Bastille Day 2012 - the military parade, Hotel George V and what I learned about Stéphane


Bastille Day 2012!

It sounds like the title of a high-budget action film starring Bruce Willis, Matt Damon and Sylvester Stallone, doesn't it? Even though it's not a glitzy movie with amazing special effects, there were definitely all of the right components on the Champs-Élysées on Saturday morning: snipers on top of Louis Vuitton and other buildings, security check-points, military vehicles, helicopters, planes, a huge crowd of people from around the world and lots of high value targets.

Just getting to the parade was a challenge because most of the metro stations in the secure area were closed, so Stéphane and I found ourselves wandering through the Etoile metro station along with hundreds of other people trying to find the one exit that was open. When we finally emerged from the bowels of the earth, we discovered that the majority of the roads were barricaded. Snaking our way through the side streets, we located one that had access to the Champs-Élysées and ran smack dab into this:


Realizing that it was a mistake to have slept so late after going to the Firemen's Ball on Friday night, we maneuvered our way to the main road and were caught in a bottle neck of people. A woman was crying, people were pushing and starting to panic, a man got sick. Seeing that there was no way forward or backward, Stephane and I followed a group of young people and jumped over one of the barricades into a secure area along the Champs-Élysées. Amazingly enough, the policemen controlling the entrance either didn't notice us or decided that we looked harmless enough because they didn't kick us out. Much to our relief, we could watch the rest of the parade with some room to breath.

A word to the wise, if you want to see the military parade on the Champs-Élysées on Bastille Day -- get there early!


After our all too close encounter with the panicked masses, I suggested that we seek sanctuary at the nearby George V. With a destination in mind, Stéphane and I used the underground tunnel to cross the barricaded avenue and tried not to act overly excited by the hanging orchids decorating the courtyard. Knowing that some of the luxury hotels in Paris like to keep out the riff raff like us (that never happens to Matt Damon!) so that there's always an empty table available for their guests, we nonetheless managed to secure a spot by deftly avoiding the hostess' question about our room number.

Sitting at the bar has proven to be a good strategy in the past and it didn't disappoint us this time. Not only did the head bartender share some helpful tips for next year, he also supplied me with extra gourmandises to go with my coffee. According to him, the Champs-Élysées is not as crowded near the Place de la Concorde as it is near Etoile. He also told us that guests of the George V can watch the fireworks from the roof of the hotel and that they occasionally organize a dinner cruise along the Seine on the 14th of July. That bit of information prompted Stephane to call Yachts de Paris to ask if they were offering a Bastille Day dinner cruise. They were - for 345 euros! Our next burst of inspiration was Les Ombres, the restaurant on top of the Quai Branley with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower, but they were closed for the entire evening because of their location inside the secure perimeter.

If you saw yesterday's post, you already know the conclusion of the story and that we ended up watching the fireworks from the best spot in Paris - the Champ de Mars.

Here are some more photos of the military parade. I don't expect to take any pictures next year because I learned something new about my husband - after completing the obligatory military service in Switzerland, he's not at all interested in seeing military vehicles and people in uniform. I wonder why he didn't tell me that before we left home on Saturday morning!

Without a doubt, this is my favorite photo of the day. These policemen were having the best time until they saw my camera.
Then they snapped to attention. The policeman on the right succeeded but the one in the middle  had a more difficult time stifling his laughter.
Everyone wanted to get their photos taken with the charming men and women in uniform.

Comments

  1. Oh what great photos!

    I took about 300 photos of the military parade the first time I saw it. I always feel badly for everyone I tried to show when I got home- haha!

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    1. 300 photos - wow, that's a lot but I'm sure that your enthusiasm was contagious!

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  2. Ah, knowing underground tunnels and passageways is always a good thing. I would have avoided the crowds probably and missed the parade, but I'm glad you went. Also, knowing how to look as if you belong where you are is a good thing too.

    I love the variety of military hats but the one soldier sporting a silver necklace seems to be breaking dress code don't you think? I remember when the US military adapted the floppy, beret-style hats a number of years ago--there was quite a bit of disapproval but they have stood the test of time (at least for now).

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    1. The underground passageway was the metro tunnel - we just went in the entrance on one side of the CE and out on the other side of the street rather than taking the tunnels to the trains.

      As always, Joseph, you're much more astute than me. I didn't notice the soldier's silver necklace and had to go back and look for it. He caught my attention because he was really nice and kept putting all of the little kids on his shoulders for photos. For some reason, one little boy didn't understand the concept and kept his legs firmly closed, which meant that the soldier took quite a blow to the face.

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  3. Love those photos of the cops. And that's quite the hat on the last guy!

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    1. It is! I had to wait for just the right moment to take the photo because his floppy hat kept obscuring his face.

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  4. Great photos, MK! I really do love the one of the giggling policemen! What did they do once they saw your camera?

    You're so adventurous to have gone down there on Bastille Day! You never cease to amaze me. I'm glad you found refuge at George V. You are so not the riff raff that they are trying to keep out!

    Ps- I would have gotten excited about the orchids too. :)

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    1. The giggling policemen made my day! As soon as they saw my camera, they tried to stand at attention and finally ended up turning around. Since everybody was snapping photos of them and the Arc de Triomphe in the background, they weren't too bothered.

      The orchids are amazing - at some point I'll have to go back and have a drink in the courtyard to get a closer look at them. As for not being riff raff, I'm starting to realize that anyone who is not staying in the hotel is considered and treated as such. Although Stephane was more inclined to blame it on the camera slung around my neck and my leather biker jacket. He said that I looked like a paparazzi.

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  5. What a great account of July 14th.

    I have done three and only really got to see the parade once. I also ended up at George V meeting Gitte

    As I keep saying WHY didn't we book two weeks? I know what to do now!

    Love Denise

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    1. The George V is a great meeting spot - I remember that I was all excited once when Sylvia suggested that we meet there but she meant the other George V - Le George V Café!

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  6. Mary Kay, I see you are a person after my own heart. I too have had occassion to be a "guest" at an establishment to best enjoy a popular event. I find a quick wave to imaginary friends across a lobby usually gets one past an inquisitive hostess or concierge.

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    1. Oh! I wish that I had your confidence! I wouldn't be brave enough to wave at an imaginary friend because I would be sure that they would ask my acquaintance's name and I wouldn't be able to give them an answer.

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  7. Oh dear, sounds like it nearly got unpleasant with all the pushing crowds. Apart from that, it seems to be a rather splendid occasion. We don't have anything to rival it down here.

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    1. The part where the crowd was bottlenecked was really unpleasant. When I saw the reactions of some of the people, it made me really thankful that I don't get claustrophobic because it would have been a nightmare.

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