Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Bastille Day



Time is flying, we've been on the go, and I haven't been able to post everyday. I'll start with yesterday, which was Bastille Day, and see how far I can work backwards.

We were curious to see how Bastille Day would be celebrated, but Paris is so full of tourists it was like other days, except for certain touches: Flags flying in greater number on every building (calling to mind a wonderful painting by Monet); men dressed like soldiers of yesteryear; planes flying in formation; a cavalcade of police cars with their sirens going. We go to bed at 10:30 p.m., when it is still quite light at this time of year, so if there were fireworks, we didn't see them. And we missed any parades, as we were busy sightseeing.

In the morning, we walked over to Rue Mouffetard to the open air market, which was a little smaller due to the holiday, but still lots of fruit and vegetable stalls were set up, as well as fish markets and coffee stalls.

Next,we went to Montmartre, a trip involving a couple of transfers on the Metro. We walked up the steps to ground level -- about six flights in a stairwell that has been beautifully painted with murals of the City. After wandering the streets around the base, we went on up to the top to see Sacre Coeur. This remarkable cathedral was built a few years after the Siege of Paris to memorialize the dead and to give thanks for Paris' survival of the war. Inside is a huge, wonderful mosaic of Christ, and many smaller mosaics in the side chapels. We didn't go up to the dome or down to the crypt, but were still able to catch a panoramic view of Paris.

After lunch, we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe. Previously we had gone to the top -- another site for views of the city. This time, we enjoyed taking pictures of the remarkable sculptures on the arches and watching the crowds. Then we walked along the Champs Elysee until we came to the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. (There seem to be palaces everywhere in Paris!) These were built for Exhibition in 1900 and are really beautiful buildings, loaded with sculptures and domes and pillars. Then we crossed the Pont Alexandre III, (The Alexander III Bridge)to get to the Left Bank and come home. This bridge is another dazzler. Sculptures all over it, and flanking it, and the sculptures are gilded. (I'll try to post a picture of it when we get back to Sacramento.)

We were going to try to walk home, but after a few tired minutes, we decided to take the Metro and got on at the stop near the Assemblee Nationale (which was flying with flags). (A side note here: French flags fluttering in the breeze in clusters, each with three simple three stripes, red-white-and blue, are truly picturesque.)

When we got out at our stop, Jussieu, we topped off the day with an evening walk to Rue Mouffetard, to have a glass of wine at one of the many outdoor cafes. We were pleasantly surprised by a group of musicians on a small stage, playing and singing old time French songs, Maurice Chevalier-style. The crowd sang along, and some even got up and danced. One song was "La Vie en Rose", accompanied by accordion. Truly a French ending to a very French day.

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