According to Marc Levy’s novel Mes Amis Mes Amour, Bute Street offers the best of Paris in the heart of London. Simply sit down at a little outdoor table and request that the best French coffee and newspapers be brought to you. The novel’s about two Frenchmen in London and their children, and ‘Paris-on-Thames’, part of South Kensington, provides the perfect backdrop for the story.
South Kensington has always been the hub of French cultural activity, hosting the renowned Lycée Charles de Gaulle (the French school), and the French Cultural Institute. Nowadays, it’s still the home of numerous French expats, mainly affluent bankers working in the City. They’ve been attracted by brighter prospects, the chance to put their children through the French educational system and the everyday joy of spoiling themselves amid cafés and brasseries.
As this is such a fine, wealthy area, not all of London’s fresh young newcomers can afford to live here, but they do drop in to treat themselves. One such place which is perfect for the job is theFrench Bookshop, a space established 30 years ago to provide for the intellectual needs of the French community. This is the very bookshop run by one of Marc Levy’s protagonists in Mes Amis Mes Amour, no coincidence perhaps as the author himself spent a lot of time in the area. As a chat with the manager confirmed, French newspapers, magazines, books and book signings attract people from all over London; people keen to learn or lubricate their rusty French.
If you are fond of French Classics keep an eye on the Institut Français and its adjoining Ciné Lumière, powerful bait for culture vultures. Both spaces offer a packed calendar of intriguing talks and screenings.
Have you bought anything at the French Bookshop recently? And who’s heading down to the TV Festival? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!
The French Bookshop
28 Bute Street
London SW7 3EX
Tel: 0207 584 2840