Allons enfants!

We are having a long weekend. Friday was Bastille Day, French independence day.

I asked my colleagues at work what is traditional to do on this day, but they just shrugged and said get drunk on champagne. When I asked again in our chat a couple of my colleagues tried to convince me it’s tradition to give presents to your coworkers. I am naive, but I didn’t fall for that one.

Recently a coworker said something in French with a fake American accent. I laughed, because I found it funny that he can do French with American accent but not American with an American accent. I asked him if he can do German accents as well. He sheepishly replied he did fake German accents several times but I never noticed. I can totally believe this and found it very funny. He even made the gesture that says “it went right over your head” to explain how I never noticed anyone speaking with a German accent. Since then I heard him do the accent and noticed it, but to me it sounds more like a Dutch accent. I strongly deny that my v’s sound like f’s! Another colleague who learned German in school and can still quote Beethoven’s Ode an die Freude does a better German accent, I thought. The other colleagues think it doesn’t count since he knows some German.

Back to the holiday weekend: as we learned on “What the fuck, France“, on the night before July 14th there are often firefighter balls. We went to the one in Palaiseau last year. It had a band that played French hits,sausages, and a VIP lounge for the mayor, and they were really proud of a productinvented in Palaiseau: plastic bags that fit a wine bottle. You freeze them to keep your wine cold.

I found it quite an authentic thing – like a Jahrmarkt or Feuerwehrfest would be in Austria. So we visited the bal de pompiers in the 12th district. They emptied out the fire station to make room for the main stage, the junk food truck and the beer and champagne bar. And they parked the fire trucks outside, so the garage could double as a disco. So far, so identical with anything comparable in Austria. Only the firefighters are indeed very fit in France and there’s no grilled chicken.

The band played a lot of film themed cover songs with costumes and choreography. I learned that there is a Lucky Luke song, only it’s pronounced Lüky Lük in French and not Löcky lük, as I would have expected.

We also checked out the “disco” and it was awesome. There was a group of teenage boys who showed up and danced. They impressed the girls so much, they got applause and were cheered on. At some point there was breakdancing. The crowd cheered! A white haired lady joined them on the dancefloor – Not breakdancing, but showing off her moves. She got a big round of applause. A little girl wearing a white dress, she can’t have been older than 10, did a split on the dancefloor. The teenage boys, middle aged ladies and little girls were a lot cooler than I remember my adolescence.

The other thing we tried out on Thursday night, even before ogling the pompiers and seamen, was the terrace of the hotel opposite our house. We’d been walking past the terrace several times but it was always closed. It’s in the backyard of an ugly Ibis hotel, looking out over the park. It has food trucks and furniture made from palettes and potted pear trees – what’s not to like?

I finally gave up just showing up there and hoping it would be open and googled the place. Turns out they made this fancy terrace but hate money so much that they only open it once a week – on Thursdays.

To be honest: fried maki won’t be my new favourite food.

On July 14th Gergö and I both had a moment where we thought “The train station is loud today, and sounds different from normal.” At about the same time we realised that it’s the air show over the Champs Elysees that went past our house as well.

In the evening we met up with a German friend and had our own little barbecue: there’s a place on Rue du Pot de Fer that offers barbecue on a hot stone. While we sat and ate a photographer with a big fancy camera walked around our table neighbours and took a million photos of them eating. Or possibly close ups of the hot stone.

Halfway during our meal the group left only to settle down at a bar across the street, still followed by the photographer. We don’t know any French celebrities, so we just said “must be an instagram star” and kept on eating. Right as we were leaving a young man bearing flowers walked past. He was also followed by photographers. He disappeared pretty quickly but a little further down the road we heard a crowd cheering and finally the young man in a woman’s embrace. There was kissing, and clapping and two people filming everything. I wonder if it’s up on YouTube yet.

We made our way to the Seine – we sort of wanted to see the fireworks, but really wanted to avoid the crowd. Along the Seine and on various bridges across people were already gathering at 10 pm. There were picknicks, beer, and champagne. We walked past a fairly busy area and settled down across the Musée d’Orsay.

I don’t include a picture of the Eiffel Tower on purpose – the light show is under copyright and you are not supposed to publish pictures of the Eiffel Tower lit up. The law of freedom of panorama (Panoramafreiheit) is limited in France (and Belgium, as far as I know).

Only at 11pm, when the fireworks started, did we realise why so many people were sitting a little further away: the firework was not actually higher than the Eiffel Tower, but about at the same height. So when you can only see the top third of the tower and the rest is covered by buildings and trees, you don’t see a lot of fireworks either. Oh well, we did our civic duty of watching the fireworks even if it was only a little bit of it.

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