I woke up yesterday at about 9 to the sound of bugles and drums. Out on the Comédie, there were, I believe, soldiers. I say "I believe" because I didn't go out to check. The martial music kept up for the next couple of hours, though, and I suspect it ended because it was getting towards lunch time and the cafés needed to get their tables out.
I also know there were soldiers out there because it's sort of a local tradition, or has been ever since Louis XIV succeeded in crushing Protestantism here and built the huge star fort next to the Esplanade to house his troops and make sure nothing like that ever happened here again, for the troopos to show themselves. Nowadays, though, it's not a big deal. Not nearly as big a deal, in fact, as Armistice Day, when the veterans do their thing. Young people still come up to these old guys and engage them in conversation, which I think is pretty wonderful. Some of them are students at the high-school which is in the old fort buildings. The military installation has moved down the hill to the Beaux-Arts district.
Later, after lunch, I headed off to the War Memorial, which is part of the now-civilian complex of buildings which include the Tourist Office, the Energy House, and the Pavillon Populaire, all of which were built to serve officers (literally in the case of the Tourist Office, which was the officers' mess). Nope, I guessed wrong: I've got to hit this on Armistice Day for the big-time floral tributes. These, however, were fresh.
And yes, that's Pic St. Loup pic-ing through the pillars.
There was no one around, to speak of. I mean, give people a holiday on Thursday and they're outta here. And the patriotic display was, in comparison to America, kind of modest: they took down the flags hyping the upcoming Radio France fesival and put up flags, and there are a lot more flags on the front of the Opéra.
The only other thing I saw that was out of the ordinary was a bus with an officer in a fairly ridiculous uniform with silly epaulettes and a bunch of French Foreign Legionnaires mooching around in short haircuts, t-shirts, and a pronounced air of menace. And yeah, at 11 last night there were fireworks at a remote location that's still within city limits and big enough to hear the big bombs.
Unlike in Germany, I don't take much interest in these holidays here. I don't feel French (well, I didn't feel German, either), and I know I haven't made much of an effort to integrate, mostly because I haven't found a bunch of people I really want to integrate with. There's also the fact that the French do a great job of isolating themselves from The Other, and are very happy to let you know they're doing it. I'm not offended; I know life in America would be much harder for a French person in my situation, so I can let that pass. Further, my socializing has been hindered both by not having much money and an apartment that's less than half the size I need to live in. Both of these problems, I think, are about to change. A new apartment will allow me to unpack for the first time in nearly three years, have a dining area large enough to allow me to invite at least one, and maybe two or three other people over, and make me feel like I'm not living out of a suitcase.
Here's what I see when I turn 90º to my right:
There are about seven or eight boxes over there, as yet unpacked, some of which contain stuff that makes it easier for me to work. I have two bookcases disassembled because there's no place to assemble them. And the worst part is this pillar in the room which blocks off a corner, into which I have to squeeze carefully if I want to access some of the CDs:
No, this isn't a tangent. It's about liberation, too. Of course, there were only something like a dozen prisoners in the Bastille by the time it got liberated; the regime had already let most of them go, and the ones who stayed had no place to go and preferred to stay. In my case, there's only one prisoner, just waiting for the troops to arrive. They'll get here sooner or later, I'm certain. The only thing I'll miss is the violin-makers across the courtyard, whose pleasant sounds now that all the windows are open interject some diversion into each day. But with 15 other lutheries here in town, there are odds I might wind up with another one nearby; the lutherie festival starts next week, and there'll be a map.
Okay, I'll endure silence if I have to. As long as I can unpack, get a new washing machine, and see what's in those boxes I packed in November, 2008. And have some folks over for dinner.
10 months ago