When your foreign eyes trace the heights of the city


I can't remember where but once I read that whenever Lord Byron travelled to hotels in foreign countries, he used to write the word "English" next to his name because he felt a sense of attachment and cultural identity that he never had when he was actually in England. It's something I can relate to. Ever since I was a teenager, I thought of nothing else but moving to another country, immersing myself in another culture, becoming a different person yet sometimes I wonder whether that will ever be possible. At times there's part of me that feels I shouldn't be living this somewhat bohemian existance without a steady, well paid job and a house with a garden. These are moments of crisis when I should have achieved more, when I'm unsure of the direction my life is taking. Before my trip to London, I wondered whether it's a place I would click with if I moved there, somewhere I could achieve all of those things. Life could be simpler if only I liked living in my own country.

Yet every time I go there, it's a little like standing too close to a wonderful painting, where I can see the beautiful details without ever getting a good overview. There was the day of my arrival when the streets were still deserted from the Easter holiday. A shop sign creaked in the wind and a child watched helplessly as her gold and purple Easter crown blew into the middle of the road. Later that evening, I walked around some of the local parks, admiring the colours of the flowers, following in the footsteps of Virigina Woolf.

Covent Garden

A stunning wedding cake in one of the shops around Covent Garden which made me think of Ry's incredible creations.

There was the visit to the Royal Academy, fighting through the crowds to get a glimpse of Van Gogh's letters then stopping by at Minamoto Kitchoan for exquisite mochi and pastries with green tea wrapped up in perfect tiny parcels.

Some of the shop windows at Fortnum and Maison - just imagine how easy cake making would be with a mixer this size!

Now that's what I call a large capuccino.

Walking past the British Museum, I thought with regret about the wonderful secondhand bookshop which no longer exists where a woman once asked one of the sellers if he thought a particular book would be heavy whereupon he placed it on some scales before she explained she was actually referring to the subject! Luckily, there's still the London Review bookshop where I picked up Manservant and Maidservant by Ivy Compton-Burnett, Black Snow by Bulgakov and a biography of Keats by Andrew Motion which inspired one of my favourite films, Bright Star.

The great court at the British museum

Chocolate rum truffle cake

No visit to London would be complete without a trip to the London Review Bookshop

Outside Tate Modern

Taking a break
There was the sweet smell of the narcissi in the golden light of the most perfect day which seemed more like summer than spring and later walking back through Covent Garden, a guitar was playing.

The narcissi in the evening sun

On the southbank

In Green Park

A lemon drizzle muffin

Some snappy men's fashions

There were also trips to the cinema to see Lourdes, a film I never expected to like but which made me see that there isn't just one way to live, that everything is meaningful, The Father of my Children with its heartbreaking honesty and the sensual melodrama of I am Love which made me long to visit Milan in the snow and taste the flavours of Italy.

One last treat - cake and hot chocolate at Patisserie Valérie

Yesterday there was the regret of having to leave on the most beautiful day. Standing in the garden in the morning sun with the glistening dew at my feet, I wished the world could stop spinning for just a few minutes to let me reflect. But then just before landing, there was the exhileration of seeing Berlin once more from the air and picking out the tiny landmarks. The city smelled of tarmac washed clean by the rain and damp earth. Those buds which remained so stubbornly closed have opened in my absence making way for fresh delicate leaves. I realised it's not the place that will make things happen but only myself. I'm glad it feels good to be back.


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