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Although I love London, I am still struggling with London’s major airport, Heathrow.
I was picking up a friend from there today, and despite the amount of money (c.£4.2 Bn) spent on Terminal 5, and the fact that no less than two rivers had to be diverted to build it, something doesn’t quite work.

For starters, it takes more than an hour to get there on the Piccadilly line from Central London and of course there is no mobile reception in the tunnels, which I find a bit annoying. This basically leaves you with two expensive options if you are short of time: Heathrow Express or cabs.


Once you have finally made it to the terminal, you need to find the right gate. The building is so huge that it is easier said than done. There is no-one to help you, and the signs are very misleading: call me stupid, but I ended up in the departure hall when I was looking for the international arrivals. This is because the arrow was going up and on the left. So I took the escalator on my left hand side. Fatal mistake. After 4 more escalators and not a single sign in sight -and no possibility to go back down again- I ended up in the departure hall. The escalators to go down were at the other end of the building. I didn’t really enjoy the visit!
At this point, I started to worry that I might miss my friend. There was no need to. His plane had landed, but they couldn’t find any available disembarking gate. They turned around the airport half an hour and then were finally allocated a gate, but it was a 15-min bus ride away and the buses were late too. Of course.
That said, we were lucky: there was no queue that day at the passport control and my friend had no luggage. In short, it could have been worse. Much worse. Apparently, it sometimes takes more than 3 hours to get through passport control.
And, if you must know, Heathrow usually closes when it snows. Even just a little bit. Actually, even if it threatens to snow. I wonder how they keep the airports open all winter in Canada or Finland. They must know something we don’t.
As I had to wait for the best part of an hour, I started to look around. On the live information panels, I read that the average time between the landing and the arrival at the gate was 20 minutes without luggage. What a load of rubbish! I am wondering whether they use drones to improve the statistics. Or maybe test missiles. You have got to love this country when people have this amazing capacity to make a massive mess look like a model of organisation. Maybe if you keep repeating such false statements, people start believing it in the end? How can you have a 3-hour queue at passport control and a 20-min time between the landing and the arrival at the terminal? Whoever wrote this needs to re-sit his statistics exams.
When I talk about Heathrow, people are quick to snap back and tell me that Roissy Charles De Gaulle airport (Paris main airport) is probably worse.
To be honest, I think that it is similar. What is true is that the new Heathrow T5 terminal is nice and spacious and an architectural success. And the roof hasn’t collapsed as it did in Roissy a few years ago (See here if you don’t believe me). Maybe, after all, they have a point.
Well, on a more positive note, here is an oldie but goodie…Enjoy without moderation:
Have a great week!

Muriel -@FrenchYumMummy

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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As a mum, you have to be a driver, a personal trainer, a tutor, a cook, a cleaner, a therapist, a friend, a bad guy …but also a personal assistant. Honestly, my daughters’ social life is sometimes hard to follow. I simply can’t keep up –and I must admit that I might be a bit jealous too… Today, I realised that I had completely forgotten to buy a present for yet another birthday party and had to rush to Peter Jones (one of the leading stores in London) to find one. Nightmare. It was going to take me at least one hour. I wasn’t going to be able to go to the gym as planned during my lunch break because I had so much to do and couldn’t afford to have two long breaks during the day. Such a shame: I really stuffed my face all weekend. I will have to keep my fat this time.


Before Pimlico even existed…(1827)


