Tag: London

Right time to be an American expat in London

On this side of the pond, everyone is talking about Usain Bolt, who won the 100 meters race last night in 9.63 seconds, and Jessica Ennis, the heptathlon champion;Mo Farah, winner of the 10,000 meter race; Andy Murray, the gold medallist of men’s tennis, etc. On the other side of the pond, I expect the nattering is well underway about Usain also, even if NBC didn’t show it live (excuse me!). His name has to be right up there with Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas, and Sanya Richards-Ross.

Yes, now is the time to be a citizen of the world and ever so right to be an American expat in London. Lucky me!  I am beaming with pride. To have both my birth country and my adopted country in the top three slots of the medals table is more than any expat could expect. China is first, the US second and GB third. And to live in the great city where it is all unfolding is the icing on the cake.

I didn’t think it could get any better than the athletics of Saturday night (Jessica Ennis and Mo Farrah firing up the stadium for team GB) until I saw Sanya Richards-Ross take her Olympic 400 meters gold in Chanel earrings. Now I know, I was not supposed to be focusing on style when this 27-year-old woman was making history, winning her gold in 49.55 seconds to give the U.S. its first track and field gold of the 2012 Olympics. But I couldn’t help myself.

May the team get more! But in the meantime, I have to give Mrs Richards-Ross her props. The athletes all have their own style, some with colourful beards and others with tattoos covering their muscled arms, but Sanya, if you ask me, is a cut above the rest in the style department–jewelry, nails, make-up, hair, etc…

Enough said but since I’m on the subject of style, I’m going to have my say about Gabby Douglas. The girl’s pulled back hairstyle is fine people, nothing wrong with it. And anyhow, as Gabby has so much as said, what’s hair got to do with it? This 16-year-old has won two gold medals in three days for goodness sake.

Were it not for her, team USA would be lagging behind China big time. It’s enough that they are three gold medals ahead of us as of this posting. Let’s stay focused here.

Tomorrow, Paul and I are back at Olympic Park for our final event and looking forward to being there and getting there. Last time around we discovered the Javelin, a high-speed train, from King’s Cross.

One Olympic volunteer described it as being faster than Usain Bolt. Maybe…okay so it is but it is a machine you know. But one thing for sure is that when this London Olympics is all said and done, we’re likely to stop talking about the Javelin. For years to come, however, the world will go on and on about Usain Bolt.

Go Jamaica and Happy 50th Independence Day. As I said, now is the time to be a citizen of the world! And to be an American expat in London is just right.

Fast Track: London to Paris or vice versa

Whether the city of lights has more character than the big smoke is debatable if you ask me. While the former has an unmistakable youthful buzz that seduces anyone who comes near it, the latter has an indisputable sophistication yet a mellow politeness that draws its visitors back time and again.

Ask anyone for directions in London and you will soon be on your merry way. Not in Paris. You’ll be spinning around in circles until you figure it out yourself. Better take along a compass and a translator for that matter. And forget securing a taxi, but even if you do, be prepared to feel unwanted the entire ride.

Still, if you ask my godson, he’ll tell you there is no contest. Paris has it! While I don’t agree, even I have to admit that Paris is everything youthful, even its older attractions, the Sacré-Cœur and Notre Dame, for instance, still seem to be in their prime.

No wonder so many writers, particularly American ones, have flocked there. Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Wright, Ezra Pound and James Baldwin all spent extensive time there. Wright even gained French citizenship and moved his family there permanently.

In Michel Fabre’s book From Harlem to Paris, Wright is quoted as saying, “Can you imagine what this means to me? I never knew a city could be so beautiful.”

So it is. Paris is a beauty. And no matter how many times I go there, I too am lured to the left bank where Wright and others lived and worked. And repeatedly, as I looked around Paris, wherever I was, I saw a grand building or monument and was reminded of the words that my husband’s childhood French friend coined when he was a first time tourist in London.

Of St. Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, even the Tower of London, he said, “we have this in Paris but only bigger.”

He has a point. Even the gardens (jardins as they call them) are sprawling.You don’t have to go to Versailles for this. We found a vast, beautifully manicured landscape on the left bank. But still the debate goes on. London’s Hyde Park is not to be sneezed at.

Lots of differences between the two places, no doubt, but there is one particular that connects them from centre to centre–Eurostar, the high speed passenger train.

Arguably, it is the best mode of transport operating between the two. From St Pancras to Gare du Nord, it takes two hours and twenty minutes flat. This is better than flying by a long shot even if you are averse to the tunnel under the English Channel. This part of the journey only last for 30 minutes.

Well worth shutting your eyes and forgetting where you are for it is the tunnel that enables travellers to strip out the hassle that comes with air travel and cut back on the expense and time it takes to reach city center from an airport.

At your point of origination, you go through immigrations, passport control, and security and wait briefly in the Eurostar lounge–London definitely the better of the two. At your destination, you stroll pass a few officials without further delay.

But first you do need to board the train and take the journey. Now you get what you paid for: a reserved seat, comfy enough, even in coach. But don’t expect excess on Eurostar. It’s all basic, particularly the food, unless you bring your own.

Anyhow, who needs food when you’re on the fast track? Best to save your appetite for city center—London or Paris. You choose or do both.