A Month of Celebrations

The last four weeks have been full of celebrations.

Fete de la Music
In the second to last week of June, we celebrated the Fete de la Music: An international celebration of Music, with it’s roots in Paris. The entire city turned into a huge party, with bands on nearly every corner. At one point, we stood at an intersection with three different groups while a marching band walked between them. I have some short video of some of the acts that I will toss up on youtube at some point.

Next, we had Quebec Day towards the end of June. The embassy (Yes, Quebec does have it’s own embassy in Paris) threw a giant party, with a rockabilly band flown in from back home, a poutine truck and Unibrou beer. Unfortunately, no one in this country knows how to pour from a bottle, so everyone ended up with three inches of head in their glass, but I can’t complain. Good beer is good beer, no matter how much head it has.

The highlight of that night for me was listening to a fight between a French man and a Quebecois girl about whether or not Quebec was a Country.

The following Saturday marked the beginning of the Fete de la Cinema – the first of two Paris film festivals. Basically the way it worked is you had to pay full price for one movie, and every subsequent movie you saw for the next week, at any theatre and at any time, costs only 3 euro. With every venue participating, it would be hard to find something not worth watching. (A challenge that we were able to meet, mind you.)

During the middle of the Fete de la Cinema, we celebrated our second national holiday of the season. Canada Day!!! In what I assume was an attempt to play catch up with Quebec, the Canadian ambassador hosted a party at the embassy during the early evening. He did one up Quebec on beer – serving the same Unibrou variety, but at a euro cheaper – but I’m afraid that the food and music didn’t quite match up. Chips and candy were the night’s gnosh, and the musical guest for the evening was an older French gentleman in a pink shirt singing the national anthem. I think that this might have been our ambassador, but I’m really not sure.

Wil (my cousin) and Katja (his SO) were in town for that week, and were able to make the party. This worked out really well, actually. As the night wore on, people started playing that Canadian Classic Party game ‘Do you know Joe from .’ Wil, to my great amazement, actually did. I figure since Sarah and I brought him as our guest this qualified as a team win.
Post embassy, we headed out to a bridge for a drink-a-long with some other Canadians, and finished at the Canadian pub. Sarah had met the bartender earlier in the evening and would not be deterred in coming by to say hello.

Following just behind Canada day, of course, is July 4th. Surprisingly, the Independence Day celebrations in the city were few and far between, so some friends of ours organized their own event. Along with about 10 other Americans that they had met while in Paris, we headed out to Parc Monceau for a picnic, where we ate delicious flag themed cake. The park closed a little on the early side for our tastes, so when someone mentioned that they knew a fun place with good beer we couldn’t resist. As it would happen, we ended up at the other Canadian Bar in Paris; although, for the occasion they had covered their beaver with Stars and Stripes. Most of the rest of the evening was spent appreciating the finer points of Budweiser, teaching drunk teenagers from Alabama how to play Jungle Speed, and shooing Irish men off of our table. (The table jig was popular that night.)

Finally, the biggest even of the month, Bastille Day (Or July 14th, as it’s known around here). The morning began with a military parade just down the street from us. I’d never seen an all military parade before, it was very cool. It began with a mounted marching band followed by Sarkozy (have video – will post one day). Then each area of the military marched a regiment past, followed by horses, an air fly bye, tanks, trucks, jeeps, and ending with 7 parachuters who used the French flag as their chute. The highest appluase was reserved for the Firemen and Doctors who each count as part of the service. The award for silliest hat goes to the Engineering School, Ecole Polytechnique.

The middle of the day is reserved as a time for people to meet (flirt with) their service men. Troops gather at different spots around the city and show people around the equipment, shake hands, talk, etc.

In the evening, we went out to the Champs des Mars to watch a concert and fireworks. The lead singer that night, Johnny Hallyday, was paid 500,000 euro for his performance – which is a steal, considering there were well over 700,000 people in the park. 70 Cents a head. The sheer number of people was mind boggling. The entire evening concluded with the coolest fireworks and light show that I’ve ever seen. It combined music, visual images projected onto the Eiffel Tower, and fireworks to represent France’s history since the late 1700s.

There have been no shortage of weekend events in July, but I think that things are going to be a lot calmer in August. Nearly everyone has left for vacation, and most of my meetings at work are postponed until October due to everyone being away. It will probably be a nice change to recover.

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