Fête nationale française

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Fête nationale française

Category : Seeing the World

We had a good night… okay, so definitions have changed dramatically. But, one better night, and we were feeling brave.

Plus, it’s only once a year that France celebrates is national day. Luuk tells me that you can call it ‘quatorze juillet’ or any number of other things, but not Bastille Day. Still, that’s what it is.

I’ve been feeling pretty tired and low. Maybe a parade would help…

Look at those bags under my eyes! But life goes on, and it’s healthy to get out of the house.

So off to Paris we go… Elena was strapped to me in one of our handy dandy sling-things. Luuk was on Louis duty. And we were on the first of several trains. (Train is a hard word for Louis to say. Bus is easy… or ‘Bah!’ as he prefers. Consonant sounds on the ends of words? Nah. When in France, eh?… we’ll say that’s the reason.)

We came up out of the Metro at ‘George V’, on the Champs Elysees, within sight of the Arc de Triomphe. We would have stood on the side of the road right there but were informed that the infantry march started further down – it would be vehicles only passing at this point. So we walked a bit. The viewing area was behind fences and gendarmes were checking everyone before letting them in.

Luuk and Louis, being men, got patted down and went right in. The gendarmes weren’t allowed to touch me so I had to wait in line for a female gendarme, with a metal-detector wand (like at airport security), to check I wasn’t carrying anything dangerous… despite the fact the President had been and gone well before I got to the front of the line. Fortunately, us poor girls-in-line could actually see quite a bit from our place in the queue, and could even step up on the fences to get a better view.

And so it begun: men in uniform, riding horses, all orderly and fancy. As soon as I stopped filming the President came by in a convertible, and then a whole lot more horses. I couldn’t see enough to see what was coming next.

I got magic-wanded (not patted down) just as the first planes flew over, letting out red, white and blue smoke. So I missed that. Gah!

Apparently, according to chinadaily.com, it looked like this. Fortunately there were lots more planes to come.

In NZ, we occasionally see a Hercules fly over and say, “Hey, there goes half the airforce!’ Juxtaposition much?

But then we were waiting for ages until the parade got moving. Soldiers and police and firefighters were all lined up in front of us, chatting to their neigbours and waiting for the go-signal.

After the troops had moved on, the vehicles rolled by…

And kept on coming forever. The general trend: they got bigger and bigger.

NZ’s military is a punch line when it comes up in conversation, usually, and I think I like it that way. The contrast today, however, is striking and I keep having to remind myself that France is like the 5th biggest superpower and that’s probably based entirely on military muscle. So, yeah, impressive huh?

The second lot of desert troops started rolling down the Champs Elysees and Elena was fussing, so us girls ditched the boys and found a cafe. I had a coffee and croissant while Elena had her milk. Breastfeeding in a Paris cafe, again, and no one’s been rude or weird yet. They stare a little, but that could just be because I have a very young baby out in public and she’s adorable. They can’t keep their eyes off her. Can I blame them? Mais, non!

The boys caught up and then we walked down the Champs Elysees toward Concorde. We stopped in a park and found a playground, some lunch, and a place to sit awhile.

Then we kept walking.

I think the Arc de Triomphe looks even more impressive from down here. It’s huge up close, but that’s not surprising. What makes me gape down near Invalides is that it still looks huge, several kms away. Very imposing.

We saw more of Paris, places we haven’t seen before, including Grand Palais and Petit Palais (which isn’t really petit at all).

We wandered through a market on the bank of the Seine and bought nothing at all. We were out of cash but Luuk was tempted by some giant tiger statues – for Louis to ride, he claimed. A stuffed fox also got his attention. Freaked me out a bit, but that’s true of most stuffed animals that used to be alive animals.

I glanced briefly at a red scarf – an appropriate Bastille Day purchase in Paris, I think – but I didn’t have the 10E required. Probably a good thing – an impulse buy I would likely regret.

Walked our feet off, which is not unusual for a day in Paris. It is still very strange to think we live here. I look up, see the Eiffel tower and think ‘oh, that’s right. We’re in Paris.’ I wonder if it will ever stop amazing me.

But I am glad we don’t live in Paris Paris – within the arrondisements. Antony is so nice and relaxed in comparison. At the moment it is nearly deserted. Everyone seems to have gone on summer holiday.

Shame summer didn’t show up yet. But weather wise we did well today. It was nice not to sweat buckets on the trains, to be able to wear my jacket (not have to carry it around all day), and none of us got sun burned. It didn’t rain and the sun came out when the parade was well-over (cloudy weather is better for photos, after all).

Now we’re home, watching the stuff we missed on youtube and the news: most notably, parachutists doing tricks, flying in formation… and then one of them getting injured, and the smoke-flag-flyover thing from the start.