May 16, 2014

Remember Jean Paul Sartre standing on a bridge?

Over the past three years, I've been on many a Parisian tour and have enjoyed most of them. They have always been in English. Not that I mind following other languages but it just happened this way.

Today, I decided to slightly change the formula, partly because I am no longer the novice tourist and do not need to hear the story of Napoleon the Third for the umpteenth time, partly because I have been on most of the programme's outings by now!

A French guided tour, by a charming bohemian Parisian, hit the spot exactly! Monsieur took us through the Centre Pompidou where we discovered Henri Cartier-Besson's life story and the excitement of being a flaneur of the street, in romantic Paris, armed only with a leather jacket and a Leica.

We looked back on the 20th century through his lens, and it was all there: the jazz age of the 1920s, colonial Africa, the Spanish civil war, developing human rights, capitalist expansion, two world wars, Ghandi's funeral, decolonisation, Mao, the first man in space, America booming, student protests, the collapse of the Soviet bloc – all captured in haunting blizzard of black and white.

Ahhh, and now I finally know who took that famous photo of Jean-Paul Sartre, a picture of the author absorbed by his environment, which haunted me during French classes through all my high school years!

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