July 14, 2010
There are all the cities in the world… and then, there’s Paris!
Today my posting will not be about Mexico… I am going to take a trip back in time… 5 years to when Jorge and I had the awesome pleasure to be in Paris on Bastille Day.
This is the French national holiday, celebrated on July 14th. The formal name is La Fête Nationale but most of the French simply call it le quatorze juillet. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. The Bastille was used to hold political prisoners and really, anyone who displeased the royal government. The tower was a symbol of the monarchy’s absolute power. Louis XVI was an unpopular king and the people had taken all they could.
Approximately one hundred died during the storming of the Bastille. Historians consider the act was a rallying point and symbolic gesture of rebellion. Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, on August 4th feudalism was abolished and on August 26th, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizens were proclaimed.
Festivities begin on the morning of July 14th , on the Champs-Élysées when cadets from the École Polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale, and other military academies file in front of the President of the Republic. Troops from other European nations also pay their respects by following in the steps of the French battalions.
Hundreds of thousands of Parisians attend the military parade. Jorge and I did not but we watched it on television. I was moved to tears when I saw the veterans of WWII and Resistance members marching proudly and saluting their president.
In Europe, WWII is not a historical event that has been shelved and forgotten. Like Bastille Day, it is vividly alive in the nation’s conscience, All over Paris there are small brass plaques that individuals have placed in significant spots. On the corner of an unpretentious street in Montmartre, I read one that said,
“On August 23rd, 1944 our Resistance forces and common citizens alike were near exhaustion from their heroic four day effort to save Paris. I felt desperately afraid. Suddenly right in this place, a small piece of paper drifted down from the sky. I ran and picked it up. I read, “Do not lose hope… we are coming!” On August 24th, our Free French Forces of the Interior received backup from the Free French Army of Liberation and from the United States‘ 4th Infantry Division.”
Feeling “almost French” Jorge and I strolled the streets of Paris, we went to the Eiffel Tower and finished our perfect day at a small bistro “La Maison Rose” drinking du bon rouge and feasting on plump, buttery, very garlic-y escargot…. Sublime!