Londres par train, la troisième fois

When we decided to move back to Austria we also booked another train ticket to London, just because it’s still really awesome to be able to take a train to London and go to London city center in two and a half hours.

We were on the train with the loudest British person I’ve ever heard. She spent the entire time talking to her seat mate about the most asinine topics ever. I realise that most of my conversations aren’t that interesting either, but at least I don’t have a voice that carries like hers did. I heard everything about how Australians call contactless payment paywave and not contactless, which is way more logical (except it’s not actually contactless, it’s without PIN but you touch the terminal with your card).

My brother in law had invited us to an English garden party. I started joking about bringing typically French things, like cheese and wine from France. That turned serious soon and we ended up taking a kilo of brie and a 5 litre box of rosé on the train to London. Mostly because I really wanted to buy the big one kilo wheel of brie once in my life while avoiding having a one kilo wheel of brie in my fridge for an extended period of time.

We stayed in a hotel on brick lane again, because we are bobos. A friend told me, that I’m not a bobo, but I enjoy the bobo lifestyle. Well, we had breakfast at a vegan café that offers a free community space for things like yoga and meditation. It also has a big blackboard that records the coffees that have been paid forward. So yeah, bobos, I think.

We visited all the same markets and food stalls again. I even recognised some of the street art I had photographed before in the area. In view of the upcoming move I managed to avoid buying too many things. Well, I bought small Frida Kahlo bags and paracetamol. The paracetamol I only bought because it’s so incredibly cheap in the UK and you can get it at any decent supermarket. That probably explains why France has twice the number of pharmacies per capita – they have a pharmacy monopoly even for over the counter medicine.

On Saturday, we took our cheese and wine to A’s small back garden and enjoyed a lovely English summer day. We even fired up the barbecue and I learned that there is diet tonic for a calorie reduced version of gin and tonic. We had skewers and vegan burgers and tabouleh and homemade raspberry tarte. It was a great way to spend an afternoon and evening in London. I include the little dairy product rant by A’s French friend in this review. 

On Sunday we had another bobo breakfast (eggs benedict!) and then we went to Selfridges. I wanted to buy period panties, because I’d heard of them and didn’t want to order them online – there’s simply too much choice. I had heard of them on the Guilty Feminist, a podcast I have been listening to for the last 6 months while walking to work. It’s a podcast about feminism by a comedian who invites other female comedians on to talk about all kinds of topics. I’ve laughed out loud on my way to work more than once. Deborah Frances White, who created the podcast and hosts it, likes to say “unexplained laughter disrupts the patriarchy” when people write in to say how they laughed out loud on the bus.

We checked out the food and drink selection of Selfridges as well and I went full bobo and bought avocado crisps (they were very hard and didn’t taste of avocado. I’d have been surprised if they had, to be honest.). I resisted a whole lot of other things, though. Gergö went from “no, we’ll buy beer to bring back to France later, at a supermarket”, to “wait here while I get a basket for my selection of fancy ales.” in under two minutes. I think it’s the puns that convinced us. One of the brands was called Yeasty Boys, how could you resist?

For Sunday night Gergö had tickets to see Paul Simon on his goodbye tour. The concert was in Hyde Park. I had a ticket for the recording of the Guilty Feminist at the open air theatre in Regent’s park.

It was awesome. There was an all-female a-capella group from Oxford, the Oxford Belles singing a medley of feminist songs. Because it was shortly after pride Deborah had invited LGBTQ+ people as guests. There were two people from Uganda and Tanzania who introduced their organisation to support LGBTQ+ refugees from countries where homosexuality is illegal. And there were two Brits talking about how their queer spaces had been sold to property developers to be turned into luxury flats.

The Reverend Kate Harford who is an ordained chaplain of the Metropolitan Community Churches – an explicitly LGBT+ affirming church, led a litany for queer spaces. So I actually prayed with a large group of people. Grace Petrie, a folk singer/songwriter, sang her song “black tie” after taking a stand against transphobia. There had been a take over staged by trans-exclusive radical feminists of the pride parade. They claim trans women are not women. Grace used the opportunity to say that these few activists who claim to act on behalf of lesbian women don’t speak for her. There were standing ovations for her, because that’s the kind of community it is. I already don’t get why anybody gets worked up about somebody else’s gender expression, but TERFs make me really angry because they must have experienced misogyny and homophobia themselves and yet turn those same dumb arguments against people. 

For the grand finale all guests got up on stage to sing “I will survive” together with a drag queen that had been a regular performer at one of the queer pubs. 

I love the podcast and how it introduces me to so many interesting topics and so many great comedians and artists. I love that it’s so inclusive and how it talks about a whole lot of uncomfortable topics with a lot of humour and self-deprecation. And there are not a lot of people in my life who share my interest in this topic. It was very refreshing being in a space with so many feminists in one place.

And I really, really didn’t mind missing out on the football championship finale. After France won the semi-finals there was honking and cheering until long after midnight. I don’t even want to know what it was like on the champs elysees on that day. People flock there to celebrate AND it was the day after bastille day. Still, French football patriotism seemed very different from the German counterpart. When Germany won the last championship we were on a houseboat in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and there were German flags everywhere – on houses and cars. In Paris I saw one single car with a French flag. There are flags hanging from windows, but fewer than I saw in Berlin when Germany were in the finals.

Our train back from London was on Monday afternoon, so we decided to go visit the Victoria and Albert museum Monday morning. There was a Frida Kahlo exhibition on. But when we tried to buy tickets at the museum all slots for the day had already been booked. I hadn’t even realised that museums can sell out. 

So instead we took a walk along the Thames, all the way to the Borough market. We had pies, because English, but also because the queue for the Thai food was really long. I also had goat milk ice cream, because it exists and must be tried. It tasted just like ice cream which is great, because I like ice cream and it was hot.

All during our stay the London underground had warnings posted to drink enough water and to talk to an attendant if you feel unwell and I thought that pretty ridiculous – It was 28 or 29 degrees and I believe nobody has ever felt well on the London underground.

Back in Paris the temperatures started climb as well. On Thursday it got up to 32 degrees in Paris. When we boarded the metro to go to gare de Lyon there were announcements in three languages to stay hydrated and in the German version I also heard something like “befeuchten Sie Ihren Körper” which I found really weird because we humans have a mechanism for that: it’s called sweat. For Lyon the preview was up to 35 degrees and I was fully prepared to spend the day at the shopping mall if it gets too much. I’m not built for this kind of heat and I’d rather miss out on Lyon than torture Gergö with my foul mood. (Spoiler alert: We went to a lake instead, it was awesome.)

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