Published July 30th, 2018
After travelling (that jet-lag is a killer), the next few days were a little tough, but we got through it. In fact, the day we landed, we had to stay up late, because France was playing Belgium in the World Cup – the winner of the game would go on to the World Cup final game! Kelly and I found a bar near our apartment and watched the game with the other locals. Near our apartment is where many of the ‘intellectuals/artists’ live (or so I’ve been told), but it was pretty funny to see the game there – most people were sitting down, eating some food and drinking wine or beer, and weren’t that loud.
France ended up winning the game, 1-0, and the city seemed to erupt. Everyone that was driving was honking their horns (even the city buses), everyone had France flags out of their windows, people were cheering, it was a great sight.
Then on Friday, we went to a show – our first show in Paris. I found tickets online for a show called “How to become Parisian in one hour”, it was a one man show, where the performer talked about the many differences between people from other countries and Parisians (and did it all in English). It was pretty funny, especially since now that we’d been in Paris for a little over a month, we had picked up on many of the things he was talking about.
The next day was July 14th, Bastille Day – basically the “July 4th” of France. There is a huge military parade with President Macron, military leaders, and some guests of his choosing. You might remember that last year, President Macron invited President Trump to be his guest for the day – this year, President Macron invited Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore – this year marks 160 years of diplomatic ties between France and Japan, and Singapore is one of France’s closest allies in Southeast Asia. It was also seen as a sign that President Macron was bolstering France’s ties with its partners in the Asia-Pacific region. However, due to a large typhoon (Typhoon Maria) and flooding in Japan, Prime Minister Abe was unable to attend.
Kelly and I watched the parade on TV; it’s pretty interesting to see the theatre/spectacle of the parade. There were military vehicles driving down the street, planes flying over, soldiers marching in patterns that seemed more like ones bands would march in at a college half time show, and motorcycles driving in loops and jumping over things.
Later on in the day, we ventured out and walked around Paris for a bit. We made our way to the Pantheon which was open for free for Bastille Day. It’s a beautiful place, built in the 1700’s originally as a church. Two things that I found quite interesting – they had a ball hanging from a string (a pendulum), with the string attached to the roof of the dome – it was swinging, and the direction it swings changes because of the rotation of the earth (the Coriolis effect). It turns out the rotation of the earth was first demonstrated by Jean Léon Foucault in 1851 – by hanging a pendulum from the dome of the Pantheon, and the demonstration there today is a replica of Foucault’s original experiment! Another cool thing, they had live music playing (they payed Carmen, a classic in Paris).
That night, there were fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. We tried to get a good view, but it was incredibly crowded by the time we got there.
On Sunday, Kelly’s friend Kat and her cousin were visiting – and it was also the final of the World Cup! Kat would be arriving just as the game started, so Kelly and I found a bar near Kat’s hotel (near Chatlet/Les Halles) so that they could meet us there easily. Every bar (or at least every bar with a TV) was jammed pack full of people, but somehow, we were able to find a seat and a half (I was half on a chair). A few minutes into the game, Kat and her cousin found us, and we were all able to watch the game together. If you remember, France was playing Croatia – an unlikely competitor – they had won their group and advanced, and had to play Denmark, Russia, and then England to get to the final. They tied in regular time in all three games, and with Croatia beating Denmark and Russia in penalty kicks. They beat England by scoring in extra time (before penalty kicks were needed). France had beaten Argentina, Uruguay, and Belgium, three tough teams, to get to the finals.
Watching the match was great. I was also funny to see President Macron at the game in Moscow, who just hours before was in the military parade in Paris. Eighteen minutes into the match, France scored, giving them a 1-0 lead. Ten minutes later, Croatia tied the game, and ten minutes after that, France scored again, leaving the game 2-1 going into the half. Right after half time, France scored two more times, giving them a 3 goal lead. Croatia scored one more on a mistake by the French goalie, but they were never able to come back: France won 4-2.
A few minutes before the game officially ended, the stream we were watching in the bar cut out, so we weren’t able to see the end of the game. We started walking around, as the game ended, and once it ended, mayhem ensued. People were everywhere, screaming, crying, shouting, it was amazing.
My boss had told me that if France wins, we have to go to Champs-Elysees – it’s a huge road, 1.2 miles long, that stretches from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe. It’s where just the day before, the military parade for Bastille Day was held. We tried to head over there, but the Metro we got on skipped many stops near the Champs-Elysees – it was just too crowded. We were able to get off near the Arc de Triomphe, and we walked to the Arc – it was unlike anything I’d ever seen. People were climbing on everything, lots of people had road flares, French flags were waving in the air.
After a few minutes, it got a little too crowded, and we made our way out of the crowd (which took a while; over one million people were on the Champs-Elysees celebrating). We got some dinner with Kat and her cousin, and headed home to our apartment.
I don’t think I’ll ever have an experience like this again – even in the US wins at some point (they didn’t even qualify for the World Cup this year), it won’t be the same, soccer is not an integral part of the culture like it is in France and other European countries. So I’m definitely glad I got to see this and be part of it.
The next day (Monday), when all the players arrived back in Paris, there was another huge parade with hundreds of thousands of people filling the Champs-Elysees – we decided to stay in for that one. A few days later, Kat and her cousin came over to visit and have dinner, Kelly cooked some delicious food (I helped), and we had a very nice evening talking and drinking. It was nice to relax after such a busy weekend!