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Where’s Wally?…on the Champ de Mars with the Rest of the World

 

Every year, for many years, I’ve trekked to the Champ de Mars on July 14th with picnic goodies in hand to stake out a spot on the grassy plane to relax and watch the fireworks. Last year was missed due to my mother’s 90th birthday celebration in New Orleans (and yes, she just turned 91 and still full of ‘piss and vinegar’!), but two years ago, even though the scene was a bit chaotic and very, very “chargé” (packed), the fireworks display was drop-dead the most magnificent show of light, color and sound we’d ever seen.

Before packing the bags, someone in our party warned not to bring alcohol as they weren’t allowing it on the grass anymore. A plastic Perrier bottle made a perfect vessel in which to pour the rosé wine so determined to have along. It passed the test when we entered the area of the Champ de Mars even though the green plastic didn’t perfectly disguise the pink tones of the wine.

By 6:30 p.m. it was already very difficult to find even a very small patch of grass…and I do mean ‘small.’ Staking it out with our blankets and belongings, there was an immediate tiff with a guy ‘next door’ who was trying to hold on to several places for his friends. “Bonne chance,” I told him with a big smile and proceeded to ‘overtake’ our minuscule spot on the lawn.</f ont>

It was the first time to have seen hordes, literally thousands and thousands of people, facing AWAY from the Eiffel Tower! How strange it was that the entire crowd wasn’t paying much attention to “La Grande Dame” when normally she’s the focus of everyone’s admiration. This new addition to the fireworks festivities was the reason for the more-than-normal attendance…a concert on a stage set up at the southern end at Ecole Militaire that opened the program at 8:45 p.m. up until the fireworks began at 11:45 p.m.

More friends came to join us. By cell phone we had tried to locate one another until the network simply got overloaded. A few got lucky and landed on our spot, wedging out each person’s space just a little more. More friends tried to find us, but with no luck. It was “Where’s Wally,” and Wally was everywhere and nowhere all at the same time.

The weather was perfect. It was not at all too hot or too chilly and the sky was bright blue. The tower just got more and more beautiful as the sky became a bit misty and night fell. We chowed down on all the goodies each had brought and decadently overloaded on chocolate. Then the festivities began.

The concert itself was great! One after another of France’s brightest and most beautiful young singing stars proceeded to walk on to the stage and mesmerize the enormous audience. Big screens in key spots enabled us all to see them up close even from so far away. One brave fellow had a bird’s eye view of the entire scene from a perch high up on a scaffolded platform. Everyone was standing, singing, swaying, laughing, kissing…celebrating.

The moment the music ended, the fireworks began. This is what we were all waiting for. Now with our backs to the stage and eyes peeled on the steel structure that symbolizes Paris and all its beauty, the sound and light show began.

I’d like to say that it surpassed all the years before, but unfortunately, no. In fact, it was a big disappointment in comparison to the display of 2006. Someone must have had the bright idea to take some of the budget from the fireworks (very expensive to produce) and add the concert to make it a more overall grand event…but it just wasn’t what it was cracked up to be.

Too many people with not enough space to enjoy a casual picnic, when in years prior we could lay down and look up at the sky with no one standing to block our view…it was simply not the same kind of event, yet still very special to be one among them.

Leaving the area took well over an hour, inching our way to a Métro station and then fed into the station one by one so as not to overload the trains. You could feel the pressure of the crowd behind you, but everyone had patience, even if desperately miserable or claustrophobic. The trains weren’t as busy as rush hour, so the trip home ended quite uneventfully and pleasant.

Home at 1 a.m., I slipped under the sheets with a sense of accomplishment and questioning whether next year, only the positive memories would remain and I’d do it all over again.

Happy Bastille Day.


A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

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P.S. While Rental Manager, John Rule, is on vacation, I’ve been answering rental apartment requests on his behalf — and they are flooding in for August and the Fall. If you’re thinking of coming to a Paris, particularly during the Fall season and the Paris Living and Investig in France Real Estate Conference (October 11-12), book now before availability is limited! Visit our luxury apartments at /parlerparis/apartments

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