London, Paris and NYC

I find London the nicest city in the world, and had assumed that’s just because I was born there – turns out that’s not so.

France’s best selling novelist is a refugee in the UK and just published a book that’s making waves in his native land:

In the book (which will be published in English next year) the author waxes poetic on the joys of living in Britain. He writes of superior baguettes (made by English hands with English flour), our lovely climate (“You never get a completely grey day like in Paris”), the charming locals (“Shop assistants that actually smile at you!”), a more varied intellectual life and a capital city more conducive to love than a moonlit stroll by the Seine. London, concludes Levy, is everything Paris was 40 years ago.

“There are 300,000 of us in the UK now and it isn’t like we all come here just to get a job. It is more than economic. It’s about open minds. You may look uptight with your trench coats and umbrellas, but you are really very relaxed — more relaxed than we can ever be,” says Levy.

“Because of that, when you land here you feel as if you can do anything. The French try to restrain the attractiveness of England by saying it is only for jobs that we should come, but they should forget that. England is the land of opportunity. It is just like America 100 years ago.”

Naturally I agree with this judgment, but it’s surprising he appreciates Brit friendliness – I’d thought all French people liked being surly. And in fairness London’s pizazz owes a lot to French exiles

And here’s a view from NYC:

It’s a city of nearly 8 million where Mayor Bloomberg owns a townhouse. Paul McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Madonna all own homes here, too. It competed to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Architects Daniel Libeskind, Norman Foster, and Richard Rogers are all working here or have recently completed buildings. Rupert Murdoch owns a big, conservative, tabloid newspaper here. The art scene is sizzling, real estate is super-pricey, and sushi-lovers can choose from at least two Nobu restaurants. The business world revolves around a big stock market and lots of new hedge funds.

The list of parallels between New York and London has always been long, but lately, with booming economies in both cities and trendy restaurants moving into old industrial neighborhoods, the two are looking more like mirror images…

“London is by far the closest city to New York on almost every scale,” the deputy mayor for economic development in the Bloomberg administration, Daniel Doctoroff, said. “In terms of the number of people, the percentage of people who are foreign born. It’s arguable that there is no city that is more similar to New York than London anywhere.”

This is as close as any New Yorker will come to admitting his native city is not Numero Uno. What’s happened here is the move of the IPO market from NYC to London, courtesy Sarbanes Oxley.

Bear in mind though that we’re talking central London – all three cities deteriorate rapidly as you move away from the center.

So central London is tops right now – enjoy it while you can!


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