rosa Bonheur patrons squeaked with pleasure.  Bliss.              

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Our London Town

I wasn't sure what to expect when Chris arrived in London a few weeks ago.  It was his first visit since 2007 where the most we saw of London was the food hall at Harrods and an evening performance of The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre.  Both of us left London feeling disappointed and flattened by the city.

Honestly, I was expecting Chris to hate London.  I was expecting his transition to London, and our transition to being a couple in London, to be tension-filled and difficult.  I was expecting non-stop, impossible comparisons to Paris.  I wasn't expecting normal.  I wasn't expecting Chris to find "his local' in Belsize Park, walks across Hampstead Heath, or cozy nights tucked up in our bijou flat eating Gail's Bakery sandwiches and watching BBC 3. I wasn't expecting us to be so happy and comfortable in London. 

That Chris fell in love with London is a relief and the part of me that has been holding my breath since June can finally relax and breathe.  This move to London has been one of the biggest challenges we have taken on as a couple and while we are grateful for this incredible opportunity, I know we have both had moments of doubt and fear.  

London isn't easy and it doesn't have the same softness as Paris.  8.6 million people live in London and it can be maddening, exhausting, and dirty.  The stress of dealing with banks and landlords, the relentless streams of miserable commuters that clump together at every major intersection, and the endless dance to sidestep piles of vomit on my morning commute through Camden Town can make me question my decision to leave the fresh air and wide open spaces of Canada. 

 But it's London...

Chris responded to London's energy even before I finished my carefully rehearsed "why-London-is-great" speech in the taxi from Heathrow.  At his suggestion, instead of unpacking, we went for pints at The George and he told me he already felt "at home".  The staff now know his favourite pint and I was greeted warmly yesterday when I stopped in for a glass of wine and a packet of crisps.  I saw London come alive for Chris and I saw him energized by its endless opportunities. 

Since June I have tried, with varying degrees of success, to settle in London.  Some days I have felt more like an observer or like I am taking a vacation from my real life in Victoria.  Other days, I have felt so at home that I can't imagine living anywhere else.  But always, I was waiting for Chris and waiting to see London through his eyes.  I wanted to share my London with him, share everything I have felt about London, and make it our London.  Chris made London real for me, and even though I miss him terribly, I am excited about our next phase and confident we will build a life in London. 

In London!
Don't worry we went to Paris!  We ate, drank, and wandered our favourite streets.  I introduced Chris to choux at Odette and watched in admiration as he ate steak tartare two nights in a row.  Paris was perfect, right down to our croque madames at Le Petit Cler and our kiss - more than one! - at the Eiffel Tower.  Paris will always be our best selves and always have our hearts. 

In Paris!
Things Londoners say (overheard at Wahaca on Charlotte Street)...
"I don't think she's quite socially developed.  Too much time at private school.  Still, I guess she's a good egg.'

Things Londoners, actually priests, say at the pub...
"I better not switch to beer.  I have been on wine all day."

Hampstead Heath dog owner problems...
Struck up a conversation at the dog pond with a distinguished looking gentleman wearing red linen pants and throwing soggy tennis balls for his grinning, bouncing chocolate Labrador.  He confessed that his dog was "greedy" and he must always carry 10 GBP in case his dog eats a family picnic.  He learned the lesson a few years ago when, empty pocketed, his dog crashed a children's birthday party and ate the entire cake.   

Lost in translation...
"Love seat" doesn't translate and my confused colleagues thought I was talking about some sort of sex chair instead of my flat's two-seat sofa.  Add the word "panty" and they will all be in hysterics and blushes for ages!

Things tourists say in Paris...
"This restaurant looks ok.  They serve real food here."

A moment I fell in love with my husband again...
Chris became the accidental doorman at Marks & Spencer Oxford Street and I watched as he patiently held the door for tourists and little old London ladies dressed in plaid head scarves and brown brogues.  One of them reached up and gave his arm a squeeze and I could see smiling down at her.  I bet she called him "lovey". 

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!

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Standing in Portobello Road yesterday, trying to avoid being whacked by selfie sticks and fanny packs, I came across a print with Erin Hanson's quote, "What if I fall? Oh but my darling, what if you fly?"  I bought it for my tiny London flat.

 London can kick your ass.

Last Friday I left work early to finally open a bank account.  I arrived on time for my appointment with my passport, my work Visa, a letter from my employer, my UK National Insurance Number, and my tenancy agreement.  I believe enough documents to prove my residency and my legitimacy.  Wrong.  I was turned away for reasons I still fail to understand.  I left the bank red-faced and sweaty, made an incomprehensible phone call to Chris and started a mission up Camden High Street to open a bank account late on a Friday afternoon.  And the day after the Tube strike.

