“Today is the ‘Bastille day’ …but do you know that in fact it’s maybe not the Bastille Day, the 14 of July 1789 that we celebrate in France. Maybe it’s the ‘fête de la federation.’ ”
There was another event on the 14th of July 1790 celebrating the unity of the French people. French law does not indicate which is being celebrated as far as I have been told. It’s formally called Le Quatorze juillet. No one hear calls it Bastille Day. Mais c’est fantastique!
So we set out at 10 10 to find a place to watch. Just like I mentioned yesterday about researching sooner for a restaurant for the fireworks – I also now know you should research the parade more carefully. Last parade (for the commemoration of the end of WWII) started at the Etoile and went the entire length of the Champs to Concorde.
But not today. Today the staging areas for the marchers was much further down.
When we realized the action was towards Concorde, we headed south. Maybe east. Towards Francois Hollande. Finally found a gate we could climb on and hold on tight and watch some of the parade. It was where the Republican guard was staging so that was great – we got to see the 267 horses and riders merge into the Champs d’Elysesses. These are the same horses we visited a few weeks ago at their stables. Beautiful.
It is truly a military parade. There were over 3700 men and women from all branches of service. Featuring this year the Terrorist unit that was involved in the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. There were about 8 from that unit, wearing helmets and sun glasses to protect their identities. And the National Police (yes, the French have a national police. And in smaller towns and rural areas, you find the Gendarmes – who are part of the army.) And at the end, before the horse guard, the Pompiers – firefighters. Medals abounded.
And I don’t know if I have ever seen an airplane parade. That’s what they called it and indeed it was. Planes in formation about a minute apart. Directly overhead. Big planes. Little planes. Jet plane. Prop planes. Fast planes. Slow planes. And all noisy planes. But nothing as noisy as the Helicopter parade towards the end. I did see the beginning formation with the planes trailing the red white and blue contrails… but it was too fast for a photo. So I will use one from the net.
I came home to watch the news and saw a lot more of what I missed – but you know, I didn’t mind because I was actually there experiencing it in person. Goose bumps.
A friend who was at the Eiffel Tower last year for the fireworks said she noticed the lack of street vendors. And she’s right – the only thing going on at the parade was the Army recruiters handing out paper French flags. The French don’t turn everything into a way to make money…
It’s almost 8pm. Fireworks start at 11. And continue for 35 minutes. I was going to avoid the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tour but my landlady wrote me that they could find a few feet to sit or stand even when they went late. So maybe there. Maybe a bridge. I don’t need to hear the concert before. Just the fireworks will satisfy me. I could take a nap again.
It’s Wednesday afternoon. I did go to the Champs de Mars. Encountered crowd control when I changed metro lignes- RATP (metro) workers were holding people back from the platforms so they weren’t overcrowded. I was delighted they did that as I had no desire to be shoved onto the tracks by a mob. Arrived only 30 minutes ahead and I did find a very nice spot to stand. The center field… that goes from the Tour Eiffel to the Ecole Militaire was full of people. Most were standing. There was no way to inch into that mass – nor did I want to. Like sardines! I recall seeing video of events at the Mall in DC – where they had aisles roped off. Not here.
But I kept walking and finally found a very nice spot over to the right as you look at the Tour. Where I could see all of the top and one leg of the Tower. I was in a group of friendly Italians. We stood waiting for 20 minutes. The orchestra was playing. Everyone was in a festive mood.
And right on time it began. With The Marseilles – and sung by many French standing around us. (I love the tune, but really the lyrics are awful and bloody – they should rewrite them). Of course the first fireworks were at the base of the Tour – so I could only see “IS”… and realized that they spelled out PARIS in fireworks! And then lights lit up the Tour like a French flag and it really began. 35 minutes of the most spectacular fireworks show I have ever seen. Ever.
Photos don’t do this justice – but pictures are truly worth a thousand words.
After it ended, we all took a deep breath of appreciation, had a moment of exhilaration and then began to disperse. I don’t know how many were there this year, but I read it was half a million last year. And it felt like that. But everyone was polite – no pushing or shoving. Streets were even impassable to cars – the pedestrians walked down the center. When I got to the metro, clearly that was going to be a horrendous wait – the crowd extended 10-20 feet beyond the stairs. So I kept walking. I ended up crossing the Seine to get straight on Ligne 1 for my home. And even there, over a mile away from the Tour, there was a huge line. Orderly. And the metro was actually not super crowded. I was happy to drag myself up my stairs to collapse.
It was now 1245 am and I had walked 9 miles and stood an hour. I was so tired and sore that I actually could not sleep. My legs ached, my feet ached, my hips ached. I finally took half a Vicodin and it killed the pain. Still, I only got 3 hours of sleep before I had to get up for my conversation with Albert.
I do enjoy chatting with him. But even he said I looked and sounded tired. After our conversation I made a quick trip to Leclerc for contact solution and some other items – much less expensive and came home via three buses to decrease any walking time.
And collapsed again.
But a quick nap helped me… avoir la peche. That’s the French idiom for having energy. Get up and go. It literally means I have the peach. Go figure. So with that energy, I walked over to the cinema to see Les Minions. VOSTF. Original version with French subtitles. The subtitles show me how the French translate our idioms. That’s my rationale. But I love the Minion movies – so much for adults to catch in the background. And set in England in 1968… well, parfait.
Living the French life the rest of the week. Four conversations! Tomorrow I meet two different gals (morning and afternoon) in the restaurant at the Musee d’Orsay which will be comfortable – it’s supposed to be hot again tomorrow. Then Friday my newest from last week and in the afternoon a brand newbie – a guy who teaches law? Or legal history. I don’t recall. I am seriously considering limiting my time with the American friends so I can really immerse in French. I do think each conversation in English sets me back.
But, for you, dear reader – I shall continue to blog in English. My one indulgence.
Oh, and btw – I am supposed to meet my friend in Le Harve – I believe I wrote Calais. Now that would be a disaster!