In April, a few weeks after this Norwegian escape, I went to Paris. While the main point of this visit was to meet friends from another life, I also had time on my own to explore known and less known places. At dawn or even before, at sunset and after, or during the day, I enjoyed the city at every possible time of day.
Paris is a fascinating place, full of life, always buzzing. On Sunday morning, I saw people converging to the metro stations, to go to the marathon’s starting point, while merchants set up their marketplace. When I arrived on Friday evening, revelers were everywhere, filling terraces and streets alike.
There, a train conductor preparing for an afflux of travellers. Here, a photographer and his friend checking out some pictures. I even saw a barge made of concrete (it’s floated since 1919!).
Two black clouds hovered over the city: terror, and the presidential election.
The police and the army were everpresent. Paris was nervous. And this campaign. I was shocked by the violent attacks placarded on walls, sidewalks… garbage bins?
Was it a reflection of my own opinions, or a proven trend? I essentially captured bills aimed at Macron. In between, some more philosophical thoughts, and even some optimistic ones.
This ad, though, summed up my feelings quite well.
This is all in line with the whole city, as Paris is a place of words and memory. Every school had its commemorative plaque to WW2, every monument has its sacred sentence. Even metro carriages host poetry.
Soudain l’homme se réveille
au milieu de la nuit
il est saisi par le malaise
et il écoute malgré lui
le silencieux vacarme de l’angoisse
le bruit qui ne fait pas de bruit […]
But the crowd.
It was too much for me. Too many people, too many tourists, too loud voices, too aggressive tones, I deeply felt I didn’t belong to this place. I felt as if I was not visiting my own country, but rather discovering an alien, antipathetic place. A stranger in my own land. I’m definitely not Finnish, but not completely French either. Notice how my pictures carefully avoid the crowd. Do I hate people?
I spent my last two years in France near Paris, before moving to Finland, and it left me a bitter taste. I was keen on returning, to see how my own evolution would affect my vision of the city. I enjoyed the moments with my friends, but the bitter taste returned. Luckily I had good subjects for interesting photo exercises.
My silver lining? I was happy to fly back to Finland.