Holy canoli! This past week was Bastille Day, also known as La Fête Nationale. July 14 is an incredibly special date to the French people, and being in Paris for this epic celebration made up for my missing our own American July 4th celebration in the States. This year, Bastille Day took place on a Thursday and nearly all shops closed on Thursday, and several on Friday as well.
So how do the French celebrate?
1. Firemen– On the eve of La Fête Nationale, “Bals des Pompiers” take place. Translated to mean “Firemen’s Ball”, these celebrations are unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Essentially, a ton of fire stations located throughout Paris are open to the public to celebrate. This entails crowds of people young and old lining up outside their favorite/closest fire stations and ringing in July 14 with the firemen! The firemen are dressed in uniform, and all stations have firemen-turned-DJs playing music. Each station is unique: some offer food, some don’t, some are free, some aren’t. A friend of mine received a key chain at hers, I just danced the night away at the one I went to. Before I arrived at the Firemen’s Ball, my friend and I sat by the Seine waiting for the rest of our group to meet up with us. A live band played Beatles songs and even some Spanish ones and locals and tourists sang along. Everyone was out and about this night. Look at the lights!
2. Fireworks– At 6 pm on the actual day of the holiday, a free concert called “Concert Pour L’Égalité” (Concert of Equality) took place on the lawn behind the Eiffel Tower. It was packed!!! Once again, people of all ages came to enjoy this concert and many brought picnics with them. The theme was “equality” and a banding of all nations. I bought a T-shirt with the message: I (Heart) France Métissée…it translates to “I Love Mixed France.” Unlike the US, the French were not at all decked out in red, white and blue on their special day. Maybe because they know they celebrate with thousands of tourists…hmm. The concert was awesome! At 11 pm there were fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. This is where things got crazy. My friends and I went to have dinner at our homestays and when we left to go to the tower for the show, our night simply ended there. We got off the metro, along with hundreds of other people, and never even got to turn the street corner to walk to the tower. So. Many. People. Now I realize you’re waiting for me to continue with this story but I want you to stop and listen to me when I say I COULD NOT move in any direction because I was so squished in between hoards of people. Couldn’t lift my elbow. A girl to my right had an asthma attack and everything. Alas, I enjoyed about 6 minutes of the fireworks (an AWESOME 6 minutes at that) amidst a pushing, crazy crowd. My friends and I gave up and walked the opposite direction and finished watching the show from the steps of a Laundromat. C’est la vie, right?
3. Fire Food– My use of the word “fire” here is used to indicate food that is so Delicious, so Magnificent that I’m also capitalizing the adjectives I’m using to describe said food. Ladies and gentlemen I had the Best Meal of my time in France thus far, and absolutely one of the top 5 best meals of my life. Rachel took us to a neat café tucked away on a street near her homestay called Les Combustibles. So don’t be mad at me, but I don’t actually remember the exact name of what I ordered except it was a tender, juicy perfect steak with a side of fries. But I don’t want to call them fries because then you’ll think about McDonald’s or your standard Chilis side item. NO. These are gourmet strips of potato, if you will. And along with this plate came a side of whipped cheese. I legitimately did not want to keep eating it because I knew I’d be sad when I finished the meal (and I was indeed sad, but I absolutely finished every last gourmet strip of potato!). As if this slice of heaven wasn’t enough, I had a dessert called “Oeufs a Neige” (Eggs on Snow). It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or tasted, and it essentially whipped egg whites served in a delicious sweet syrup comparable to the taste of Condensed Milk/Dulce de Leche. After this stupendous meal I believe I entered a food coma/euphoria and I will be returning there again. Refer to my pictures since I seem to be inadequate at describing my food.
I only have 2 weeks left in my program! What’s coming next? A Hip Hop Exam (my favorite group is Sexion D’Assaut and my new favorite jam is “Paris Ma Vie” check it out here.) A trip up the Eiffel Tower at night. A comedy in a Parisian theater. A visit to the Museum of Magic. Montmartre and Sacré Couer. Another hip hop concert. And crepes. Lots and lots of crepes.