It was our European adventure's perfect ending which began on Bastille Day. The celebration of France's independence started with its annual military parade on the Champs Elysee. They say almost a million spectators were there waving flags, taking special pride in their county recently stung by the Charlie Hebdo tragedy.
Franesca and Brigitte with their new friend, Lt. Claude.
We found a shaded spot and listened for the parade approaching in the distance. Minutes later there was a deep chant, the song of marching soldiers. When the first group passed to loud applause we enjoyed the men and women in spiffy uniforms.
Military jets and helicopters were having their own parade in the sky.
A number of tanks clattered by on the patterned brick streets. Many more soldiers marched past representing the army, air corp, navy, French Foreign Legion and even The Bearded Woodsmen Brigade.
No, I don't know their real name but these fuzzy-faced men had snazzy aprons and carried axes proudly. It's probably the group I'd be in had I pursued a French military career.
When the parade ended we returned to our Canal St. Martin apartment to take long naps.
With five locks on our door we never felt a need to call security
After an early dinner we made out way to the Big Affair, a half-million people gathering on the endless lawn south of the Eiffel Tower.
The large expanse under the tower had been transformed into a stage complete with the Paris Philharmonic, a large chorus and prominent singers. And sing they did, for two hours ending with the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise". When everyone stood, loud and proud, it was chilling, like the French ex-patriots belting it out in Rick's Cafe (in the movie "Casablanca").
When our voices died down the fireworks lit up. For a half-hour
we marveled at twelve fiery pieces, a mix of pyrotechnics, music, and light.
It was high (1200-foot) art, colors, shapes and sounds with none of the loud explosions that we're so use to.
The tower itself was the star. Loaded with 50,000 fireworks, with each composition they would shoot out, swirl, and dance to the music.
The fire created temporary smoke screens and lights were projected on them. The inside of the tower had its own moving light component. It was incredible art the likes of which I may never see again. Here's a link that will give you a taste:
It was the first time in time in twelve years that fireworks exploded from the tower itself. Her silhouette seemed to dance when the sky was lit behind her then, in a moment of orchestrated darkness, the slender tower would sparkle its 5,000 bright, tiny lights.
Miami, why can't you do something as tasteful and elegant? As I write this my city is still considering a 633-foot tower covered with huge TV ads, 24/7. How deep can you sink, South Florida?
Why can't we have our own Ferris wheel? From the top the one in the Jardin des Tuileries we could see all of Paris.
Such a thrill! Amsterdam and London have them too.
What a shame that we don't have the spunk to build one on Biscayne Bay. Anything is better than the stupid Giant Clothespin planned for Bayfront Park. Greed trumps class most of the time in my home town.
The next day we toured the Paris Opera House where the Phantom lurked 140 years ago. Thankfully, the 8000 lb. chandelier that he sent crashing into the audience is in great shape now.
Sixty years ago artist Marc Chagall painted the mural above it.
The opera house gift shop sold all of the essentials... jewelry, top hats, cloaks, and those darling $300 toad purses.
They are made from the very same buffo toads that are all over South Florida. Think of all the money waiting to be made in your own backyard!
The iridescent change purses were only $250
In the Louvre I took pictures of people posing with art.
I guess their photos say, "I was there!"
I was too but you'll have to take my word for it.
Here is a special moment, a guard trying to block my unfocused camera from taking a photo of the Mona Fan Club. He told me, "You can take a picture of Mona Lisa but not the people looking at her".
He said nothing about me photographing his hand.
After many days on the road it was time to do our laundry. We headed home where we could do it for free.
Next stop, California.