London is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and since the early 19th century has attracted people from across the planet, many of whom have migrated and settled in the city. As a consequence you will find this reflected in the arts, culture, music and cuisine that this captivating city has to offer.
If you have a penchant for most things French you will be pleasantly surprised to find a very strong Gallic influence in many key areas of London. This is as a result of a sizeable number having settled here in the post-war period and later a large number of French expats living and working in the city. The number of French expats is more than 300,000 in the UK as per the French Consulate, with most of them being concentrated in the capital.
So if you want to experience the French influence in Britain, London is the city to spend a holiday in. The very first thing is to make your hotel reservations well in advance as London has droves of tourists arriving all through the year. Preferably choose a location close to the city centre like the Paddington Suites in London. They are great to stay in terms of location as well as price.
And one of the top hotels in the area is the Park Grand London Paddington known for its premium facilities and wonderful service levels, while being gentle on the wallet. Once you have settled in and want to set out on a Gallic tour of the city check out the following places….
South Kensington is one of the most popular spots for wealthy and upwardly mobile French expats to stay in the city. One such example is the French Supermodel Laetitia Casta, who decided to shift base to London, specifically South Kensington. The area could be described as being the cultural epicentre of all things French in the city. It is also fondly referred to as Little France, and has a sizeable number of French Monsieurs and Mademoiselles staying in the area. Then of course there is The French Embassy in Knightsbridge, which has been in the area since 1853. Here you will also find the France’s cultural representative the L’Institut Français that is a must for all Francophiles to visit. From learning about French cuisine, joining a wine tasting session to watching a French movie you can accomplish it all here! The Institut plays a key role in the dissemination of French arts and culture all over Britain. There are two great French bookstores in South Kensington, the French Bookshop and Au Fil Des Mots both to be found on Bute Street. They have a fine collection of French magazines, periodicals and books etc. To sample some great French bourgeouis cuisine, drop in at Racine on Brompton Road. The establishment has a very classy French ambience with excellent French food and wine. Then there is the Lycee Francais Charles De Gaulle on Cromwell Road, often referred to as the French Lycee, which is a school run and owned by the French government.
To enjoy a few Gallic temptations in Westbourne hop along to The Ledbury restaurant on Ledbury Road, that offers superb modern French cuisine complemented by an excellent wine list. For French attire visit Aime at 32 Ledbury Road that offers simple yet elegant Parisian couture.another great option to shop for clothes is Agnes b located at Sloane Square that specialises in Left Bank chic. For a fantastic collection of perfumes, scented candles and soaps look no further than L’Artisan Parfumeur on Cale Street. Be ready to part of course with a small fortune!
While moving towards the West End, it is recommended to make a detour to see the famous Wallace Collection at Manchester Square. When the French Revolution began hundreds of the nobility and aristocracy fled with priceless art and artefacts from France. The Wallace Collection houses many of the invaluable pieces which include amazing porcelain sets, gold boxes, furniture and an exceptional repository of eighteenth-century French paintings etc. Once done how about enjoying one of those French delicacies, its famous Cheese at the famous La Fromagerie on Moxon Street. There are more than a 100 of the finest varieties of cheese to choose from with a tasting room and a cafe. For someone who is not averse to things ghoulish a visit to Kensal Green Cemetery on Harrow Road is recommended. Here you will find famous French men and women interred here of the likes of Louis de la Bourdonnais, Pierre Ginnett and Alexis Soyer among other well known personalities.
Carlton Gardens is an area which has a historic connection with the Free French Resistance that’s members lived in London during the Second World War. Earlier in 1904, the Entente Cordiale was signed close by at Whitehall. Thene there was General Charles De Gaulle who stayed in the area while directing the actions of the Free French, with a plaque and statue dedicated to the events in that tumultuous period. Also nearby is one of the oldest blue plaques on King Street that was installed in 175 to honour the memory of Napoleon III. He had fled to London after a failed coup attempt. And to go back to far earlier times pay a visit to Westminster Abbey the venue where William the Conqueror was crowned King of England in 1066. He had passed a royal decree that declared French was to be the official language of the Royal Court. Centuries later it is highly unlikely that the Bard William Shakespeare would have been too pleased with that announcement!
These are just a few parts of London that carry a strong French influence and presence with a lot of it being historic in nature. After all the French have always had a strong historic link with Britain, whether as rivals or allies through the course of history!