And I thought New York City was very French. Nothing compared with London! On a recent trip to the Old Smoke, I came to realize that London has truly become an extension of Paris of its own.
There I was minding my own business in Covent Garden when I felt myself surrounded by the French – hordes of them! From tourists, business men, school trips and the French locals, London has a new face. I was trying to remember if it was so obvious last time I was there in 1999 and I don’t think it was as noticeable back then. Without wanting to make sweeping statements, I am pretty sure I heard speaking French every 5 minutes in London while walking, taking the bus, shopping, or eating somewhere. It was that unusual. You can now travel between both cities in two hours and fifteen minutes! I used to remember when it took 3 hours. No wonder the French are invading London!
So there are now 300,000 French people living in London. This means that London has a bigger French population than the French city of Lille! Incroyable, non? In other words, London is now the 7th biggest French city. Well, now it makes me wonder… since the French represent 4% of the London population – without counting the tourists – is it safe to say that the Eurostar train linking both cities is really Paris’s 15th subway line (there are currently only 14)? As of last year, the U.K. is the first top destination for French expats to move to within Europe and it is ranked as the 5th top destination in the world behind China, Japan, Canada and the U.S. Looks like the French Government is asking itself some serious questions:
I wonder if the Government focuses on the same issues in regards to the U.K.?
With the French flair floating around in London along with a certain je ne sais quoi, is it after all the best of both worlds? Meaning, living in an anglophone city while still having multiple access to the French world? From bakeries, flower shops, bookstores, boucherie-charcuteries, cafés etc. London has it all. Big U.S. cities can pride themselves in having lots of culturally diverse attractions and neighborhoods but it can’t quite compare to London – at least when it comes to the French heritage and culture. And isn’t it the same basic old question… New York or London? And who’s having more fun? All bets are on!
With big risks to get my fingers slapped by my dearest British friends and family, I almost – almost! – want to officially name London as Paris’s 21st arrondissement (Paris only has 20 separate districts) – so close yet so far away.