I visited at least six different branches, pleading my case and scattering my documents over desks.  I felt like a Jehovah's Witness going door-to-door in an all Catholic neighbourhood.  I was told I needed more ID, a different letter from my employer, and that the bank didn't have a Saturday appointment for five weeks.  At the last branch, a customer service representative took pity on me and within 30 minutes I had a bank account.  The ultimate act of kindness.  And another reminder that I need patience and persistence to build a life in London.

 The experience wore me down a bit.

The next morning I had plans to meet a friend and her dog for a walk on Hampstead Heath.  Dressed in my new Gap navy blue shorts - I wear shorts in London?! - she toured me around the Heath while we exchanged details about our lives. I told her about my rotten Friday.

"So you are living your dream?"

"Yes.  I guess so.  I am living my dream."

"Well.  That's what you need to remember when you are having a bad day."

Of course she's right.  On good days, bad days, boring days or extraordinary days, I must remember that I am living my dream.  And more importantly that I am working towards the life Chris and I want.  Those are precious and rare things.

London perspective.... 
Canada turned 148 on July 1.  My new place of work is nearly 50 years older.

London shop signs...
"Bespoke colonic" and "Breakfast, Lunch, Cake"

Paris v. London...
I had breakfast this morning at Cafe Rouge on High Street Hampstead.  I felt a bit like I had woken up in Paris.  Next to me two women gossiped in French about the weather and their children - comme toujours! - before effortlessly switching to English with cut glass accents.  From my table, I could see across the street into the windows of Tara Jarmon and well-dressed children scampered past me carrying warm baguettes from Paul.  Cars were parked haphazardly on the street with their hubcaps scratched and bent.  Small, designer dogs, an overwhelming amount of them French Bulldogs, pranced next to their owners and uncomfortable looking runners panted past wearing everything from Oxford rugby shirts to shiny, black spandex tights.  Paris, is that you?!

Moments of perfect London happiness...
Thursday 5 GBP lunch of seafood paella from Bloomsbury Farmers' Market eaten picnic style in one of the many area squares with my lovely new colleagues.  The sun was shining, my skirt was tucked around my knees as we joined all the other Londoners trying to steal an hour of sunshine over lunch.  Picnicking is real thing in London and I can't remember the last time I ate so many meals outside on the ground.  

Rick Steves' moment du jour...
Sitting in the front seats on the top deck of the 168 double decker bus en route to work.  Riding the bus from these seats feels like part interactive retro video game and part budget London tour.  But I have noticed that even the most jaded, weary London commuters rush for these seats and smile as the bus teeters through London's narrow streets. 

Sunday, July 5, 2015

London Lessons

I learned some things last week.

I learned that it is easy to accidentally turn your fridge off, via its fuse switch, and spoil a week's worth of carefully selected Waitrose ready-meals.  I learned that posh people say "what" (pronounced "whot"), not "pardon" when they want you to repeat something you have said.  I learned that the Central Line is London's hottest tube line and personally experienced this when I rode it to Stratford on London's hottest day in recorded history. 

And I learned that while living in London will expose me to countless new people and new experiences, certain things about my personality will not change.  No matter how badly I wish otherwise.

Since moving to London, everyone wants to know what I have been doing (plays, museums, festivals, galleries, etc.) and what I plan to do in the future.  The truth is I haven't seen one play and I have only found time to spend one afternoon at The National Gallery.  My desk is covered with ripped out events pages from The Evening Standard and Time Out LondonA further stack of neon yellow Post-It notes cover my laptop: polo match, Notting Hill, weekend in Paris, Borough Market.

The National Gallery - George Stubbs
 I woke up this morning worried that I am not taking advantage of everything this incredible city has to offer.  I don't want to waste one second of this opportunity but I am learning, for me, there has to be a balance.

I have advocated lots for travel that fits your personality.  With Paris, I always tell people if they don't like crowds and Renaissance art to skip the Louvre and the Mona Lisa and enjoy a calmer cultural experience at l'Orangerie. Find what you love and experience it within a new culture.

Right now my priority is making a home in London.  For the last four weeks I have been racing around London with lists buying everything from a goose down duvet to a 6-in-1 screwdriver.  I have finally unpacked my suitcases and found an instant coffee that almost replaces my beloved Nespresso machine.  I have been out most nights and rarely fall asleep before midnight.  I have bought used books at my local charity shop and signed up for a Boots Advantage Card.  It's exhilarating but also exhausting.

Belsize Park
My happiest moments are spent in my neighbourhood, establishing a routine, being part of the community, and trying to make London home.  That is what I want right now, what I need right now, and what will allow Chris and me to eventually make a life in London.

I learned that, as with Paris, I need to find my own London. 

Things you see written on a London pub's chalkboard sign...

At a pub near Euston Station regarding television coverage of the Tour de France, "See France without having to leave the pub!"

