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Get Ready to Celebrate Bastille Day!

Water view from the TGV - photo by Patty SadauskasView from the TGV – photo by Patty Sadauskas

The lavender in ProvenceThe lavender in Provence

A Joe Allen hamburger A Joe Allen hamburger

Bals des Pompiers - article from Demi Colonne

BALS DES POMPIERSBal Des Pompier – rue de Sevigne

Parade du 14 juillet 2014 - photo by Pierre Yves BeaudoinParade du 14 juillet 2014 – photo by Pierre Yves Beaudoin

Fireworks - by Erica SimoneFireworks – by Erica Simone

The TGV luckily ran on schedule yesterday despite the national strike, speeding past the lavender fields in full bloom in Provence. The last seat in the last car was booked instead of my usual seat #111 ‘thanks’ to a last-minute change of booking. I can tell you that the swaying of the train at the very back is acute like being whipped holding on to the tail end of a snake. It’s a good thing I don’t suffer from car sickness!

The two-week stay in Nice spoiled me rotten as it was just too easy to get to the beach most days for at least a couple of hours. Yes, brown as a berry, the tan is sure to fade now that the Paris summer is still too cool to wear skimpy clothing. I already miss it and hate that I can’t show off these unusually tan legs.

Because having missed celebrating July 4th with the usual hamburger at Joe Allen Restaurant, I indulged last night with friends…the only hamburger I eat during the year (because of a stupid diet that actually never does me any good!). It was as delicious as ever, the juices running down my arms (yes, eaten with my hands!), and washed down with a Coca Cola (what else?).

This week we’re gearing up for next week’s festivities! Come the 13th we’ll be going to the Firemen’s Balls and come the 14th we’ll be headed to the Champ de Mars for a picnic and the annual fireworks. My mother’s birthday was July 13th so while she was alive, I spent many a Bastille Day in New Orleans while visiting her, but when here in Paris, nothing will keep me from enjoying both of these important events.

The annual “Bals des Pompiers,” which takes place on the 13th and 14th every year, was first launched in 1937 by the fire station on rue Carpeaux in Montmartre when the firefighters returned from the annual parade walking in step, in rows, with their weapons (hoses?). A small band of citizens began to follow the procession. Among the firemen was Sergeant Cournet who decided to ask Colonel Buffet if he could open the doors to the public…those following the marching firefighters.

That kicked off the whole event and before they knew it, a poster was created to promote the party displaying a firefighter holding a girl in his arms. On the occasion, the firefighters offered up demonstrations of their adept gymnastics, a stage was installed, refreshments were served and it spread like ‘wild fire’ to the other stations.

With the exception of the World War II years from 1939 to 1945, the tradition has continued and is not to be missed! I particularly like the “caserne” (barracks) on rue de Sevigne in the 4th arrondissement. The two 16th-century courtyards of the Hôtel Chavigny in which its barracks are housed are of a royal mansion originally built about 1265 by Charles d’Anjou between rues Pavée and Saint-Antoine and rebuilt in the early 16th-century. It was transformed into a fire station in 1813 and is the oldest caserne in Paris. The party there is always one of the city’s best.

BTW ladies, the “pompiers” are all young and considered to be the country’s handsomest of men. On these nights, they are certainly among the friendliest, known to make a point of kissing the girls. Now’s your chance! Get there early before the long lines form to enter!

To make your plans, here’s the entire list of balls:

Nights of 13 au 14 July 2016 (from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.)

