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The Storming of the Bastille — in 1789 and Today

Yesterday late afternoon, just before the Caserne de Pompiers Sévigné opened for its annual Bals des Pompiers, there were massive demonstrations in Paris against the Israeli offensive on Gaza accompanied by an attack on synagogues, one of which was just nearby (on rue de la Roquette), with the end of the march ending at Place de la Bastille. What an appropriate spot considering what happened there in 1789 (the Storming of the Bastille and the beginning of the French Revolution), but Paris wasn’t the only city in France affected over the weekend.

 Street Protest - Paris, FranceStreet ProtestHandsome Pompiers - Paris, FranceHandsome PompiersMusic and Dancing at the  Bals des Pompiers - Paris, FranceMusic and Dancing at the Bals des PompiersBastille Day celebration - France 24Bastille Day celebration - France 24Bastille Day celebration - France 24

It was not a pretty sight. France doesn’t condone it: «De tels actes qui visent des lieux de culte sont inadmissibles. La France ne tolérera jamais que l’on essaie par la violence des mots ou des actes d’importer sur son sol le conflit Israélo-Palestinien.» (“Such acts intended on places of worship are unacceptable. France never tolerates an attempt of violence of words or acts of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be imported on its soil.”) And the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF) called “the ban on demonstrations in favor of Hamas” and called for a “strengthening of the security in public places.” The SOS-Racisme argued that “the support of the Palestinians can not be the hatred of Jews. Helping the conflicted zone is exporting peace and not importing hatred.”

By the time we stood in line to enter the fire station, the conflict on Paris streets was over with little signs, other than armored police at all the corners, ready for whatever was to ensue. It doesn’t seem to have affected the conflict in the Middle East which continues to rage and until there is peace in Gaza and the Middle East, I doubt we’ll see peace from the pro-Palestinian forces and extremists the world over.

The Bals des Pompiers at the “caserne” (fire station) on rue de Sevigné didn’t seem to be affected by any of what had taken place just outside. The two 16th-century courtyards of the Hôtel Chavigny in which its barracks are housed were wall-to-wall with revelers, drinking beer, champagne, wine and dancing to the music. This year, in place of a live band, was a DJ and a light show in each of the courtyards. The royal mansion was 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 “pompiers” are all young and known 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. We danced for a while and then snaked through the crowds to exit early leaving the party to those much younger than us to party through the night.

As I write this, the annual military parade is taking place on the Champs-Elysées. France 24, the national news channel, is covering the parade live. The weather is perfect (partly cloudy and temperate) and it’s a great start for the rest of what’s to come to celebrate Bastille Day.

This year’s parade is designed to bring Germany and France together by honoring the soldiers from the Great World War I, just shy of its 100th year anniversary of the start of the four year conflict. All 72 countries participating in World War I have been invited to participate in the parade today. The parade will consist of 3,752 infantrymen and women, 285 vehicles, 241 horses, 36 helicopters and 54 planes. From my window I could see the jets flying overhead. Like me, many of my neighbors came out of their windows to see them fly by, but it happened too fast to catch a good photo.

Germany may not have won the bloody World War I (1914 to 1918), but it won the soccer World Cup against Argentina last night, just before the parties started at the fire stations across Paris and France. Cafés were also awash with fans rooting for which team? Not sure whether the French would root for Germany or not, considering the history!

Later today we’ll be heading down to the Champ de Mars to get the perfect place on the grass to picnic all afternoon and evening in wait for the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. Thousands of people will gather there for the display, which has never disappointed. It’s a happening not to be missed in one’s lifetime. With years of experience under my belt, I’ve learned that just south of center is the perfect vantage point from which to see the Eiffel Tower silhouetted against the bright fireworks.

I can’t wait! Stay tuned for Wednesday’s Parler Paris Nouvellettre®.

A la prochaine…on Bastille Day!

Adrian Leeds, The Adrian Leeds Group Inc - At the Bals des PompiersAdrian Leeds

The Adrian Leeds Group

(at the Bals des Pompiers)

Respond to Adrian



P.S. Guests staying in any of our luxurious Parler Paris Apartments or Parler Nice Apartments who are considering the purchase of their own “pied-à-terre” can book a FREE one-hour consultation with me. Simply fill out our Consultation Request Form and we’ll schedule a meeting in person or by phone/Skype.

P.P.S. There will be no Parler Paris Nouvellettre® the week of August 4 — for annual vacation.


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