14 de Juillet

July 15, 2008 at 5:42 AM | Posted in Paris 2008 | Leave a comment

Yesterday was Bastille Day, so Paris was in rare form. Parades, plane formations, every conceivable form of military personnel, WWII-era helicopters–you name it. I slept in and missed the military parade down the Champs-Elysses and most of the plane formations, but I did catch the horses at the end of the parade as they went past the Bastille opera house.

I then met up with Dana, my friend and traveling buddy from Madagascar and Tanzania, and we went to a picnic at the Hotel des Invalides that was hosted by my friends from the Fourth of July. It was wonderful to see Dana and have a good catch-up–and since she’s staying in Paris for the next four weeks, we’ll have lots of time to hang out. When I think about where we were almost exactly a year ago–climbing Kilimanjaro–it’s hard to imagine a setting of sharper contrast. Anyway, there was a whole military display going on at Invalides, and every so often a group of paratroopers would come raining out of the sky (oddly enough, the plane itself wasn’t visible). At the end of the day, we witnessed the exit of the helicopters that had been chilling on the lawn, and the launch provided fantastic photo ops of Hotel des Invalides and the Pont des Invalides. When you see the quantity of gold involved in the Invalides building and bridge, it isn’t hard to believe that it’s the place that Napoleon built to house himself for eternity. Apparently he is entombed in seven caskets, one inside the other like Russian dolls (I’m sure he would really appreciate that metaphor, too).
We stayed Invalides all evening, and around 11pm the fireworks started. We could see the ones that were high up in the sky (they formed a pretty contrast with the Eiffel Tower), but we were a little too far to see everything. I was more than okay with this, considering that the alternative was a gigantic crowd at the base of the Eiffel Tower. Instead, we got to sit on our picnic blankets, drink some wine, and watch at our leisure. The fireworks were done in classic French style–set off a few, take a break for a few minutes to have a cigarette or something, set off a whole bunch more, take another break…There were several really amazing bursts followed by long pauses, but somehow everyone knew when the show was actually over because they started applauding. I must say that the ones on the National Mall in DC are more impressive, or at least better-executed, but watching fireworks over the Eiffel Tower is pretty unbeatable (especially when the tower lights up on the hour). Overall it was a really nice weekend…and now it’s back to work!
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