•    1° Cie CS CHALIGNY – 26, rue de Chaligny – Paris 12e – Métro Reuilly Diderot
•    3° Cie CS PORT-ROYAL – 53-55, boulevard Port-Royal – Paris 13e – Métro Les Gobelins / RER Port Royal
•    4° Cie CS COLOMBIER – 11, rue du Vieux Colombier – Paris 6e – Métro Saint-Sulpice
•    6° Cie CS GRENELLE – 6, place Violet – Paris 15e – Métro Commerce
•    7° Cie CS BLANCHE – 28, rue Blanche – Paris 9e – Métro Trinité d’Estienne d’Orves
•    8° Cie CS ROUSSEAU – 21, rue du Jour – Paris 1er – Métro Les Halles
•    10° Cie CS BITCHE – Centre de secours et voie publique 2, place de Bitche – Paris 19e – Métro Crimée
•    11° Cie CS SEVIGNE – 7-9, rue de Sévigné – Paris 4e – Métro Saint-Paul
•    12° Cie CS MENILMONTANT – 47, rue Saint-Fargeau – Paris 20e – Métro     Pelleport
•    19°Cie / 2° Cie : CS MASSENA – 37, boulevard Masséna – Paris 13e – Métro Porte d’Ivry
•    20° Cie / 9° Cie CS MONTMARTRE – 12, rue Carpeaux – Paris 18e – Métro Guy Moquet
•    20° Cie / 9° Cie CS BOURSAULT – Centre de secours et voie publique, 27, rue Boursault – Paris 17e – Métro Rome
•    29°Cie /CCL 5 – Arènes de Lutèce, 47-59, rue Monge – Paris 5e – Métro Place Monge

Nights of 14 au 15 July 2016 (from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m.)

•    1° Cie CS CHALIGNY – 26, rue de Chaligny – Paris 12e – Métro Reuilly Diderot
•    3° Cie CS PORT-ROYAL – 53-55, boulevard Port-Royal – Paris 13e – Métro Les Gobelins / RER Port Royal
•    4° Cie CS COLOMBIER – 11, rue du Vieux Colombier – Paris 6e – Métro Saint-Sulpice
•    6° Cie CS GRENELLE – 6, place Violet – Paris 15e – Métro Commerce
•    8° Cie CS ROUSSEAU – 21, rue du Jour – Paris 1er – Métro Les Halles
•    11° Cie CS SEVIGNE – 7-9, rue de Sévigné – Paris 4e – Métro Saint-Paul
The city tourism site Paris Info has a pretty good offering of what you can expect on the 14th of July. The military parade on the Avenue des Champs-Elysées starts at 10:10 a.m. with the arrival of the President of the French Republic François Hollande at Avenue de Friedland, a welcome by Chief of Defense Staff and the Military Governor of Paris as well as a review of troops. The parade lasts until close to noon when the President departs.

Then, plan your evening to see the annual spectacular fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower. This year’s theme is “Paris est une fête” (Paris is a Party). Set off from the Eiffel Tower and the gardens of the Trocadéro, dazzling multi-colored fireworks (lasting about 35 minutes) will “burst open harmoniously against the backdrop of the Parisian night sky providing a spectacular and thrilling sight.”

Truer words were never spoken. I’ve never seen fireworks to compare with those on July 14th at the Eiffel Tower. They start at 11 p.m., but don’t wait till then to get your position. Experience has led me to arrive on the Champ de Mars for a picnic early afternoon and spend the whole day there in anticipation for the fireworks. After years of testing, I’ve found the perfect vantage point so that the Tower is silhouetted against the bursts of light…about midway between the Tower and the Ecole Militaire, dead center of course.

Bring your own picnic food and blankets to spread, plus be sure to put your booze in unrecognizable soda bottles since they may be policing alcohol on the Champ! Other smart ideas include bringing an umbrella if it rains or if the sun is too hot and things to do like games or books. One friend brought a giant bubble-making machine and that was a big, big hit!

No worries, there are public bathrooms, but not much to eat, so don’t come unprepared, but there is always lots to pass around when everyone who comes brings at least something “pot luck.” And when it’s all over, be prepared to make a quick exit to the Métro stations to catch your train home.

There is sure to be lots of security this year, so be vigilant and watch for any unusual activity. We would not want the terrorists to stop us from having a good time by ‘raining on our parade!’

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds - in Nice, France

Adrian Leeds
Adrian Leeds Group

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Harriet Welty Rochefort

P.S. Put Tuesday July 12th on your very important calendar! Not only will Harriet Welty Rochefort, author of “French Toast and Joie de Vivre” be speaking at Après Midi, and you certainly won’t want to miss that!…but also, that evening is the 2016 Literary Death Match with Adrian Todd Zuniga, Rolf Potts, Peter Carman and more at the Studio des Ursulines, presented by Paris Writing Workshop. Visit Literary Death March to reserve your seat!


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