How-To Do Bastille Day

photo: terrace bal bullier, port royal

A new café for me - the Bal Bullier at Port Royal.

The Balloon Goes Up On Summer Sales

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 28. June 1999:- This magazine is working right when I learn I am just a little 'behind the curve.' This state of affairs is being pointed out to me by some of you - who have already decided to be in Paris on a certain date for a particular reason - and you want to know what will be happening, where and when.

Bastille Day 1999 is just a tad over two weeks off. Without anyone saying so - except a few readers - I've gotten the feeling that some of you think you should be in Paris for this last Bastille Day of the century. Or next-to-last year. Okay, the last year with nines in it for at least ten years.

Parisians and the French are as used to Bastille Days as their own birthdays so there is no great fuss in advance over them. A lot of peoplephoto: shop, paris accordeon will do what they've done the year before and the year before that. They know most of the details already. No need for Le Parisien to mention any events until Monday, 12. July at the earliest. And this, only if there are 'special' events planned.

If you forget to bring an accordion with you, get one in Paris.

One thing to get straight, first: the majority of public Bastille Day parties and fêtes take place on the eve of Bastille Day; that is, this year, on Tuesday, 13. July. The fire stations in various quarters will host neighborhood parties, and these will be well-attended by burly firemen.

There will be some big general street affairs - probably one at the Place de la Bastille, maybe another at République; or both. Both of these places are big and can hold a lot of people. If you don't care for large crowds, it is better to avoid them.

Montmartre, with its revolutionary tradition, will also be an area where fêtes may be expected. Many bars and cafés throughout Paris will also have their own programs, from elaborate to just having a bash with their regular clients. I imagine many dance clubs will also have special events programmed.

The official Bastille Day parade takes place on the Champ-Elysées in the morning of Wednesday, 14. July. This will involve a considerable display of military pomp, but is worth watching for unusual features such as the engineers of the Foreign Legion and their beards.

When this hoopla is over, you have the rest of the day free to see soldiers wandering all over Paris, until the official fireworks time of just after sunset. Although the Parvis of Trocadéro is closed, I expect the big fireworks show will be viewable from the Champ de Mars as in past years.

This field in the 7th arrondissement is cluttered up by the Tour Eiffel, but will still hold about a quarter-million sparkler fanciers. A lot of people walk to this event and the hordes of people on the after-dark streets are an event in themselves, one that is eerie and village-like at the same time.

If you want to skip this - or intend to see big fireworks at Versailles or Saint-Germain-en-Laye - somephoto: terrace, st germain en laye of the fire stations have their neighborhood fêtes on the 14th instead of on the 13th. Generally, there is less of a party on the 14th.

Terraces of several cafés at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

Another factor to consider is that there may be a lot of shops and businesses shut on Monday and Tuesday, to make it into a big 'pont' - bridge - from Sunday to Thursday. Keep in mind also that Bastille Day is a national holiday and this means all museums, monuments, banks, department stores and official attractions will be closed.

As a great deal of France now takes the bulk of its summer holidays from mid-July to mid-August, you should be careful to stock up on ready cash. While residents may empty the cash-automats for their getaways, those staying behind may be taking the pont, leaving a lot of ATMs un-refilled.

Finally. Bastille Day celebrates the French Revolution, which was about 210 years ago. Some people do not remember it fondly; but officially it is still considered a 'good thing.' You can be 'Red' and slightly goofy for the Bastille Day celebrations and nobody will think ill of you for being so.

Balloons Away! - For some unknown reason a huge balloon has been filled with a lot of air or something and the balloon is anchored to the Parc André Citroen in the 15th arrondissement - witing to take passengers for a little ride in the sky. The two guys who dreamed it up have tested it successfully and when Thursday, 1. July - Canada Day! - rolls around, Paris Mayor Jean Tiberi will inaugurate it. After he does so, rides will cost 66 francs and will be free for Parisians under 12. The balloon can lift 30photo: les petits sorcieres adults or 60 kids or a mathematical combo of the two. Ah, if you want to go up to an altitude of 300 metres, the fare is 250 francs. Daily, from 9:00 until sunset; until December 2000.

Les Petits Sorcières gets some sun Concorde missed.
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