Bastille Day

It’s all happening this weekend with 14 Juillet today and the Football World Cup final tomorrow.

First was the military parade this morning which featured everyone in France who wears a uniform it seemed, from regions all around the republic. All very proud and looking great.

By now, you’ll have worked out that I watched the parade on live television. Really! Travel is wasted on some people.

But look at the views I had!

There were even cameras on the under carriage of aircraft in the fly-past. And there were dignitaries looking dignified, despite the wallpaper – it’s not that bad in reality; much paler.

The sub titles were useful too. These mountain soldiers are wearing camouflage. Like the Norwegian ski patrols all dressed in white, who swept down on invaders and took them by surprise.

The next group were the ones I was waiting for, but I didn’t know they carried axes, or wore leather aprons, for that matter. It seems that there is more than one foreign legion. These ones aren’t the desert legionnaires, obviously. More like forest ones, bearded woodcutters, rescuing Little Red Riding Hood and Grandmother from the wolf.

Here comes the cavalry, playing musical instruments as they ride, which can’t be easy.

In the evening, there was Le Concert de Paris, followed by fireworks, at the Eiffel Tower.

Pictures failing to upload here.

You guessed it: live television again. I’ve watched previous Concerts de Paris on the Arts channel at home!

Excuses: there were thousands of people, the performers would be little dots in the distance despite the big screens, it was 28 degrees, many metro stations were closed, it was going to be late and dark.

The fireworks were combined with elements of son et lumiere and aerialist acrobatics.

Bon Marche

If I were to go shopping on a grand scale, or window shopping (in French, the term is “leche-vitrines” – licking the windows) Bon Marche is the place to go, I was advised. It has more warmth and “chic” than others.

It is a grand, very elegant, department store. Emile Zola based a book on it to record the growth of consumerism among Parisian women, particularly, as there’s no doubt that they are, or at least were, the target market – as shown in these posters:

The first photo I took was of a statue on the ground floor. It seemed to be echoing my own thoughts: “Get me out of here!”

I had to admit it was spectacular.

With greenery and a lantern roof:

Some startled birds were in a corner.

I was much more comfortable when I found the books and stationery section. These two looked pretty happy too:

Nobody, except me, looked twice to see a dog in the store.

There were life-size sheep too:

The July sale was in full swing.

I went along a block to the delicatessen and homewares part of Bon Marche, in a building just as huge as the first and similarly modelled on the covered market that it once was.

The wine section was at the lower level:

There was everything you might need to make cocktails:

Or to pamper your pet:

Interesting, beautiful and a little exhausting!

Just words

I jotted down what I saw as we travelled from Nantes to Paris. Green and gold were the predominant colours. Lots of trees grew along the roadside and divided pasture and there were large areas of forest.

The golden fields (feel a song coming on?) were dotted with large round bales. In others, harvesters were busy. This area is known as the granary of France.

There were herds of cattle – never more than about forty beasts – and mainly Charolais – the white cattle, but also brown and white or black and white or even brown-red like Scandinavian cattle. There were calves in some herds. I saw some sheep, some goats and some horses.

There were extensive maize (or corn, as in corn-on-the-cob, but could have been the similar one grown for animal feed) crops and some fields of sunflowers. The only irrigation I saw was on maize crops. In each case there was a large hose reel with a single jet of water arcing out across the field.

On the roadside I could see broom, yarrow, ragwort, blackberry, fluffy grasses and ferns or bracken. At one point there were bulrushes in a ditch. There were feathery purple flowers and smaller purple flowers which looked like a kind of heather.

I wasn’t sure what all of the trees were but I did identify some poplars, pines and eucalyptus. Sometimes there was ivy growing up the trunks of trees and clumps of mistletoe in the tops. Other trees were clearly plantations with straight rows. Later, I identified willow, rowan and buddleia and what looked like a macrocarpa hedge.

The farmhouses were stone and grey, white or cream, with slate roofs. There were stone and corrugated iron farm buildings, often open-sided and I could see hay bales or animals inside. Sometimes there were large metal silos. Newer houses were cream with orange roofs.

There were fruit trees from time to time, in long rows and covered with nets.

The land was undulating so you could see for miles across fields and forested valleys to towns on a hill, with a church spire in the middle.

I was on the lookout for Chartres Cathedral and was rewarded by the sight of its twin spires, blue-grey on the horizon. The highway curved west and suddenly, in a break in the trees, there it was, its green roof clearly visible.