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Libération!

photo: cafe jean bart

After the Libération excitement, a bit of snoozing.

The Paris Version

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 30. August 2004:– Today's weather forecast can be short because the Atlantic Ocean is going to be on its best behavior for the rest of the week. No activity out there means that natural heatwaves arising in Africa can float up here.

For tomorrow we are supposed to expect a few clouds in the morning giving way to fewer clouds in the afternoon and maybe fewer yet at night when we can't see them anyway. Today's temperature isn't warm so tomorrow will start off from 12 degrees, to maybe wind up with 22 degrees in the afternoon. It will be low for the time of year, but not terribly shabby.

Eighty–five percent true–blue skies are predicted for Wednesday and this will allow the temperature to creep up another degree, to 23. Thursday is foreseen as having a slightly less blue sky, but it should be sunny all–over, with the temperature inching up another notch to 24.

How likely is this unusual forecast? Well, the TV–weather lady actually closed her show by adding that a lot of sunshine is expected for Friday and the coming weekend, and the temperatures may even get warmer. Or maybe she said they would be 'good.'

Café Life

Libération's Big Show

The entry of the French 2nd Armored Division was re–enacted on Wednesday in front of the Mairie of the 14th arrondissement. There were Parisians costumed in WWII French and US uniforms,photo: liberation convoy and as civilians were dressed in 1944. There were scout motorcycles, jeeps, army trucks, a DUK, a half- track with four Brownings, plus some FFI cars, a firetruck and some old Renaults and Citrœns.

Part of last Wednesday's Libération convoy.

There was a popular band on a flat-deck and a marching band on the city hall steps. Stage producer Jérôme Savary, responsible for the evening's big dance show at the Bastille – and for organizing 1944–era dance lessons using the Hotel de Ville ballroom as a rehearsal hall – was on hand to say a few words mangled by a defective sound system. Girls in school uniforms sang a popular air of the times, and Parisians in their costumes danced, with flags fluttering.

Just as rain began to fall heavily the motorcycles were fired up, to lead the rag-tag parade out of the place and over to the Avenue Leclerc, to make the run northwards to the city centre. The rain that drenched me had almost stopped by the time the colorful parade reached the Place Denfert– Rochereau, less than 500 metres away.

This place, named for a hero of the 1870–71 Franco-Prussian conflict, was partially renamed for Col. Henri Rol–Tanguy, leader of the FFI resistance fighters. The Paris headquarters were located in the underground catacombs which have their public entry here.

The parade stalled by accident orphoto: liberation parade, rider design around the lion statue at Denfert– Rochereau, enabling more Parisians to show off their recently acquired jitterbugging skills. Even with the rain the crowd showed an abandoned gaiety, making it a good memory of the past.

Pretty riders, just as in 1944.

Later the parade reached the Luxembourg gardens, which were a scene of heavy fighting on Friday, 25. August, 60 years ago. The parade eventually wound through a very crowded Quartier Latin, to the Pont Neuf, and on to Châtelet.

There was a parallel parade, starting from the Place d'Italie. It represented the US Army's 4th Division that had entered Paris in tandem with the French 2nd Armored Division. Originally, it was the unit of the French 2nd led by Billotte that entered Paris here. The American division, led by General Barton, came into Paris more from the east in 1944, and occupied eastern and northern arrondissements.

A spearhead column, led by Captain Dronne, that reached the Hôtel de Ville the preceding evening was almost entirely manned by Spanish Republicans.

Besides a popular 'bal' staged by the French Senat at the Luxembourg Place, there was a solemn ceremony of remembrance at the Hotel de Ville. According to Wednesday's papers there was to have been a modern military display of some sort in the Place de la Concorde. Thursday's paper said mayor Bertrand Delanoë prayed for the rain to cease and Jérôme Savary sang 'Singing In the Rain' on the Pont Neuf.

The stage show conceived by Savary for the Bastille on Wednesday evening was also followed by a popular 'bal' there, but the weather wasn't cooperative and only 40,000 turned out for it. Live TV coverage began just after midnight, perhaps recapping the day's festivities.

Unlike the formal military parades on 14. July and 11. November, all Parisians were invited to take part in Wednesday's parades and dances. And this is what Parisians did, many dressed in '40s–style costumes and some home–made dresses made from flags. When it wasn't raining, it was very colorful and decidedly carefree.

Extraordinary Open House

poster: journees patrimoine 2004Each year around this time France stages an 'open house' weekend to show off its treasures, some of whichare not normally open to the public. This year the weekend falls on 18–19. September. But the mostly free event is popular, lines can be long, and some locations require reservations. For a list of all the 'open doors' try the Journées du Patrimoine Web site. Find details on the right side of the screen. Beginning on Monday, 13. September, reservations can also be made at the Kiosque d'Information located in the garden of the Palais–Royal. For just one example, the Métro's operator, the RATP, has a program involving about two dozen events or sites, including rides on the 'Sprague' Métro trains.


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