It was time to go back to Brussels, as another day trip to Paris was coming to an end.
I used to work and live in the city of lights for 20 years. Our relationship is complex. It’s mostly love with a sane dose of hate. I walked countless times in her streets, discovered hidden corners, sheer beauty but also urban stigma.
As much as I despise the disdain, the unwarranted superiority stance if not the idiotic behaviour of some of its inhabitants, I made excellent friendships, I broke through the indifference mask of many, and I had wonderful, unforgettable experiences in Paris.
I left the city more than a year ago. And it’s been many months since I’ve roamed her avenues, boulevards and small, well hidden passages. I went back a week ago with no aim but to take pictures.
I realised that I missed her. Of course, living in Paris and visiting it are two, very different things. I wasn’t in a rush. I was relaxed and the weather was nice and overcast. It wasn’t the weekend. There weren’t that many people outside, given the sheer density. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I also felt there were far less tourists than usual. I walked 23 kilometers and I didn’t take the metro once. I am not fond of this way of transportation as this is where I used to encounter the biggest lack of incivility I’ve ever experienced in Europe. I particularly hated the moments where you wanted to get out of the trains and people in an urge to get in, as if they were escaping fire, wouldn’t let you and you had to forcefully shoulder yourself out.
So I walked and visited some of my favourite spots in the city and I enjoyed my day from start to finish. I enjoyed it so much that I took the opportunity to go back on a Saturday. With the Thalys train, connecting Brussels to Paris in more or less 90 minutes, it was a no brainer, even with the little discomfort of wearing a face mask.
This time, I had to take the metro and shoulder myself out on a couple of occasions. Yet, what shocked me to a certain extent is to see many people wearing face masks without covering their noses and mouths. A substantial number of these unconscious, uncaring persons put the masks on their chins… probably to be ready to put it back at a moment’s notice in case of a police check?
Other than that, I still enjoyed my day to a large extent and visited some parts of the city that I did not know. And this is what I really like about Paris. You can spend 20 years there, walk countless days and weeks and you can still be surprised.