What a Winning Week! Party Time in Paris!
Get ready. There is simply TOO much to report on, reflect on, write about, so this Nouvellettre® is destined to overwhelm you, just as the past five days have overwhelmed us! If you think you are living a rather boring existence (same old, same old), then now’s the time to make your move to France where life is just one big barrage of fireworks…and that’s no joke.
After Wednesday’s Nouvellettre®, where I admitted to being less than a sports enthusiast, I had a letter from my friend’s husband, Michael – the friend (Janet Hoover) who was with me ignoring the soccer match Tuesday night with equal “enthusiasm.” His email had me in tears of laughter as he explained that “due to this recent admission that sports, in general, to [you] are irrelevant, [I] now found myself in a complete emotional tailspin.”
He went on to say that “this revelation, that one of my dearest friends, whom I hold in the highest esteem, could have this view of soccer, now, I am simply left to pull myself up out of this ball of humanity that I have been curled up into at the base of my shower for the last 12 hours, take my thumb out of my mouth and wipe away the waterfall of tears cascading down my cheeks onto my slobber-soaked shirt and try to figure out my place in this world and the true meaning of life. I am not sure how our relationship will survive this or how we will conceivably move forward from this, Adrian.”
Before ending his diatribe, he further added, “Adrian, I can only cling to the hope that this all ends with a follow-up piece in the next edition of Parler Paris revealing the ruse that this story, in fact, was, and that you do truly bleed the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge when it comes to the world’s game.”
Well, Michael, here is your reward.
First, I must admit to actually having watched the soccer match on Wednesday night between England and Croatia, although I didn’t have much choice since my hosts were serving up a buffet dinner to accompany the watching of the game on their living room TV. Still, I acquiesced. As a novice to the game, I was more obsessed by the players’ uniforms, hair styles and handsomeness (or not), than their talented footwork, but I rooted for England to win for the sole reason that a match between these two “siblings,” England and France, would be akin to reliving the Hundred Years War!
Well, we all know now that Croatia won that match, so that ended my fantasy for the match with England. “Tant pis,” I didn’t really care anyway, right? Okay, okay, so let’s move on to the next event of this insanely power-packed week which was just the following night at one of famous chef Pierre Sang Boyer’s restaurants – “Signature.” We had most of the beautiful copper and stone walled room at the back all to ourselves. It was a “discovery dinner” with company colleagues and clients/friends (our clients almost always become close friends), whose new apartment next to La Tour Eiffel is under complete renovation and decoration at the capable hands of our Interior Architect, Martine di Mattéo, who of course, was with us at dinner.
The “client” just happens to be the world’s number one female chef, Chantel Dartnall, of Restaurant Mosaic at The Orient Hotel in in the Francolin Conservation Area, Pretoria, South Africa. She and Pierre “bonded” over his multi-course extravaganza of culinary perfection bestowed upon us over a decadently languid evening of four-and-a-half hours! Chantel played the game of guessing the ingredients to each morsel that came before us, involving us novices to try our hand at it, too…but it wasn’t easy. Chantel took the prize, naturally, for her professional conjecture, but that evening, Pierre Sang won the prize for a brilliant dining experience. We went home very late, but seriously satisfied and impressed, to say the least, especially at a very affordable price for such perfection.
The insanity of the week’s events certainly didn’t end there by any stretch of the imagination. The night after that (Friday), the eve of Bastille Day, was the annual “Bals des Pompiers” – the public dance party at the “cassernes” (firemen’s barracks) across Paris and all of France. However, the Mairie de 3ème (city hall of the district) holds its own big party, and in years past I’ve discovered it’s the best one of all.
Held in front of the Mairie with a really good band on a big stage, all open for anyone to enter (without security), the whole neighborhood came out to dance for hours. Everyone was there – from the littlest of kids to the oldest and wisest, but all dancing their hearts out to music we could also sing to. At about midnight, just before the last dance, bags of confetti came flying out of the upper windows from the Mairie, were caught, torn open and spewed up in the air. It was pure euphoria, but we ended up covered in confetti and fishing it out of our underwear and finding it in the craziest of places for days to come!
After another late night, the next morning was the annual Military Parade. Too tired to head down to the Champs Elysées, I opted for watching it live on TF1 instead. The cameras do a much better job than I could have done in person, to get a good look up close of the precision moves by every branch of the armed forces on horseback, motor bike, jeep, foot, you name it. Clad in elaborate uniforms, all attention on their president, Emmanuel Macron, who sat at the head on the stands at Place de la Concorde with his wife, Brigitte and a host of important officials.
