Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bastille festivities

Last Wednesday was Bastille day--the day of "National Celebration" commemorating what was actually a poorly-planned (albeit symbolic) attack on French absolutism (or an attack against an almost empty prison that caused a lot of casualties for civilian rebels and almost none for defenders) that kicked off an ultimately failed revolution, during which time France dethroned and beheaded royalty, only to eventually surrender their newfound "democracy" to an Emperor.

But hey, this is France, and any opportunity to take a national holiday is a good one.

We kicked off the evening with some happy hour beers and dinner. Here's me, drowning in a monster pint of blanche.
Then it was time to cram into the metro with all the other firework-goers. Hoping to avoid closed metro stations and crazy mobs of people (who had gathered on the Champ de Mars to stake out prime firework-watching territory as early as that morning), we opted to head to Passy, on the opposite bank of the tower. Judging by the crowd riding with us, we weren't as original as we'd hoped.
Although the riverbank where we had planned to stand was roped off for the firework display, we still snagged a good spot on the metro bridge between Passy and Bir Hakeim. We sipped champagne as the sun set, rocked every few minutes by one of the line 6 cars rumbling along above.
By nightfall, everyone on that bridge was ready.
And finally, there they were!
This year's display was set off from Trocadero, on the other side of the river from the tower. At one point during the show they had the Eiffel Tower sparkling in time with the fireworks. I love the way that crowds cheer at a spectacle, like fireworks or a film, even when there's no one there (a director, etc.) who could take credit for it to hear it. Instead of an expected debt owed to a performer, the applause becomes more genuine--the celebration of a shared moment.
Golden fireworks are always my favorite.
And half an hour later, the explosive, rainbow finale.

And then, of course, the metro ride back. Police had formed a barricade outside the station and were only letting us through in clumps. The hoards were in a happy mood, though, and metro turnstiles had been disabled to allow everyone free passage. And opting to not be in the heart of the action had its advantages, in the end. Where we were, near the end of the line, each metro car filled when it pulled into Passy, passing by the growing crowds at the following few stations closer in without giving them a space to hop in. I've been in that situation during strikes, and it definitely sucks. But that didn't stop me from enjoying a smug moment of Schadenfreude as I waved sympathetically at the sweaty masses stranded on the platforms.

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