Friday, July 14, 2006


July 14th is the French day to celebrate la République, kind of like our July 4th in the USA minus the red-white-and-blue clothing. This commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison (which isn't there anymore, by the way), an event that was more symbolic than anything, because most of the prisoners had been moved out by that time. But nonetheless, it was the defining point of the French Revolution, and really made a statement. Like the US, they celebrate with a big fireworks show, in a flashy display behind the Eiffel Tower.

We started our day at the home of one of Dr. B's colleagues, having a delightful BBQ lunch in their garden in St. Maur des Fossés, a banlieue (suburb) of Paris. We lunched on Salade Nicoise (my favorite!), steak, brochettes d'agneau (lamb kebabs), potatoes, cheeses and a raspberry charlotte (sort of a shortcake). Their son entertained us with his wide selection of bonbons, and their daughter delighted us with her curls, long eyelashes and her giggles. We followed the meal with a kayaking expedition on the Marne River, where I shot a few pictures (which I promise to flickr soon), some of which didn't have any oars in the shots. (Thank you, Dr. B, for your contribution. Hmpf!) It was a lovely afternoon, and after cleaning up a bit, and walking Lucy, we went to meet our friends, who were picnicking on the end of the island in the Seine, just off the Pont Neuf.

We sat down, arranging our selves as comfortably as possible on the cobblestones, and enjoyed a glass of wine, some bread, cheese, smoked trout, fruit, cookies and chocolate (the French version of hot dogs and potato chips--ha) and waited patiently for the fantastic fireworks display to begin. Katia was very excited indeed to see the fireworks, explaining that they were illegal and rare in her native Australia due to the danger of spreading wildfires. We told stories of our own fireworks extravaganzas (Lake Metigoshe Skarphol Family Fireworks Fantasmagoras), and as the hour drew nigh, popped the cork on the champagne, sipping sparingly in anticipation of the big show.

"Is that it?" "I think it's starting..." "I heard a pop, that was definitely something...""hey, the tree is kind of lighting up." "Don't worry, those are the low ones, they'll set off the mid-level and high ones, soon, I promise."

Then we saw it. The trees blocking our view of the tip of la Tour Eiffel began to glow red and green, and smoke was rising.

For about 30 seconds.

Then... nothing.




That was it.

We waited and waited. Nope. No more. Uh-uh. Not gonna happen.

We slowly made our way out, past the winos begging for a dribble from the picnickers' bottles, past the big yellow dog, past the lady with the way too low for public decency low rise jeans. (Scary! SCAAAARRRRYYY!!!) Said Au Revoir to Katia and Sylvain, as they headed for the last RER before 1 AM, and began our trek to the Line 7 Metro.

"No, there must be more. Let's just hang out here, on the Pont Neuf, and wait a bit. There must be more. There has to be."

We waited. We text-messaged. We waited some more.

...(if there were crickets in Paris, you would have heard them chirping with anguished melancholy at this point)...

Finally, at 12:10 when the twinkly lights on the Eiffel Tower extinguished, so did we. We gave up. Headed for the Metro, defeated.

Unfortunately, the "Really Big Show" just wasn't this year. We don't know what happened. Maybe we didn't wait long enough. Maybe we just couldn't see from our vantage point. Maybe the government just didn't charge enough in taxes to pay for the show. (No, couldn't have been that.)

But on the bright side, I had remembered to stick in some PopRocks. So our big Bastille Day celebration was capped off with fizzy sugary candies, sent all the way from Montana, washed down with French champagne.

Vive la France!



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