Thursday, July 26, 2007


DAY ONE continued… After a brief rest, we headed out to explore the neighborhood – 5th arrondissement, then met up with our travel companions for dinner. A restaurant recommended by a NYC friend but rumored to be hard to find, turned out to be tucked into a quiet alley right around the corner from the hotel. We dined at a sidewalk table at Le Coup Chou and had a lovely meal.

Next, we headed back to Notre Dame for a candlelit presentation on the history of the church. It was projected on a giant transparent screen in the nave and was interesting but went on a bit too long.

Upon exiting the cathedral we set out in search of some pre-Bastille day excitement. Strolling along the main street of Ile St. Louis, we marveled at the long lines in front of every ice cream shop.

Karen and I were captivated by a funky double shop filled with amusing and colorful housewares. Although, I’d recently featured a few of the same items in Cottage Style (like the Chiasso toasters), the sheer volume and overall quirky attitude of the goods on display was inspiring.

Our quest for patriotic fervor continued and we eventually ended up in the Place de la Bastille.

BINGO! A huge crowd was jumping and jiving to an open air concert featuring dozens of African musicians. We found a table at a “ringside” café with a view of a giant concert screen and ordered drinks.

Although we had missed most of the dozen or so performers, we arrived in time to hear Alpha Blondy, a reggae artist from the Ivory Coast and the twenty-minute long grand finale (which featured two of my favorite musicians, Amadou and Mariam). Caught up in the moment, I shot up out of my chair and headed into the crowd of 50,000 or so to get a better view. For a moment or two I forgot I had been up for nearly 48 hours.

DAY TWO BASTILLE DAY: July 14 is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 setting off the French Revolution. It’s the equivalent of our July 4th.

We took the metro to the Champs Elysee to catch the parade on and arrive in time to see the opening flyover by the Patrouille de France – nine planes in a V-formation trailing red, white and blue smoke. Unfortunately, that was all

Karen and I saw as the crowds were 40 deep and tall! One clever Frenchman held up a cardboard periscope in order to view the marching bands, military troops and mounted cavalry.

We didn’t last long at the parade. Eva and I head back to the Bastille to get on line to see a free performance of what was described in the newspaper as “a punk opera about gypsies sung in Tzigane”. The wait was endless.

FASHIONISTAS TAKE NOTE: Watching the fashion parade was fascinating for the first half hour or so. Pants that balloon out at the bottom then cinch in at the ankles and dress-like tops with oddly cut sleeves are all the rage. So is wearing colorful scarves with any type of casual outfit -- in 90 degree heat!

Some of the tanks and horseback parade troops ended up alongside the line for the opera. Watching dozens of Japanese girls beg to have their photo taken with a soldier in camouflage was mildly amusing.

The opera, Le Temps Des Gitans, was strange. I loved the music (folkloric Balkan melodies) but without super title translations the show was enigmatic. Of course, if it had been translated it would have been into French, which would have helped only a little.

The plot featured every gypsy stereotype and appeared to be a cross between Fiddler On The Roof (a flock of live geese scurried around the stage) and Peter Pan (everything from houses to performers flew into the air on wires).

FYI: In case you are curious, I’ve discovered that several clips from the show are on YouTube and that a less stylized version was originally released as a film in 1989.

Since the sun didn’t set until after 10 pm, we had time to catch the fireworks.


****NEW FEATURE ****
I’d love to share some of the wonderful blogs that I’ve found with you. Since they are far too numerous to list, I’m going to feature them one by one. While Blog Du Jour indicates that there will be one posted everyday, it may be more like every few days, as I’m going to be busy over the next few weeks finishing The Book. And, no, they won't all be French!

Angela Reed posts fabulous French decorating ideas, faux finishing tips, even recipes for Latin Quarter onion soup and quick quiche. Although she lives in a Chicago suburb she is a true Francophile and tres chic!


fifi said...

I was waiting with great anticipation for part "deux" of Babette's French Follies and was not disappointed for a moment. Au contraire! Your descriptions are marvelous. I felt I was right there with you. Leave it up to you though to find funky places, weird shows, and fashionable excentricities......
You may not speak the language but you certainly know who to spell French words and expressions. Not an easy task.
Bisou (that's "kiss" in French
French Fifi

Arlene said...

Sounds like you did not miss a thing...someday, that is on my vision board...Paris and Rome...thank you for the virtual tour!

Tara said...

I feel like I was there with you Barbara. Love reading about your trip. Who is the rock star in the 1st photo with red hot earrings and Hollywood glasses? LOL! Keep the pictures coming! xo Tara

FrenchGardenHouse said...

Ah, thank you so much!! I have been lamenting my "non-French tripness" this summer, but now I can totally enjoy a delightful tour with YOU! It is as if we are right there with you, enjoying it all.

Thanks Barbara,

you are the best tour guide!