A cup of coffee in J.K. Rowling’s London

When I teach storytelling, I always mention Harry Potter as an example of a perfectly built novel.  I am convinced that JK Rowling had The Hero’s Journey in mind, when she planned the whole plot. She is a world builder, able to construct an amazing universe with its own rules and to insert crucial issues like education, politics and personal growth in a fantasy series. In Harry Potter she has created a wonderful world where we all would like to live. A word that resembles our own, just with a touch of magic, which is something we all wish we had. Harry Potter could never be set in places like Italy or Spain, as they lack of that queer, charming, nordic atmosphere that we can breathe in the novel.


And London is the perfect city for this kind of stories. Not every city reflects our soul. We all have a city in which we recognize our own personality. It doesn’t have to be our favorite city, nor the most beautiful place in the world. Apparently cold and detached, London is a city that needs to be discovered. Mysterious and complicated, rooted in the past but constantly moving on. Shabby and elegant at the same time, solitary even though it keeps attracting people. Like I said in my post on Copenhagen, every city has its scent. London smells of smoke from the chimney tops, tea leafs and wet earth.


In Harry Potter, a world of magic opens up once you enter Diagon Alley, a mysterious train appears if you get to King’s Cross Station, platform 9 3/4, and an old, queer house pops up in a quiet, ordinary London street. In Islington, a twenty minute walk from King’s Cross, there’s Grimmauld Place. The building at number 12 has been made invisible to ordinary citizens, since it has become the headquarter of the Order of the Phoenix. Diagon Alley can be found at Leadenhall Market, a beautiful market in the City, whereas the Gringotts Wizarding Bark corresponds to the Australia House on Strand.

Now take a walk in Hampstead Heath. you wouldn’t be surprised to come across a boy wearing a pointed hat or carrying a wand. And what about St Pancras? This impressive hotel looks like a castle. Finally, spend one day in the British Library and leaf though old books; you’ll start to feel like Hermione Granger. There’s also a Hotel dedicated to Harry Potter’s world in London, the Georgian House. Their wizard chambers will attract everyone who loves the world created by JK Rowling. And you can do the Warner Bros studio tour. But one can find traces of Harry Potter all around London.


London calls and pushes away, looks familiar yet can never be fully understood. It’s restless. It’s nervous. Sometimes it’s very peaceful, too. It’s projected into the world and rooted in the past. It’s both free and trapped. It’s utterly unique. Reading The Cuckoo’s Calling, JK Rowing’s book published under the name of Robert Galbraith, is like stepping into a fascinating picture of London. I like British crime novels and I enjoyed the story a lot, but what struck me were the suggestive descriptions of London and its suburbs. I was there, with Cormoran Strike, following his investigations and meeting the various characters involved in the crime. Rowling knows how to create and describe a world. When I think of London, I think of her books.


• Bea’s of Bloomsbury, St Paul. A little coffee shop where you can sit by the window and look out at the people, the red buses and Saint Paul’s Cathedral. Try their cappuccino & carrot cake, or the banana loaf.

•  Le Pain Quotidien, Hampstead Heath. I love their cinnamon cream with scones. It lights up any rainy day.

• Monmouth Coffee, Covent Garden. The perfect place to stop for coffee and cake after shopping… in a bookstore.

• Nordic Bakery, Golden Square. A Nordic-style café where to write fantasy stories with a cup of coffee and a cinnamon bun.