London mystery...

Why are the croissants at Pret a Manger so amazing?  They shouldn't be so delicious.  I always expect them to taste like a suburban Costco croissant but instead they are so flaky and so buttery that I end covered in crumbs and staining my outfit-du-jour.  And how is it that 90% of the time their croissants are still warm and the place smells like a Paris bakery at 4am on a Sunday?  Wikipedia describes Pret as a fast food chain?!

My favourite London purchase (so far!)...

This morning I found a black and white photograph of Audrey Hepburn in the Marie Curie charity shop just down the road from my flat.  Chris and I bought a print of Audrey at the Notting Hill Market when we came to London in 2007.  It was one of our only souvenirs from that trip and still hangs in our house in Victoria.  I feel there is a special synchronicity to my purchase this morning.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

London Calling

Before Paris, there was London.

I traveled to London before Paris in 2003 on a rom-com pilgrimage of sorts.  Like many women of my age, I had gorged myself on Bridget Jones's Diary and I imagined myself striding across Tower Bridge slightly hungover and disheveled.  I saw myself living in London and transforming into a sophisticated Londoner who spent my weekends in the country wearing Wellies and mixing jugs of Pimm's for my guests.

It was always supposed to be London.

Last year Chris and I re-evaluated our Paris plans.  We had explored all of our options for a full move and, immigration issues aside, we found nothing that would sustain us professionally.  We both love what we do and giving up our careers up to work as middle-aged au pairs wasn't appealing.  My lovely plan to spend summers in Paris wasn't financially sustainable and, while it provided short-term happiness, it wasn't getting us any closer to our ultimate goal of living full-time in Paris.

So it became London.

Several of my grandparents were born in the UK so I was able to get an Ancestry Visa that allows me to work and live in the UK sans restrictions for 5 years.  Chris can apply on the same Visa and eventually we can make an application to settle permanently.  There are endless job opportunities in London; it's a vibrant and friendly city;  and it's a relatively easy commute from our home in Victoria.  And best of all?!  London is SO much closer to Paris!

I am now in London.

I moved to London about three weeks ago with my three suitcases and without Chris.  The biggest sacrifice we had to make was transitioning separately to London.  I secured a wonderful job while Chris is staying in Victoria to run his business and will visit London every three months.  We discussed every option, tried putting boxes into round holes and this was the only, indeed the best, option.  We felt stuck in Victoria and with me in London, we are finally moving to towards our dream.

My life has never changed so much as it has in the last three weeks.  Spending time in Paris, even the whole summer, doesn't compare to the reality of leaving Chris, my family, my friends, my job, Countess and Sophie for a new life in London.  As I learned in Paris, living outside of your country and your comforts, requires a combination of energy, discipline and gratitude. 

You need energy to face new experiences.  Living with your eyes-half-open in a foreign country can lead to everything from being mowed down by a car to buying the wrong kind of yoghurt at Waitrose.  I have to constantly remind myself to stay engaged and to stay in the moment and that requires energy.  I have a new phone (mobile!) number, a new postal code and a new job with new responsibilities.  I still don't have a bank account.

You need discipline to push through situations when your energy gets low.  It's impossible not to have moments when I question "our dream" and those moments inevitably coincide with wanting to hole up in my flat with a giant Cadbury bar.  Discipline is what pushes me out the door to explore another neighbourhood or sit at a restaurant with a glass of wine and my journal.

Gratitude is the most important one.  As when I spent the summer in Paris, I vowed to be grateful for this experience.  I am living our dream and that is something I must always remember.  Gratitude is everywhere.  It is for this opportunity, my new colleagues, my beautiful flat and my family at home supporting me.  And most of all to Chris for encouraging me and believing in our dream.  I am grateful every morning I wake up in London.     

London is an easy city.  Everything is accessible and I could eat at a 100 different restaurants on my walk home each night.  I could also buy organic strawberries, shop at Marks & Spencer, order a Nespresso machine and purchase antique books for my shelves.  I could also drink a beer while walking.  If I get tired, there is always a Tube station nearby or double decker bus rolling past.  

I love how everyone eats here.  I don't feel guilty eating a Kit Kat at 10am and there always seems to be cake at the office.  

I love that men, even the the most rumpled men with marmalade stains on their suits, wear brightly coloured, wildly-patterned socks.  I love that women's style is eclectic, there seems to be no rules and no one seems that bothered.  While I still won't leave my flat in Lululemons, I have happily joined all the other women walking to work in their Converse and business clothes. 

I love how Londoners are fiercely proud of their city.  Standing in line last week at my local Marks & Spencer food hall, the woman in front of me wearing a Liberty of London patterned blouse said, "I love it here.  You are going to have to carry me out of Camden in a box."
London isn't Paris but I am falling more in love with this city every day.