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Paris On Parade

Saturday we entered the Métro at Louvre-Rivoli and let two trains pass us by because there was no way we would get our four bodies onto the already packed-like-sardines cars. The third train to come along was shockingly absolutely void of even one human being — at which point we all burst into hysterical laughter! And then, of course, took four seats together.

By the time we got to the station George V, the train became just as stuffed as the others had been, but almost everyone exited with us on route to the Champs-Elysées to see the Chinese New Year Parade. It took quite a long time to ascend the escalator (halted to allow for the herd) to the street and upon entering the crowds on the street level we realized that all of Paris was there.

This is the Year of China in France, with a Chinese community of more than 600,000 (300,000 in the area of Ile-de-France). Normally the parade passes through the Marais and the Chinatown of the 13th, so this was the first time the parade was set on the avenue. In addition, the Eiffel Tower will be lit in red for 5 days in honor of the year of the Monkey, plus there are several special exhibitions, a major one of 350 works at Versailles. There are large red Chinese lanterns hanging from lightposts all over town. The city is awash with the Chinese theme.

The spectating crowds on the sidewalk were 20 deep, so the ability to see anything happening on the street was nil, but we had hope that maybe, just maybe, we could “worm” our way up to a better position, little by little. The parade started…we could hear its din, but we hadn’t moved an inch forward. Then, a wonderful thing happened: the man in front of us held up his video camera, pointed the lens toward the parade and turned the screen downward so he could see it…and so could all of us! What we had was a perfect view of the parade on our own mini-télé!

Again, in unison, we burst into laughter! The large colorful floats…the sword-wielding group of dancers…the long serpent-like dragon…they all slinked by. Many Chinese among the crowd were in traditional dress. The people were so well-behaved and respectful of the parade and of each other. The sun was out, the sky mostly blue (except for a few gray clouds left from this morning’s rain), moods were uplifted.

Once we’d had our fill of standing in one place, we dispursed and two of us headed into one of the shops, which was virtually void of shoppers, but bursting with sale signs. It’s the end of the winter “soldes” so markdowns are at an all-time low. While the onlookers stayed glued to the colorful passers-by, we shopped and I saved almost 70% on my purchase. (What a perfect side benefit to the event!)

Upon leaving the store on the Champs-Elysées, we noticed a large group of people facing the shops rather than the street, all looking up at something. And you know how when one person looks up, the rest follow suit and look up, too, hoping to see what the others see? Well, this group was looking at a long horizontal mirror above the sandwhich shop next door and angled so that it mirrored the parade on the street! It was as good a view as we had on our mini-télé!

And again, we burst into laughter!

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. 1500 invited Parisians showed up Friday night at the soirée honoring “Paris, Capitale de la Création” at the Hôtel de Ville, dressed to see and be seen, carrying champagne glasses while chatting with friends and eyeing the avant-garde mannequins and displays decorating the magnificent grand salon of Paris’ city hall. http://www.pariscapitaledelacreation.com

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