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Not to Miss Even a Minute of Paris’ Most Exciting Moments

I can’t remember a finer Bastille Day in the City of Light (and Fire!). For the person who doesn’t want to miss a single minute of life’s most exciting times, Paris is simply a cornucopia of thrills, particularly surrounding the year’s most important celebration — Bastille Day. This is the day the people overthrew the monarchy, using the storming of the Bastille prison as the symbol of the “uprising of the modern nation” as it took place on July 14th, 1789.

Festivities begin the evening before the 14th with the annual “Bals des Pompiers,” first launched in 1937 by the very fire station we chose to attend on rue Carpeaux in Montmartre.

We started out early enough to have a light dinner with the “graduates” of the The Paris Summer Institute’s 12-day NLP Practitioner Certification course at “Au Rêve,” a tiny bistrot/café on rue Caulaincourt, before heading over to the “Mairie of the 18ème” (city hall) arrondissement for performances and a parade to the “caserne” (fire station).

In front of the carrousel at the Métro entrance of Jules-Joffrin facing the Mairie were “Les Echos Râleurs,” 35 very animated singers dressed in a rendition of Toulouse-Lautrec’s debauched Montmartre and having fun with their own antics to a local and very amused crowd, us being among them.

That was just the beginning.

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The caserne of the 18th arrondissement is a beautiful building with a large courtyard making it a perfect venue for a party of enormous magnitude. Before the band began to play, a DJ was doing a fine job of playing oldies dance music, and meanwhile we plied ourselves with beer and champagne while flirting with the handsome young firemen who were manning the bar.

We danced in a group around a pile of our own belongings until my feet were throbbing and the old lady in me sent me crashing while the rest of the group stayed on for, obviously, more than they had bargained for. Bee-Lee, one of the NLP graduates, was dressed to ‘kill’ and determined to meet her fireman before the evening was over. Yes, I was with her when she got kissed(!), but I heard that after I left, she “got her Fireman and [they] have X-rated photos to prove it!”

A good night’s sleep was necessary to prepare ourselves for the next day. While we visited the progress of the renovation of “Le Palace des Vosges,” our finest Fractional Ownership apartment which is 95% complete and looking more and more stunning each day as the chandeliers are being hung and the draperies installed, the planes flew overhead in the bluest of skies and the traditional military parade on the Champs-Elysées entertained the sideline spectators. It had been broadcast on television all morning, so an armchair seat was as good as it could have gotten under the circumstances, but more of a close-up than if we had been there in person.

We were more concerned with getting our place on the Champ de Mars for the free Johnny Hallyday concert and fireworks that top off the celebration with a literal bang. Arriving at 4 p.m. was not too early to get a center position for our blanket to spread fully and lay out an array of newly purchased picnic goodies on which we could ‘graze’ all afternoon while we waited for the ‘show to begin.’

It was warm and the sun was out, but cloud cover moved in and out quickly throughout the afternoon and evening. As the crowd began to grow thicker, our umbrellas went in and out, too, depending on whether we needed the shade or protection from the light mist, threatening a few times to rain, but never having the courage to disappoint us. Some people were prepared with playing cards to pass the time. We ate all the things not on our diets, talked and observed the scene around us.

There must have been at least 500,000 people on the grass by the time Johnny got up on stage to perform with his band, back-up singers and his son, who played drums and sang, just like ‘Dad.’ A big screen gave us a perfect view of what was taking place on stage, although the sound and video were out of synch by about three seconds, making it somewhat comical. When Johnny came out, he appeared to be overwhelmed by the sight before him, taking quite a bit of time to catch his breath, suck back the tears and begin to sing.

He performed for too long…in my opinion. Less would have been more, but nonetheless, they love him and to have him kick-off the evening was a special treat for what everyone really was waiting for…the fireworks.

Each year I think it’s impossible the works could be better than the year before, but each year they are. Eiffel was a brilliant engineer — we all agree to that, to have constructed such a work of art of steel 120 years ago that we are still in awe of it, but the French continue to prove their engineering feats with something as simple as light and fire.

The fireworks display is a ‘ballet’ of music and light and fire, like nothing you have ever seen before. This year, they ‘drew’ on the tower with light in such a way that at one point “La Grande Dame” was ‘dancing’ every bit as wildly as we were the night before! A picture of M. Eiffel appeared, soldiers battled, the French flag waved, psychedelic flowers blossomed and the iron maiden took on a life of its own, all before our very eyes. It was amazing! And in coordination with all that was the sound and light show of the most sophisticated pyrotechnics imaginable — actually unimaginable.

The last portion of the display and crescendo to the finale was captured on video by my trusty Sony Cyber-shot…so you won’t miss a single minute of life’s most exciting times…in Paris. Click here to enjoy:

If you don’t see the video, click here.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. There will be no Parler Paris Nouvellettre® sent to you July 27 or 29 while I take a ‘real’ vacation. That week, your letters may not be answered for which I apologize in advance, but not to fear, we’ll be back soon enough with plenty more about Summer in the City of Light.

P.P.S. “Le Palace des Vosges” is almost ready for occupancy by its owners and rental guests. To learn more for purchase of your share, visit or email [email protected] to learn when it might be available for a short stay.


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