July 14, 2008

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In 2004, Karen joined me in Paris for a few weeks as we celebrated her CENSORED birthday. It was my first summer in Paris, and I did not have a grasp of all of the holiday festivities revolving around the major French holiday, La Fete Nationale (Bastille Day), which they plan for Karen’s birthday–July 14–every year.

On the day before her birthday (July 13), I took Karen and a few friends out to dinner to the same restaurant where Jacques Chirac celebrated his CENSORED birthday. After dinner, we went to the local fire station at St Germain des Pres, for the annual fireman’s ball, which is held in every fire station in Paris. Bodies packed wall-to-wall, loud music, and firemen ready to kiss any and all girls. We left early–as the revelry went on until dawn.

The next day, July 14, we had class with the students. The streets of Paris were deserted, as anyone out was on Champs-Elysees watching the annual Fete Nationale parade–a review of all of the French armed services, police, fire, etc. Quite the spectacle!

After class, I took Karen out to find a restaurant or something–everything was closed, so we turned in early. Not what I wanted for her special day.

In the subsequent years, I discovered the fireworks to the Eiffel Tower, where all of Paris congregates. Unfortunately, Karen visited Paris in May or June during those years, and not July, her birthday month.,

This year, 2008, Karen returned to be in Paris with me during her birthday month of July to, once again, witness the Fete Nationale with the French citizenry. I vowed to compensate for the 2004 trip with a weekend of experiences for her, rather than buying "things." July 14 is on a Monday this year, so experiencing an event Saturday, Sunday, and Monday was my goal.

Saturday began with a train trip to a small town outside of Paris, MEAUX, which has a very ancient cathedral. During the summer, in the courtyard of the cathedral, the town puts on a spectacle involving 500 players, 3,500 costumes, live animals, lights, fireworks, pyrotechnics, and more, during the weekend nights. So, on Saturday night, Karen and I, with our friends Thierry and Sylvie, visited that spectacle. It begins at 10:30 p.m. and goes until after midnight. Before we went to the spectacle, Sylvie prepared dinner for us at the home of Thierry’s parents, who live in MEAUX.

Sunday night, after church, found us at the Bastille, sipping coffee and enjoying a small dessert as we began watching the series of bands from all over Europe performing, one after another. This is one of the many La Fete Nationale activities that take place the night before the holiday.

Then Monday came the piece de resistance, a dress-up dinner cruise on the Seine, from 8:00 p.m. to midnight, with never-ending food courses, beautiful live music, and concluding with the boat docking at the base of the Eiffel Tower to allow us to watch the impressive fireworks display taking place in the sky over our heads.

During the summer evening, as the boat glided along the Seine, the violinist was playing "Summer" from the "Four Seasons" by Vivaldi. As the boat sat motionless beside Notre Dame, the soloist sang "Ave Maria." Even as we departed from the boat, the musicians continued playing and couples continued dancing. A truly memorable evening.

 

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