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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Viva la France!

There was a time before I realized that every shoe in Paris goes on sale Bastille Day. It was also before I knew France was a nation of proud patriots with a love of their militia, parades, fireworks - a seven course feast of everything French!

I was young and fearless and thought nothing of following my friends. We crammed into a metro car with a few hundred sweaty Parisians because the Metro was libre! We were surrounded by hundreds of odorous artpits as everyone clung to the overhead rail - memorable indeed! I don't recall exactly where we were headed but I do know we traveled the length of the Champs-Elysées between the Place de la Concord and Arche de la Défense as the day progressed.

After the parade of militia, tanks, weaponry and an airshow (with red, white and blue smoke effects) we walked toward la Défense where Mitterand had commissioned a light show and concert that would be seen simultaneously throughout the city and projected between the two monuments. Thousands of people were seated on the ground along the Champs where billboard size screens would broadcast the concert as the laser show ran between the two arches.

I was most amazed by the ambition, optimism and grandeur of Mitterand's vision. We walked home (near the Musée d Orsay) from la Défense (where my friend's sister's office at IBM featured a ringside view.) Our night ended at the witching hour when there are few taxis and no metros running!

A few readers may have figured out that although I am a passionate Francophile I normally detest crowds. Somehow this was different. France did not seduce me my first visit or even my second. Like many fine things, I've realized she is an aquired taste and one that I cherish and celebrate now as often as I can. France has managed to retain a bit of her humanity - something I see slipping away here... everyday in small and significant ways.

I worked tonite (a blasphemy on Bastille Day!) I'll make up for it by opening a bottle of our favorite French cabernet, Roquefort and a rare baguette. Mr dd and I will count our blessings and most of all the one that France marches on: whether it is Bastille Day or mardi noir... where students and civil servants participate in manifestations that celebrate and defend the French mode de vie.

For more colorful info on the French Revolution and the history of revolt you might visit the Axis of Evel Knievel.

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5 Comments:

Blogger John B. said...

Very well said. I've never been to France, but I've had numerous analogous experiences and thoughts regarding the two years I lived in Mexico. Mexico is by no means without its problems, and I recognize that some of the very things I most admire in Mexican culture have their dark, even destructive sides. But. Come September 16th (the anniversary of the beginning of the 1910 Revolution), I'll be shouting "Viva México!" for the same reasons you wrote this post.

7/17/2007 9:20 AM  
Anonymous dd said...

I've never been to Mexico but my friends who've lived there maintain a very special place for it in their hearts.

I'll make sure we have a carafe of Sangia on hand September 16 - which is a Sunday so the tequila may have to wait!

7/17/2007 9:35 AM  
Blogger Wizened Wizard said...

Salud!

Austria was my home for a year way back in... well... a very long time ago, but of course with Austria as home base, I traveled in France, spending a few days in Paris. Europeans generally live more sanely and richly than we do.

Thanks for taking me back, and may you go again soon.

7/17/2007 5:21 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

It is imperstive that I know I'll be going back - it would be too sad to imagine otherwise. The way things have been the past six years its very easy to imagine always myself as an expatriot!

7/18/2007 9:30 AM  
Blogger foam said...

i love france. living only 30 miles away i was always surprised at the instant cultural changes when i crossed the border.

7/19/2007 10:17 PM  

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