Saturday, July 14, 2007

Bastille Day in Paris

I was awakened at 5:15 this morning by the only mosquito in the 7th arrondissement. It entered my bedroom window to persecute me, taunting, "Madame, in Paris we don't leave our windows open at night." Actually, I think it was still on a buzz from one of the bals polpulaires hosted last night at various casernes of the Pompiers de Paris until the wee hours. I wreaked my revenge, and suffice it to say that darling moustique will not be darting over the Champs Elysées today to view the annual 14 juillet parade.

Resigned to being wide awake, I decided to head over to the Champs myself to catch a glimpse of the preparations before the crowds arrived. I emerged from the métro at Champs-Elysées - Clemenceau at 6:45, and to my surprise crowds were already standing at the barriers to save their spots for viewing the parade.

Military marching music was pumping out of loudspeakers mounted on streetlamps, and the police covered every street corner, most of them relaxing a bit before the real work begins.

Paris really puts on a parade! There are deep rows of viewing seats -- the gendarme said they were places reservées (though he didn't specify for whom) -- lining the street from the Grand Palais to the Place de la Concorde. And, of course, the grand presidential viewing stand in the center.

It was interesting to note the behind-the-scenes aesthetics. TV camera stations (or security look-outs?) were draped with camouflage fabric to make them as unobtrusive as possible.

I'm not a fan of huge throngs -- and today's turnout is predicted to be larger than usual. Wandering off, I strolled over the Pont de La Concorde to head home. The Seine, so often a turbulent grey, was angelic, dressed in its finest for Bastille Day.
Mosquito or no mosquito, I'll have to remember to get up early more often, now that summer is here.

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