One Hundred random things about London and Paris…

Grateful graduate project reasons 48-147

Paris and London make for great contexts in which to study.  Beyond  the computer screen, there are so many small things that have made my experience of pursuing studies here manageable – and an all round enjoyable experience.  I am immensely and continuously grateful to be here.

Here are just about 100 things (out of thousands more!) that make the experience of studying in these two cities an altogether rewarding experience:

1. Genuine received pronunciation and accents in London: In a world of fake British accents, it is refreshing to hear the ‘real deal’

2. The sound of Bog Ben live and in situ

3. The Thames in the early morning a calm and reassuring presence

4. Large bookshops in London – and particularly ‘Foyles’ close to Charring Cross

5. The acceptability of sweat pants and other very casual clothing in London as normal clothing right in the centre of the city. Love it! (I think I’ve seen people walking in onesies in the middle of the day in London)

6. Joggers as a sign of life and energy in London

7. The library of the LSE – it is open to the public and students not registered at the LSE

8. Self checkout  in supermarkets as commonplace in London – although this is a negative for job creation and labour practice, it is convenient, more widespread in London than in Paris

9. Supermarkets for all sizes of pockets in London – LIDL for the more austere graduate student pocket

10. Borough market for fabulous cheeses and fresh veggies

11. Tower Bridge and its imposing magnificence (bridge architecture that you will not see anywhere in Paris

12. Flawless Choral music live in several of London’s churches – Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s being especially fabulous.

13. Choral Evensong at St Paul’s cathedral – an experience without peers!

14. Covent garden and the smaller lanes in its vicinity

15. Green spaces in London – with special mention to Lincoln Green tennis courts and park space to picnic/Study

16. The abiding presence of protests and political activism in Central London – think Occupy London; and perpetual protests on a variety of issues (stimulating for political sciences and other students)

17. Bumping into barristers in penguin colour coded clothing – love the sight of it

18. Spotting police on horseback in  central London; much to the chagrin of rushed  drivers. Priceless time to witness that essential London disposition – frustration mixed with simmering resentment.

19. Underground escalator etiquette in London – much less neurotic than Paris (although Parisian neurosis has its advantages, too!)

20. Grappling with the French language, and the constant feeling of growth and expansion that comes from mastering a foreign language

21. Metro station music,in paris and the occasional orchestra right inside a metro corridor

22. The convivial ambience of the banks of the Seine on a midsummer’s night, there’s nothing quite like it

23. The sense of beauty, order and elegance and respect for presentability in Paris – no one does keeping up appearances quite like Paris

24. The inverse of jogging in London – I love the disdain for jogging in Parison some days –  it eases the guilt of not keeping up with fitness goals and reminds one to try being more relaxed (A very necessary thing for stressed out graduate students completely taken by their thesis work)

25. Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve- perfect studying spot in Paris

26. The Paris system of supermarkets as a much less socially stratified  one than London’s. As a poor student, you do not feel that out of place feeling of shopping at Marks and Spencer and other higher-end supermarkets that are designed to make you aware of your social standing

27. A special love for DIA/Ed supermarkets in Paris which you can find in almost all neighbourhoods, reasonably priced places for students to eat decently in Paris

28. Pont d’Alexandre and Pont des arts in Paris – and  small bridges over the Seine, it just makes for an essential part of an imagined Parisian experience

29. Gregorian Chant in Gothic cathedrals – and particularly Notre Dame in Paris, location is everything, it makes for a transcendent experience!

30. Taking an early morning jog along the Thames and watching the sun rise

31. The option to make withdrawals at the till at Marks and Spencers in London to save on time and get back to writing up research papers. This has not caught on in France

32. Long opening hours in London – and shops that open on Sunday, giving a bit more peace of mind to work on other stuff

33. Paris metro exit doors : apart from the RER, you often do not need to use your ticket to actually leave the metro. There is a lower feeling of being under surveillance and regulation in Paris than in London (arguably so)

34. London underground culture of reading – it is a silent and often studious environment, you can do reading, ipad surfing, watch movies – not quite the same with Paris’ metro

35. Fleet street and the ascent to St Paul’s cathedral : the view of the city before your eyes, bringing the ancient and modern into perspective

36. The Parisian skyline and its preservation – the cultural richness that surrounds you at any time of the day, in any part of the city

37. Impromptu music at ‘Bank’ underground station in London – often an accordionist playing French songs. Love walking down the corridor to ‘la vie en rose’ in London

38. London’s West end theatre district for weekend wind downs, live musicals – these are not too common in Paris

39. South bank arts and other artistic activities on that side of the Thames…

40. Turkish coffee at borough market – divinely made

41. Sunday markets across Paris, even if they do not involve purchasing anything, they are great Sunday morning hangouts

42. St. Paul’s cathedral’s  architecture

43. . Westminster abbey early in the morning, before the city awakes and tourists emerge – a great way to do this is to attend morning prayer

44. Gulls on the banks of the Thames, quite rare to find them around the Seine

45. The small lights around London eye that elegantly brighten the trees and create a sublime summer night ambience

46. A plaque around London eye and a quotation whose exact wording I can’t recall but it basically speaks to how there is much more to the world than meets the eye – one needs to be open to imagination

