A few observations from Across the Pond:
Our neighborhood in South Kensington has a lot of schools. There’s the Ecole Charles de Gaulle a few streets over (surrounded by French bookstores), with the Imperial College of London just a stone’s throw from that. And I’ve walked by a lot of smaller language schools and even an art school on Queen’s Way. So we have a lot of students, and the neighborhood is quite relaxed, with lots of coffee shops where the students congregate — and smoke like chimneys! (Do American students smoke that much?) Our building is run by an outfit called FIE, which rents flats to various university programs. We have at least four schools represented in our building, including Boston University, and several others are supposed to show up next week.
This is first time I’ve been to London when I’ve actually felt like I LIVED in London. I’m still trying to do my job, with help from my well-flogged slaves highly trained interns back in the office, so I spend about four hours a day on the Web. We’ve been to plays and museums, including a really interesting trip to Temple, which is the heart of London’s legal world and has some great Knights Templar history surrounding it. I’ve been buying groceries at Waitrose and Tesco, with my little recyclable shopping bag, and I’ve been reading and trying to find something interesting to watch on the telly. (No cable, just public channels, and Four and Five run a LOT of American television series.)
Food is fun here, with lots of ready-to-eat ethnic choices in the supermarkets. The scope of the British Empire can best be seen in its cuisine, which outside of fish-and-chips, clotted cream and the occasional Yorkshire pudding, is pretty global: chicken tikka, moussaka, samoyas, hummus, cous-cous and pita. Today for lunch we had onion bhirgy, sort of a knish. Delish. The deli counter at the local Waitrose is a thing of beauty, with its assortment of REAL cheeses, meats, salads and prepared meals. Although the dollar has made a few gains in the past week or so, we’re not eating out much because of the cost, and I’m not missing it.
I am relieved to report that there is no super-sizing in London, at least that I can see. No Big Gulp mentality here. (My sons think the definition of a great restaurant is all-you-can-drink refills.) It’s definitely made a difference in my consumption. Smaller portions and all the walking you normally do in the city has helped me lose probably ten pounds, so I’m going to have to rethink my American lifestyle.
The Brits are definitely more green-conscious than we are. Nearly all the washing machine soaps at Waitrose were rated “bio,” and there’s a real push for recycling even in our little building.
There’s a bank holiday next weekend, and the students will be gone, so we’re planning a trip southwest to Cornwall, which is supposed to be very beautiful and pastoral. This weekend we’ll go to the National Theatre for a production of “Fram” and I aim to stroll over to the V&A Museum for a few hours.