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09/02/2012 - par Mark Tungate (tungateinparis@hotmail.com)

You may have noticed a new advertising campaign for Great Britain springing up in the streets and metro stations of Paris. It must be effective, because it actually makes me feel homesick. Or maybe, I've just been away too long: 12 years this summer. I remember having a conversation with a taxi driver shortly after I arrived here. We were driving along the quais, possibly one of the most beautiful drives in the world. The Eiffel Tower was shimmering, the Conciergerie looked mysterious under a sickle moon, a boat strung with lights wafted down the Seine. I must have made some comment about how lovely it all was. The driver said to me: «You may not believe it, but one day, all of this, you'll be used to it. You'll take it for granted.»
He was wrong. I don't take Paris for granted. I find it as wonderful as I did when I first arrived. But I'm used to it - I'm not a tourist any more. I'm alert to the city's darker sides, the reality behind the façade. That hasn't stopped me appreciating the city. But the advertising campaign for the UK - no doubt created in the run-up to the Olympics - has made me realise something. When I left, England represented the familiar and the boring, constraints and conventions. Now, home is elsewhere. And suddenly, visiting the UK looks very attractive. I can approach it like a tourist. I no longer take my own birthplace for granted.

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