I therefore decided to walk from Pimlico to Sloane Square, thinking that the exercise would do me some good in the absence of a much-needed workout. I was walking while it wasn’t raining, and it felt nice to wander through the Pimlico streets.  Pimlico is often referred as “the Pimlico grid”. This is because Pimlico streets are straight and very disciplined. No fancy turns. They cross each other at a similar distance and it is all about ensuring that the houses follow the same style and the view isn’t obstructed. That said, I especially enjoyed the variety of the colours of the entrance doors: some were bright red, or grey, or blue. And somehow, it all felt quite relaxed.
Everything changed when I entered Belgravia, one of the poshest parts of London. All entrance doors were the same dark grey, no more fancy colours. The houses around Sloane Square were all bright white. I saw a couple of delivery guys knocking on the grey doors, only to the greeted by the lady of the house tightly wrapped in a fluffy white towel. I was feeling slightly jealous: they had had time for a workout and a shower in the middle of the morning. They were very skinny and very blonde. And here I was, rushing to buy a small toy for a child.
And then, I saw something that stuck to my mind. This delivery guy knocked at the door of another stucco-fronted house. A lovely blonde wrapped in an even lovelier towel opened the door, took the guy’s hand, and led him inside the house. She tightly closed the dark grey door.
I couldn’t believe my eyes. Well, the doors may be grey around Sloane Square, but what is happening behind them seems to be a lot more colourful.
Delivery services in London can vary. Some, apparently, go the extra mile!
Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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What do you do when all days feel the same because you can’t get out of the house without being washed out by a wall of rain?
Well, you stay at home, you read, you bake and basically you have to invest in a huge umbrella that doesn’t break as soon as the wind blows.
I am coming from a sunny country, close to the sea, and here I am, stuck indoors, bewildered and waiting for a ray of sunshine. To anyone contemplating moving to London, I would say: beware! You need to be used to the rain over here.
Mind you, the British are not afraid of the rain at all. They are actually a perfect example of a successful adaptation to the crappy weather. At my daughter’s school, they have this wonderful expression: “all-weather sports”. Don’t fool yourself, it sounds nice and anodyne, but it means that your precious little darling will play lacrosse or other sports even if it is pouring, or snowing, or freezing. In France, you would sue the school for less than this. My mother wasn’t letting me out of the house without a hat during winter, and I had at least three layers on me during springtime… Last week, in France, my grandfather was giving a hard time to my dad because he didn’t have a hat on…some things never change.
But look at my daughters: I have to fight every morning for the younger one to make sure that she gets her rain proofed coat on, and I am lucky if she doesn’t forget to put her jumper on. As for a scarf or a hat, well, I had to get used to the fact that she is not going to wear any. We keep losing them anyway.  The older one likes to show off her toned legs with fancy tights and short skirts, whatever the weather. A scarf is only a fashion accessory, and the one she took this morning had skulls drawn on it. I am really out of touch. Sigh.
Where did I go wrong? Why did I have to listen to my mum and keep warm at all cost when my darling daughters are not afraid of playing half-naked in the rain? I have shouted, threatened, punished, explained that they will get a cold but nothing has worked so far. To add insult to injury, they are rarely sick, and have pointed out several times that they are fine, thank you very much for your concern Mum.
I have come to the conclusion that it is a cultural thing. It is part of the British education to be used to the cold, the rain, the wind and any adverse weather in general.
While I am writing the sun has started to shine. Finally. And guess what: my little one has just told me that she is too warm now. Some things never change.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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There is a buzz in London: The Scream, one of Edvard Munch’s paintings, is on display in London, before being auctioned in New York, where it will be sold for an amount that defies the understanding. Apparently, you can see it at Sotheby’s, on Bond street. Given that we are talking about an iconic piece of work, security must be extremely tight. But somehow I am glad that this painting is in London for a short while.
For some reason I like The Scream. I can’t put my finger on exactly why. I like the colours, they are a bit like water and fire, and they seem to penetrate each other at every possible opportunity. Apart from the bridge and the perambulating couple, everything is complicated and curvy. And what is this person so scared of? Is it something he/she sees? Is it something inside him/her? This is not a happy story. This is about mental suffering and it should be glum but somehow the colours remain bright and full of life. There is great beauty exuding from this painting, despite its sadness.
Art is completely at home in London. In a way that I had never seen before. Most museums are completely free, you only pay for special exhibitions. This means that you can stay in any London museum as long as you want. Or you can just come for 5 minutes and then go. I like it, because I believe that beauty purifies the soul (I know, I am in an inspired mood today).
As I don’t really have a formal office, I feel like museums are an extension of my house. I pop to the Tate Britain all the time, it is my way to take a break and it is not very far from where I live. I have never had this relationship with museums outside of London. I have discovered fantastic artists such as Turner and Gainsborough simply on my doorstep. So tell me, what’s not to love about London?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Surprise, surprise: I am not invisible this side of the channel. Let me explain: I am on the train, travelling to France and trying to catch up with my writing. Travelling on a train is always a pleasure, despite the fact that it takes a much longer time. Somehow, I like being on my own, relaxing, reading and writing.

I arrived in Paris this morning, after an uneventful journey on the Eurostar (don’t get me wrong, uneventful is good). In order to reach my destination, I had to take the tube to Gare de Lyon and catch another train to reach the South of France.

The platform was pretty crowded and these two guys were standing right in the middle of it. One of them looked at me, from my head to my feet and then back up again. I spent so much time studying and working with men that the meaning of this look dawned on me immediately: he fancies me. Two seconds later, the guy tried to offer me a cup of coffee. Of course, I politely declined and went further along the platform. I couldn’t believe it. I certainly wasn’t the youngest one. He was in his mid/late twenties. For God’s sake, I am almost 40 and a mother-of-two.

I dismissed the incident as a one-off and eventually reached Gare de Lyon. Once again, I was walking on the platform with other passengers to board my train (a new TGV -very, very nice and shiny) when I realised that the man next to me, who was in uniform, was the driver of the train. He started talking to me, wishing me a nice journey and offering me -again- a coffee on board, where he introduced me to the ticket controllers -I accepted the coffee this time. This one is a trickier one: I love trains, I am a Railway Engineer and I asked lots of questions about the new functionalities of the Rolling Stock, which is probably part of the reason why they were so friendly. But I can’t help thinking that he didn’t know this when he started talking to me. And I can’t deny the fact that I have been offered a free coffee twice this morning. By younger men each time.

