Life In France On A Sunny D-Day Afternoon
It was a stunning day in Paris on Sunday — warm and very sunny — so not everyone was home watching the D-Day celebrations on the TV, evidenced by the hordes of sunbathers along the Canal Saint-Martain and the few brave souls who were frolicking…yes, frolicking…in the canal.
Along rue de Bretagne and around the Mairie of the 3rd arrondissement, the annual Summer “brocante” (rummage sale) was in full swing, as was in dozens of cities around France and in other parts of Paris. Thousands of Parisian scavengers were working their way through someone else’s castaways to discover their new treasures. I had my own collection of discards, thanks to a newly purchased stereo system (don’t we love the electronics department at the BHV!?) and therefore the incentive to clean out my stuffed closets from obsolete electronic paraphernalia (someone lucky walked away with an Apple printer and piles of Macintosh program diskettes among other things). While I’ve heard it’s not “legal” to dispose of your unwanted goods on the street (I can’t verify this), no one will stop you and you’ll see how quickly just about anything can get scarfed up.
Meanwhile, at the American war cemetery in Normandy, George W. Bush stood side by side with Jacques Chirac, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and Australian Prime Minister John Howard along with leaders of Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Poland and New Zealand to commemorate the 60th anniversary of D-Day. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was the first German leader to attend D-Day anniversary events in France along with President Vladimir Putin, the first Russian head of state to attend. Actor Tom Hanks and director Steven Spielberg, makers of the movie about the invasion, “Saving Private Ryan” (appropriately recently shown on French TV), sat in the audience amid aging veterans in military uniforms and wheelchairs.
Chirac said, “France will never forget what it owes America, its steadfast friend and ally,” and Bush said, “Our great alliance of freedom is strong, and it is still needed today.” Felix G. Rohatyn, the U.S. ambassador to France from 1997 to 2001, said in an article published by the New York Times on June 4th, “I travel to France regularly and it is one of the most beautiful countries in the world – one that is inhabited by some of the most intelligent and, yes, complicated people in the world. On one subject, however, the French are united: they are consumed with anxiety (and curiosity) about the decline of the French-American relationship. Despite the hostility generated by the war in Iraq, they wish for the relationship to be better.”
I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a difficult position to be in for the American Expat community — as referees between our two mentors — France and the U.S. We just want them to “kiss” (on both cheeks) and make up.
After seeing the faces in the press photos of the veterans who attended, all white haired, with telltale lines in their faces from their long and richly textured lives having survived that fateful day, it’s clear to me that our future as allies is not so much dependent on our heads of state to “get along,” but on US — the people — who can recognize our differences and our similarities with respect, understanding, and yes, love.
A la prochaine…
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]
P.S. Thanks to all of you who volunteered their services for the upcoming Working and Living in France Conference. The response was overwhelming (!) and your emails will be answered individually… however, we will now have lots of helpful hands thanks to: Jackie Flynn, International Living Marketing Director who will be coming from Waterford, Ireland to help, observe and add her wisdom; Sibel Pinto, long-time IL Paris Office volunteer assistant and master caterer (she’s catered two events chez moi to everyone’s tremendous pleasure!, [email protected] for more information) and our newest addition, Yolanda Robins, a past attendee of the Working and Living in France Conference (October 2003) who has been one of those to take the plunge to move here and make her dream come true.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Author of “French or Foe?” and “Savoir Flair,” Polly Platt, is seeking Americans married to or divorced from French who are willing to be interviewd for her newest book. If you are interested, email Polly Platt at [email protected]
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* Further resources:
* Learn things about Paris you never expected to know…realizing the true depth of this magnanimous city…Paris Confidential.
* Have dinner next Friday night with Thirza Vallois and learn more about Paris Past, Present and Future.
* Dream of working and living in France? Don’t know how to go about simply DOING IT? Rose Marie Burke tells you how!
* Though France might seem as familiar as any other Western country, the truth is, from paying taxes to having a baby — things are done differently in France. Read the stories how other people maneuvered the system.