Liberation in the City of Light
Paris Plage closed its gates last night after one month of providing beachy pleasure to urbanite Parisians. Picnicking on the sand seemed appropriate as a farewell tribute in spite of the un-summer-like cloudy, cool, breezy weather. If you dig your toes in and focus on the water of the Seine and the boats cruising by, you might not even notice the irony of it all!
The Plage was only mildly busy as a result of the weather and the ghost-town-like atmosphere of Paris in August. Seventy years ago, life in the city was decidedly different. Paris was still under Nazi occupation the years between 1940 and 1944 of what must have been a living hell for the daily life of Parisians. There was no Paris Plage to ease the suffering and the City Hall of Paris describes the experience as “plundering persecution, acts of repression, cold and hunger.” I can only imagine.
Actually, I can’t. While we may complain about the gray weather, the lack of ‘American-style’ service and the doggy poop on the sidewalks, we have absolutely no idea what it must have been like living under those bleak circumstances. The exhibition currently open to the public at the Hôtel de Ville gives us an ‘inkling’ (on till September 27th) of life in the Capital up until its liberation on August 25th, 1944…and the liberation itself.
It’s poignant that the exhibition takes place in the very spot where the events took place — the Paris Hôtel de Ville. Photos, videos, posters, journals and memorabilia do a heartfelt job of depicting life in the city during those four years, but the more prevalent message from the exhibition is learning about the battle that took place to liberate the city, from the time of the landings by the Allies on the beaches of Normandy to success on the 25th of August when everyone was able to rejoice. In the hundreds of photos and films, the smiles on the faces of the French and the Allied soldiers (evident by their round helmets), will undoubtedly bring joy and tears to your own eyes.
The American presence seems to be ‘played down,’ bringing more to light the role of the French Resistance, formally known as the FFI — “French Forces of the Interior.” Americans tend to think they are responsible for the city’s liberation, and of course, their role was key to the positive outcome, but according to the printed material distributed at the exhibition, the Americans thought the city could ‘wait’ — “they planned to take a detour round Paris via Mantes in the north and Melun in the south, convinced that the capital would fall by itself.” Meanwhile, De Gaulle, the Police and the FFI were the driving forces, believing Paris was the “heart of the captive country.”
In an interesting aside, Coca-Cola is one of the exhibition sponsors and rightly so. On display is an advertising campaign that exemplifies “Yank” friendliness by an American soldier sharing his favorite soft drink with the locals at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Arriving in France as early as 1919, the classic American soft drink in 2010 was reported to account for more than 13% of all drink sales including bottled water.
If you’re dying for a Coke, or any other potable for that matter, with a bird’s-eye-view on the Hôtel de Ville and just about every inch of the city, and a place to simply get away from it all, visit the BHV’s new “Le Perchoir.” Open weekday evenings and Saturdays from 8:15 p.m. to 2 a.m. (except 9:15 p.m. on Wednesdays, why one couldn’t say?) and Sundays from noon to 2 a.m. until the end of October, serving cocktails, beer, wine, soft drinks, coffee and finger food, it’s the ‘hottest spot’ of the “quartier” that (virtually) no one yet knows about!
Enter from 37, rue de la Verrerie, take the elevator straight up to the 7th floor and find yourself in the halls of the back offices of the BHV before landing on La Terrace du Perchoir!
Once you’ve had a taste of the exhibition at the Hôtel de Ville, more is on display at the Musée Carnavalet till February 18th, 2015.
A la prochaine,
(at Paris Plage 2014)
P.S. Learn how to own a “pied-à-terre” of your own on the Riviera, in Paris or a home in the countryside that you can enjoy when you want…or profitably rent when you like…or just make a smart investment, plus ask me all of your questions about owning property in France, attend the Living and Investing in France Mini-Conference: Nice and the Côte d’Azur on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Register now and join us in Nice!