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 - waiting 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.

Concorde Gets Its Sundial - Camille Flammarion's old idea to turn the Place de la Concorde into a giant sundial by using the shadow of the Obelisk as the watch-hand, was realized last Tuesday. However, at the time of inauguration, it was cloudy, which caused a bit of flatness to the Champagne. On sunny days, Concorde will give the time from about 7:00 to 17:00 - except in winter - until the end of December 2000.

For science fans I can explain how it was done. Some guys from the Palais de la Découverte and the Société Astronomique de France got out their pocket calculators and decided exactly where to pound a bunch of nails in straight lines, into Concorde's surface.

Presumably, the nails will be dis-installed on 1. January 2001. For the moment, these 'lines' are difficult to see on account of the size of the thing. Birds have good views. When the 60-metre high ferris wheel is put up in the Tuileries on 1. September, the view should be perfect. On sunny days, that is.

The Summer Sales Are On Now - This means, of course, that you should not come to Paris without a little 'mad-money.' The official sales period lasts for six weeks in Paris. Since the sales are regulated to offer only what was in the shops - or nearly - when they began, the best stuff goes first and by the end whatever you see that you like, won't fit. Discounts are again on the order of minus 10, 20, 30 and as much as 50 percent off. All articles have to display their full pre-sales prices. Caution: very good, very classic goods, are seldom offered 'on sale.' Many famous brand-names are, so there are some real bargains to be had. Anything you may want for fall, is full price.

Part 2 of Babble by Ric, On 'Visions by Herb'

On Sunday, 16. May, Herb Malsman had me talk into his microphone for a 'wretched excess' lasting three hours in the Latin Quarter. This was reported in the 'Scene' column in issue 4.20. Afterphoto: marche edgar quinet considerable editing - I hope - Web broadcast time finally rolled around, and this will be in two parts: last Monday, 21. June, and Herb's Père Lachaise visit, Monday 28. June.

Summer sales do not apply to marchés, but some items are cheaper anyway.

Herb Malsman didn't know about sculptor Ousmane Sow's 'Little Big Horn' show on the Pont des Arts before he saw it, and seeing it blew him away. Tune in to his 'Visions' on Broadcast.Com's audio-book Web site to hear what babble sounds like, plus some other Paris noises.

John McCulloch wrote, "Artie Johnson style," but more importantly went on to add, "Perhaps you should point out that readers need to select 'AudioBooks' on the list at left, then 'World Tour' on the left of the new page, then register, then - maybe - download the new RealAudio G2."

I thank John for keeping his technical eye peeled on Metropole and for passing along this vital information. Myself, I have not downloaded the RealAudio G2 out of sheer laziness, plus fear that my three-hour babble may not be 'very interesting.' Herb Malsman, I assure you, is interesting.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 3.26 - 29. June 1998 - This issue featured - Café Metropole - 'Can It Be Good If It's Free?' and the 'Au Bistro' column had 'Bad News Phones, Bad News Fans.' This issue had two features, entitled 'Reaching the Sky - Up On Montmartre' and 'Versailles Is Not Lonely - But Not Everything Is Open.' 'Links for WC'98: Ready, Set - Bootez la Balloon! was an service feature nobody asked for or noticed. There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was titled 'Oops, Sorry!'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 187 more partly cloudy, partly sunny and sometimes hot Ile-de-France summer days to go until something really new begins to happen.
signature, regards, ric

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