This got me thinking: maybe growing older, for a woman, is not that big a deal in France? Unlike in London, I certainly didn’t feel invisible this morning. And it felt good. I was freaking out about turning 40 later this year but right now I feel great. Maybe it is something about Frenchmen? They are not afraid of, let’s say, more mature women. Or maybe I just look good, no matter what my age is (If only!). The good news is that I don’t seem to need Botox (just yet) and my lumps and bumps don’t seem to bother anyone. Quite the opposite in fact, so why go on a diet?

As I am seeing my banker for my business this week, I might ask for a bigger loan and a lower interest rate. Let’s see whether my charm does his magic on him.

What do you think? Is it a cultural thing ? Do French appreciate mature women more?

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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According to my friends, it is something to do with my astrological sign. I am not too sure. It might be a cultural gap. Something to do with my very French education. So, here it is: I  am very blunt and I like to call a spade a spade ( by the way the French translation would be to call a cat a cat). This means that, from time to time, I upset someone. And usually I end up regretting it. What is wrong with me?
To make matters even worse, another problem is that I tend to believe what I am told. I am probably the only one. Everybody else seems to know where to stand and what to believe. Except me. I often feel like I am the only one who doesn’t know the rule of the game. Again, what did I miss?
No later than yesterday, I met an acquaintance who jokingly told me that she could speak French. Me being me, I believed her (why wouldn’t I?) and started speaking French. She didn’t understand a single word I was saying and blushed. She managed to say “Comment allez-vous?” (how are you?) with such a thick British accent that I had to make her repeat the question at least three times. I panicked. I was about to say “oh, you are a bit rusted, aren’t you?” but managed to refrain myself (Phew!). I ended up complimenting her about her French skills, but my heart wasn’t really in it. She must have picked up on it. Silly old me.
Why do I believe that people are interested in talking to me at the end of a school’s day when all they want is a donation for their charity? And why did I say to the teacher that kids should know all their timetables by 7 years when the school only does the two timetable?
I should know better. I really find it hard to embellish the reality the way some of my friends manage to do. A special medal goes to the absent Mum who left her kids to be raised by the nanny and explained to me that her son was very bright but not very good at passing tests, why is why he failed all his exams. Such an art is something that I can’t master…Over time, I have learned to keep my mouth shut. That’s as far as I can go. And I act: I have taught all the timetables to my little one. But that’s not how you are supposed to behave over here. I am afraid I will never get it.
Don’t get me wrong: I am an optimist. I like to see the silver lining of a difficult situation. But I will still call it a difficult situation. It is just who I am. And I am too old to change anyway.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London

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Time seems to pass more slowly in Normandy, where we are spending our Easter break. I love it here. First of all, it is completely empty and we have the beach all to ourselves. Apparently, the hordes of tourists will arrive next week. And, to top it up, the weather is simply perfect -coming here for Easter was a massive gamble, and I am pleased that we haven’t had any rain yet…

The big shock came when I started watching the news on the national TV channels. To cut a long story short, I don’t feel French any more. There is a general election at the end of the month and the campaign is simply appalling. For some reason, the candidates want to find scapegoats to explain why the economy over here is in such a dire state. Nothing is said about the mandatory age of retirement -at 62, France is one of the countries where you can retire reasonably young, given the life expectancy. Some civil servants still have the right to retire at 50 or 55 but obviously no-one talks about it. And in most places, you only have to work 35 hours a week -the rest is paid as overtime, hence you earn more. Seeing your physician will set you back by 3 Euros (you pay 23 and get reimbursed 20), and public education is very good and entirely free.

But guess what: some French have betrayed their home country: they left for tax heavens such as Belgium or …London. I am afraid I belong to the traitors now. To punish us -because we are somehow responsible for the mess- the candidates want to create an”exit tax” and various other new taxes. In short, people like me are the ones to blame for the turmoil. As you know, I am a really bad person. I totally admit it: I am much happier in London and no exit tax will make me come back. Naughty me. You can’t put a price on happiness. Even if taxes in London are high too (I am sure that French people wouldn’t believe me, but sadly that’s the case…).

And what is even funnier is the battle of the partners. French politicians seem to belong to the same circles where -once again I apologise for being so blunt- everybody slept with everybody. Segolene Royal is now campaigning for her ex-partner Francois Hollande, who left her for the journalist who was covering the French campaign, Valerie Trierweiler. As for the actual first lady, Carla Bruni, well, she had affairs with various politicians before marrying the president. It is a small world, isn’t it?
I could continue but I am sure that you see my point.

So where does this leave me? Well, I don’t know. I feel less and less French, that’s for sure. And I will get my British passport sooner rather than later.

Muriel – A French Yummy Mummy In London