When the jets flew over the city, I ran out to see if I could catch of glimpse of them from my windows, but never managed to do that – hence another reason to watch it all from the comfort of my living room on the big screen TV. Later that same afternoon we packed our picnic baskets and headed to the Champ de Mars for the annual concert and fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower. Getting there was a bit of a challenge with the buses and Métro stations located close to the field shut down. No matter – a taxi got us close enough and we arrived not long before the gates opened up to let us in, about 4:30 p.m. Once that happened, the awaiting crowd ran to get their favorite spots, as did we. Dead center is the best spot – I can promise you that years of scoping this out has perfected the position. The field was wide open at the time, but knowing that this was our best opportunity, we spread out our blankets, staked out as big a space as we could and waited for the Champ de Mars to fill up slowly but surely as the sun went down and the festivities began.
It’s what I love about it most…that as we gathered, picnicked, schmoozed, played cards or other games, and just hung-out doing absolutely nothing (how often do you do that? I know I don’t!), the lighting changed, the look of the tower changed, the field filled up with about 500,000 people and the energy escalated, almost vibrating with excitement. We watched and heard the excellent concert by the Orchestre National de France along with a host of talented opera singers – on the big screens, since the stage was far from us just at the foot of the tower, in anticipation of the finale – the fireworks.
The weather was perfect — warm and sunny with occasional clouds, no rain in sight. It stayed warm all through the evening. One can see the fireworks from lots of places in Paris, but there is nothing quite like seeing it from the Champ de Mars. The tower is lit in lots of different ways, and this year, there were dancers silhouetted on the tower as songs of love played with the fireworks matched to the music. My favorite might have been Prince’s “Purple Rain” with the tower in a bright purple, of course, and lots of raining white light. The fireworks are always, as were this year, too, masterful and absolutely spectacular, although the word “spectacular” really isn’t spectacular enough to describe the beauty of the display.
We all agreed, the wait on the blankets for eight hours was well worth it. Getting home is the biggest challenge of the day since the hundreds of thousands of people all leave at once, scrambling to get to the Métro, or buses, or their own cars, bikes or other methods of transportation. We walked “en masse,” a sea of humanity slowly working its way out of the area. We walked all the way to Place de la Concorde, then to avoid getting into a clamoring crowd at the Métro station, hired a bicycle rickshaw to wheel us as far home as possible, landing at the Hôtel de Ville where we picked up the 96 bus’s last ride. I’d never been on this touristy vehicle in Paris – but, I can now see why they are popular. It was perfect. By 1 a.m. we were home and Bastille Day 2018 was over.
That big event was superseded by Sunday night’s World Cup Match and that is how we ended the week with a big, big, big bang. With a group of friends, we managed to “score” a front-row table upstairs at Le Café de la Mairie (where our Après Midi meets every month) to watch the game. People watched from cafés, in their living rooms and thousands of people watched on big screens on the Champ de Mars.
Yes, I actually watched the game and even screamed and cheered a few times (while working intermittently on my computer writing this very Nouvellettre®). I watched more than the game, though. I like to look at the players. The Croatian players were all a bunch of “white guys” who really look Croatian, but did you notice the French team? I’ll bet you think they don’t actually look “French” – at least not the Napoleon or Charles de Gaulle kind of French. You see, it’s not really a big surprise that France won the World Cup (for the second time — 1998 was the first time), considering that 50 players in this year’s match were born or raised in France; France producing more players than any other country, even if they don’t play for France. French-born players can be found on many other rosters, because of the history of immigration. Yes, because of immigration!
Thanks to France recruiting immigration from its former colonies to fill a labor shortage after World War II, and the development of an academy system for scouting, recruiting and training talented young players in immigrant neighborhoods, soccer stars were born, such as Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Viera (born in Senegal). So, one might say that thanks to immigration, France won the World Cup!
You know the rest of the story. All hell broke loose in the café and on the streets of Paris, all over France and in parts around the world. The Champs Elysées was THE place to go and it was total mayhem, but so was Place de la République. It was a mad scene of ecstatic fans, some of whom had climbed up on the monument, others on the tops of cars, and one such fan, who had stripped naked, climbed to the top of a newspaper kiosk. He was dancing around and flinging his “!!!” for all to see, starting a “wave” among the spectators. Erica managed to capture the scene on her iPhone! I dare you to view it, but only if you promise not to hold it against me! Email me for the link…it’s too outrageous to even post here!
Félicitations to the World Cup Champions…France, and a Happy Bastille Day to everyone…another great one to fill our coffer of memories.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
(with daughter, Erica, on the Champ de Mars)
P.S. I’m headed to Nice later today and for the rest of the summer. I will be taking one week off July 28th through August 4th to lie on the beaches of Corsica, so there will be no Nouvellettres® that week. Hope you don’t mind if I take a brief “repos” after all this madness!