Sunday, May 01, 2005


For the past few days I was in London, first for work and then for leisure. I was hoping to have regular internet access, but, alas, I did not, so I didn't get around to posting anything.
I left after work on Wednesday and arrived in the evening. I stayed at a friend's house in Kensington (very nice area - and house, near Earl's Court).

I went to Westminster where I had to attend the Annual General Meeting of Barclays (a large British bank). As they say, it was "bloody good fun" and I met a few corporate bigwigs. It was over at around lunchtime and I strolled around the area. I walked up Whitehall, looked in at Downing Street and then went past the Cabinet War Rooms, through St. James' Park up to Buckingham Palace. I walked to Hyde Park Corner and made my way up Piccadilly. There I took my time, especially towards the end, where I popped into Fortnum & Mason (the world-famous gourmet food store) and I spent a long time in Hatchards (a large, beautiful bookstore). Then I looked into the Economist Shop in Regent street and strolled to Trafalgar Square. In the late afternoon I had an appointment with Megan McArdle (I'll post about that separately) at a bar near the Imperial War Museum, on the other side of the Thames.

I had to attend the Annual General Meeting of Pearson, which owns Penguin, the Financial Times, half of the Economist and Pearson Education. This meeting was rather smaller than the Barclays one. However, given my interest in journalism, I found it much more exciting. After the meeting there were refreshments and I got a chance to chat with Marjorie Scardino, the CEO of the company. It was great and since I am a great fan I'll dedicate a separate post to her too. In the evening I met up with another friend from college who is now at the London School of Economics.

I met up with my LSE friend again (my host was very busy with an essay all weekend) and we visited the Tower of London, which was a wonderful experience. I had already seen it, but that was almost a decade ago. We went through the whole thing, including the classic Beefeater tour, but for me the treat was the Crown Jewels: truly dazzling!

I walked from my house to Harrods in Knightsbridge where I met my LSE friend again. We took a long walk in Hyde Park, whose luxuriant lawns and towering trees brought to mind the sorry condition of the "parks" in Milan, where we both went to college. Then I caught my Eurostar train at Waterloo.

Now I am back home in Brussels. I am happy to be home even though I had a wonderful time. So many of my intellectual interests are tied to the Anglosphere, including Great Britain, and it was fascinating to see it live again, after all this time. I assiduously read the Economist and look at the Financial Times daily, when I was youger I read all of Agatha Christie's novels and more recently I have been reading Jane Austen and Dorothy Sayers. Actually visiting Great Britain has refreshed so many images which had become faded and stale in my mind.
London lived up to all my expectations and I had a lot of fun, which I also owe to my good friends who did a lot to make my stay pleasant. The only aspect which leads me to prefer Brussels (at this time in my life) is that London is so large that it is difficult to get around. Brussels is much easier to navigate, while maintaining the flavor of an important European capital, with its institutions (Belgian, EU and NATO), its cosmopolitan populace and first-rate cultural events.

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