Thursday, July 16, 2009

Ils sont arrivées!

Our friends Susan and Bernie have finally arrived to Paris! This fortune is thanks to an international vocal music conference at which Susan is talking. Lucky for him, Bernie got to come along too; and lucky for both of them, they arrived just in time for Quatorze Juillet --- the day all of France celebrate the turn of the tide against the French monarchy and toward the Republic, thanks to which we now have Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité --- the national motto.

The day started off unlike any other. We met Katie and Olivier, along with maybe 200,000 others, on Champs Elysees at 8 AM to get ready for the great parade beginning at 10 AM. I (Bobby) made French small talk with the lady next to us, practicing what little I know to ask her what she was going to do the rest of the day.

Then the flyovers started with nine jets touting the colors of France, flying straight as an arrow from the Arc de Triomphe to Place Concord.

Then President Sarkozy drove past at not a slow speed, waving to the crowds.

Every year, France invites an international military representative to march in the parade. This year it was India.

One of the more curious sights was this band playing their instruments while riding their horses.

The flyovers continued with more of the French Air Force, including this RC-121, which I am familiar with since my dad either flew one, or knew someone who did during the 1970's.

This was followed by more serious-looking generals and soldiers in jeeps, tanks, earth movers, missile launchers, mobile communications platforms, field triage units, transportable armories, and other ground and airborne vehicles not meant to spread clean air and serenity.

I turned to Olivier and said, is it just me, or are you intimidated as well? He mentioned that this parade is as much a celebration as a reminder of who's boss.

This man had a periscope to really enjoy the parade!

Once the parade was finished, it was time make a picnic on Champ Mars and get ready for one of the greatest displays of firework artwork we have ever seen. We got a nice spot with an excellent view and some shade. This year too, the Tour Eiffel, the Iron Maiden, the Mademoiselle de Fer, is celebrating her 120th year!

After picnicking for maybe six hours, and the arrival of maybe 500,000 other people, it was time for the penultimate attraction: Johnny Hollyday. This is a French rocker who is really a French institution --- so much so that many of my office mates decided to watch the fireworks on a mountain far away from the Hollyday's music.

Johnny came out, bedecked in a sequined jacket that makes it appear the 67-year-old can move as fast as light though he has maybe three prosthetic hips. It was en emotional moment seeing him greet the cheering crowd with tears in his tummy-tucked eyes.

Some people prefered to wait for the fireworks by drowning out Hollyday.

By 10:45 PM, it time for the nearly half-hour fireworks display. Unlike in 2007, when we were at the very same place for Quatorze Juillet, this time they were using powerful projectors to put images on the tower itself! Above you see the optical illusion they created, making the tower appear as if it is twisting.

Starting from the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789, they highlighted particular events in history, such as World War I and II.

Synchronized to the music, and now accompanied by projected visuals, this has got to be the greatest show of fire ever.

Here one can see the flower-power of the Sixties!

The French have conclusively demonstrated that the Eiffel Tower is the greatest vehicle for firework delivery that has ever been and ever will be built.

Once the fun was over, over 1,000,000 people plus Carla, Susan, Bernie, and I, attempted to take the Metro back home. It took nearly two hours to emigrate, but the 14th of July in Paris is certainly worth it!

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