We challenge our contributors to reply to ten devilishly probing questions about their London and we don’t take “Sorry Gov” for an answer. Everyone sitting in the hot seat they will face the same questions ranging from their favourite way to spend a day out in the capital to their most hated building on London’s skyline to find out what Londoners really think about their city. The questions are the same but the answers vary wildly.
Jennifer is a musician, magician and award-winning London Blue Badge Tourist Guide. A bit dreamy, often happy, always hungry for new experiences, new encounters, new adventures… Originally from Belgium, she fell in love with London on her first visit at the age of 15 and never looked back! She designed the London Magic Tour (www.londonmagictour.com), a walk about the real history of magic from medieval witches and alchemists to tales of great illusionists past and present, interspersed with magic tricks. As a musician, she regularly performs with her duo “One Voice, One Cello & A Mad Belgian” (www.onevoiceonecelloandamadbelgian.com), where she sings and plays soprano saxophone and melodeon. You can contact her at her website (www.amadbelgian.org).
What’s your secret London tip?
Don’t be afraid of getting lost! London is wonderfully full of hidden gems, mysterious alleyways and secret courtyards only accessible to those who explore. So be curious and adventurous, and don’t be afraid to get lost: that’s when the interesting discoveries occur!
What’s your secret London place?
Temple, just off the Strand. It’s only a minute away from the hustle bustle of modern London but you feel transported in another world, beautiful, quiet and just mysterious enough. For a second, you can feel you’ve travelled in time!
What’s your biggest gripe about London?
There are too many cars! Despite the very efficient public transport system, too many people drive into town on their own, which creates traffic jam, pollution, accidents and makes life harder for pedestrians, cyclists, busses… and cab drivers!
What’s your favourite building?
The London Library, a stunning place made up of four separate buildings. Tucked away on the corner of St James’s square, with books from floor to ceiling and large desk spaces for members to work on, it is a place of inspiration and talent which never ceases to amaze me. It is full of interesting (and quirky) characters, too!
What’s your most hated building?
Centre Point, this tall tower that looms over Tottenham Court Road Station, creating wind tunnels and overpowering smaller nearby landmarks such as St Giles’s Church and Denmark Street.
What’s the best view in London?
The Thames at night, from a bridge or, even better, from a boat! Go through central London on the Thames Clipper at dusk, you will fall in love with it all over again.
What’s your personal London landmark?
The Houses of Parliament and its incredibly detailed and intricate Victorian Gothic architecture. The best way to admire it in full is from the other side of the river. I have known it for years yet I am still in awe each time I cycle past it — especially when it is beautifully lit at night.
What’s London’s best film, book or documentary?
John Lanchester’s Capital. A London-based novel that spans an incredibly large range of characters and gives a real sense of London seen from a multitude of different perspectives. Beautifully written, it shows the human side of London: a great read to accompany your discovery of its history and architecture!
What’s your favourite bar, pub or restaurant?
Bar Italia, in Soho. Just opposite the prestigious Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, Bar Italia is a Soho institution, usually open until 5am. The best late-night coffee in town and a true part of London’s history, I love how unassuming it is, whilst still providing very high-quality coffee and Italian treats?
How would you spend your ideal day off in London?
Wandering around Soho, its hidden alleyways and ever-changing range of cafes and shops. Then I would pop by the Harp pub for a good beer and a chat with the regulars, before going to see a show, maybe a good old-fashioned musical with a lot of happy, cheesy songs and good tap. And I would end the night at the Phoenix Artists Club for good music and interesting encounters before cycling back home.
3 thoughts on “The London Grill: Jennifer El Gammal”
By coincidence, I just wrote about Ronnie Scott’s and Bar Italia on today’s blog post. She’s right about Temple, it feels so calm there. I have never been in The London Library, good to see it get a mention.
Small world, I’m always on the lookout for interesting Londoners and ex-Londoners who can give a different slant on London.
I have written a lot about London on my blog, and reposted stuff about it too.