47. Fire fighter memorials in London as reminder of the city’s resilience

48. The ubiquity of Scaffolding  in London –  always a sign of progress, repair, continuity

49. The evening paper in London – although I never read it, it gives on a sense of time and place

50. Hampton court’s confident presence – a key site in the history of my own Anglican faith

51. London bridge and Thames walk in the early morning and the view of the urban landscape

52. London’s Signature red busses – inimitable and great component in giving a sense of place

53. Black London taxis that give a sense of timelessness, and place

54. A small cafe around black friars bridge that I discovered, seclusion in the midst of chaos. 55. Delaunay counter in Westminster, London– for a sense of grounding

56. Bookshops in  Paris’ quartier Latin – to make one feel intellectual when confronted with the limits of ones intelligence. One feels instantly more intelligent – regardless of the veracity of such a sentiment.

57. Gilbert stationers across Paris to meet stationery cravings

58. Montmartre for its reminder to live a little bit more

59. Crepes around Montparnasse during winter

60. La Procure for its range of philosophy and social science books and its explorations of Catholic spirituality and thought

61. Jardin Luxembourg as a breathing space at most times of the year

62. Mont Ste. Genevieve as a central point of history and liveliness, its proximity to universities

63. Maison Eugene Delacroix for the artwork and the insight it provides into the city’s history

64. Paris university publications close to Maison de la recherche – insightful scholarly research

65. Sciences Po bookshop on Rue St Guillaume – fantastic place to find French and English scholarly work

66. Chapelle de la medaiile miraculeuse – breathing space to take five, offer up a few hail Mary’s 🙂

67. KFC place d’italie, the best place to secretly indulge in American food in cognito and get tacky, let loose, have hot wings

68. Small art house cinemas around the Sorbonne – great area to catch classic films and those not on the mainstream circuit

69. “Le Notre” hot chocolate at its Champs Elysées café

70. “Le Notre”, Bastille for its divine, healing, pastries

71. “Berko” around Rambuteau for comfort cupcakes after upsetting days

72. “Lili’s” around Rue St Guillaume for divine cheesecake

73. Cafes around/ opposite Port Royale for people watching, judging complete strangers, catching stunning observations of the city

74. Line 14 of the metro.. Always a quick way to connect to other lines and cut down time to make it to appointments

75. “Comedie Francais” shop opposite the Senat for great little gifts and souvenirs to pass on to Paris admirers and aspiring Francophiles

76. Pont des Arts and the banks of the Seine in late winter/ early Spring – ideal spot to catch the return of the sun

77. St. George’s Anglican parish in the 16th arr.  for those Sundays when you need to connect with your inner Englishness. Solemn masses with incense – the complete works

78. The omnipresence of Boulangeries – you appreciate these without them in London

79. Café ‘Malongo’ on Rue des Arts in Paris – fantastic refuge, great café to work, re-centre the mind

80. Paris and the opportunity to expand ones horizons and explore francophone literature, cinema, art in greater detail

81. French opera becoming more accessible!

82. Access to ballet at Opera Garnier!

83. Affordable (good) wine in Paris – relative to London, it is much, much cheaper. Wine is a very important ingredient to student life

84. London’s great selection of fish (this is simply not present in Paris on the same scale)

85. Marks and Spencers department stores – department stores have not really caught on in Paris, the closest might be Monoprix, and others, but they are not as present in Paris

86. That disturbing structure, Centre George’s Pompidou, an abstract piece of contemporary art that breaks monotony while inviting an energising ambience right in the heart of Paris

87. “Librarie Gagliani”, the oldest English book publisher in Paris – great place to pick up a range of French and English books in one go

88. Second floor of Shakespeare and company… The comfort of books and the atmosphere is un-paralleled in either London or Paris.

89. Jardin de Tuileries in the autumn

90. Paris winter/Christmas markets that pop up right about the busiest time of the academic year to remind you to live beyond the desk

91. Parisian wintertime lighting, takes the blues away quite unlike any other place

92. Magical Christmas time around London, even with mountains of work there’s a lot to find comfort in  – including the broad range of holiday activity around the city

93. Christmas carols by candlelight across London – and the Westminster Abbey carol service : What a great way to ‘refuel’ and keep on pressing with PhD work

94. London porridge sold in cafés on cold winter mornings – you won’t find this in Paris!

95. The river Marne as an ideal place for promenade around the Paris area

96. Bois de Vincennes as the most ideal place for jogging, long walking trails away from the judgmental eyes of the lovely Parisians

97. Secret passageways, courtyards and piazzas in both Paris and London 98. ‘Ikea’ at Thiais, just out of Paris – takes a metro and a bus ride on the RATP.A healing Space to pick up adorable furniture for student pads

99. ‘Le mots à la bouche ‘- LGBT friendly book store to satisfy any intellectual curiosity: great place to explore radical and other critical views on gender and sexuality

100. The Proximity of Paris to major European cities and its location as a central hub to the rest of France – it’s a great base to explore France and Europe!

This post is part of a project to collect 365 reasons to be grateful for the experience of studying in Paris and London over the course of 2013.