Vive le France!
This past weekend was National Day in France. Or, as most non-French people know it, Bastille day. It is similar to (but not the same as) July 4 in the US. It is a day to celebrate the nation of France and how awesome France is. How do we they do this, you may ask? In the traditional way - parties and picnics and fireworks.
Wait a second, this sounds exactly like July 4! Right? Wrong. On the surface, it does sound like the 4th of July. Americans have picnics and parties and shoot of firewords to celebrate American awesomeness. I propose, to be truly awesome, we need to take some celebratory lessons from the French. This is the country that invented champagne, remember.
Let's start with the picnics. To put it simply, their food is amazing. I have talked about French food before. Suffice it to say, picnic food is equally amazing. Even the basic sandwich is elevated to a new level when you put it on a crunchy, delicious baguette. Add amaing pastry and some of that weird French soda I talked about yesterday -- or better yet, a bottle of wine and voila, delicious picnic.
Now, on to the fireworks. I am not going to make a declaration that French fireworks are better, per se. Many American cities have amazing fireworks displays, including my home in Las Vegas. I do want to give them some credit in that the entire nation shuts down in the evening so everyone can watch the fireworks. Over 500,000 people gathered on the Champs de Mars to watch the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower - a full 25% of the city went to this one park. I was not there - as I did not want to be smooshed in with half a million people. However, I did go to Montmarte to watch from the hilltop - along with probably 1000 others. I would be willing to bet that 75% or more of the city was watching the fireworks displays. I call that dedication.
But what I really wanted to talk about is the parties. These parties put Americans to shame. Mike and I happen to live just up the block from the main fire station for our zone (think the equivalent of NYC boroughs). Each neighborhood held a fireman's ball on Sunday night. Normally, when I think policeman or firemans ball, I think black tie, expensive tickets and all the whos who of the city. This is not that kind of party. The fireman open up the station (the ground floor and courtyard areas of it) for everyone in the neighborhood to come and party. There is a stage with a live band, a bar and everyone from your neighborhood... young and old (I even saw a few kids there). This party starts at 11pm and goes until 4am. FOUR in the morning! Oh, and did I mention that it is free? Yup, free. Everyone is welcome. No ID checks, no guest list, no VIP section. We did go through a metal detector, and right inside the door was a wine barrel with a hole drilled in the top for donations. We threw in a few coins (couple dollars, max) and they just similed and said thank you. Many did not give anything, some were putting in bills (the smallest euro notes are a 5, for reference). I am sure they made tens of thousands of dollars. The firemen also ran the bar - cheap beer and bottles of wine, which they expected you to drink straight out of the bottle. They would open it for you, though. Everyone was singing, dancing, laughing and having a good time. There were no wall flowers, there were no creepy guys in the corner trying to hit on women that did not want to be hit on. Even the firemen were having a few drinks and dancing. When the band sang "I Love Rock and Roll" as an encore, there was not a single person having a bad time.
As I am not really a party until 4am person, we did not stay for the second band. We called it quits about 2:30 -- with the party still going strong. Little old ladies out partied us. We were exhausted and needed to go to bed. But, it was amazing -- something everyone should experience.