My most recent lesson on life à la française: Parisians really know how to party. The Bastille Day celebrations began here on Monday night, with the bals des pompiers (firefighters’ balls). In just about every neighborhood, a firestation was open starting at 9pm, with a band, a bar, and dancing. Entrance was free, but donations accepted, and money from the drinks went to charity. What a much more effective fundraiser than phone calls…
Happy Bastille Day!
Clara and I met up with Joe, a friend from high school, and his girlfriend, who have been studying here for a year. The first place we went was packed, and lines wrapped around the block just to get in. For a Parisian firefighter, it seems, this is a moment of glory. Their finest moments are not battling the fires of Paris, but getting to be the hosts of the city’s best parties. After spending an hour packed into the small courtyard, where lights were strung overhead, and the crowd swayed to a band covering American 80’s songs, we decided to find somewhere with a little more breathing room. The second firefighter’s party we found was held in the Arène de Lutèce, an old Roman gladiatorial arena in the middle of the city’s Latin Quarter. The scene was much the same, but instead we were dancing to bad 80’s rock in an ancient ruin. Only here…
After our night with the pompiers, Clara and I decided to skip the military parade in the morning on Bastille Day, but went to Invalides (the gold-domed military hospital) to see the exposition during the day. All sorts of jeeps, helicopters, and tanks were around, and uniformed servicemen explained how they worked and posed for photos with kids to inspire the next generation. There was a short gymnastic show, and a parachuting demonstration. The last parachuter to land had jumped with his German Shepherd strapped in with him. Seriously well-trained dog.
At night, the Champs de Mars, the park leading up to the Eiffel Tower, was packed for some pre-fireworks concerts. The music was mediocre, but we came early to claim a sitting spot on the grass to picnic and wait for nightfall (it never gets dark until after 10 here). When the show finally started, it was, in short, incredible. The Eiffel Tower herself was being honored for her 120th birthday, and so the fireworks framed the tower, which was lit up with different colors. With millions of other spectators gathered around, and a perfect view, it was an unforgettable “right place, right time” moment. Paris, je taime!
Filed under France, Paris