Bastille Day - Ho Hum
This is how we do Australia Day in Sydney. We grab a program from one of the many newspapers or info centres and choose from the thousands of different activities at the dozens of different parks, sporting grounds, beaches etc. The BOSS and I usually end up going to Hyde Park in the city as it's closest to our house. The public transport is free and the bus is packed with Aussies of all creeds dressed in the green and gold or the red white and blue. Or sometimes dressed in an Australian flag with green and gold hair. They will be adorned with temporary tattoos (given away free to all and sundry on every street corner) and armed with a hat, zinc cream and a bottle of water. Every tree in Hyde Park will have a banner and down the centre of the park will be 50 foods stalls offering every type of food imaginable. The rest of the park will be full of kids rides, bands, donkeys, balloons, jumping castles etc etc etc. We then usually head down to Darling Harbour which has 5 times as many activities, stalls, food, icecream stands, music etc etc. We laze away the day, sitting on the grass, watching the kids play in the fountain, eating samosas, listening to the free jazz concert and trying not to get sunburnt. At about 9pm, the show starts with the big screens over the water showing a slide show of amazing Australian scenery accompanied by the music from "A Man from Snowy River" or similar. Then Jack Thompson's voice will tell us how wonderful it is to be Australian then lead us into the National Anthem. With gusto the whole crowd will shout out the first verse and for the 90% of Aussies who don't know the second verse, the red bouncing ball will follow the words on the big screen Karaoke style. Then the laser light show and fireworks will scare all the kids and dogs for 20 minutes and then, knowing that if we attempted to get on the bus or train we would only have to wait an hour, we all settle back into sitting on the grass listening to the free Blues concert.
Bastille Day in Paris: At 8.30 in the morning the military parade churns up the cobbled streets along Champs Elysee for 3 1/2 hours. The crowd stands 6 deep by the side of the road watching silently the might of the French Armed Forces whilst being kept inside the barriers by cops with machine guns. We didn't see a band but I am sure if there was one it was a military one. Not one hint of the red white and blue - not one flag or tattoo or t-shirt or banner or streamer. All the shops are closed and not a food stall or icecream vendor to be seen. The parade ends, the crowd goes home. No other activities are mentioned on the website or any info given to us by the Tourist office. The Louvre was free but the other museums weren't. Most were closed anyway.
The BOSS and I jumped on a sightseeing bus (hoping that we would get a better commentary and thus a better 'feel' for the city) and spent the next 2 hours looking at the magnificent sights but still not seeing one hint of a celebration indicating that this day was any different to any other. We did the full circuit back to the Arc de Triumphe and then walked down towards to river. We found the Fashion museum was open and very interesting but very small and 30 minutes (and 11 euros) later, we were wandering around aimlessly until we decided that our bedroom back at the hostel offered more entertainment.
I read while the BOSS amended our list of 'must see' sights. At 8pm we got back on the Metro, with half of Paris, to go to the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. When we got there I was amazed to see a stretch of dirt covered with people but nothing else. NOTHING! Not one stall or ride or activity for the kids; no drinks, no food, nothing! Most amazing of all - no red white and blue!
Just people - standing around waiting for the fireworks. So we waited with them - on the dirt ground, reading our books for the next 1.5 hours. The fireworks came and went and yes they were really spectacular as fireworks are (I prefer lightning myself) and then the crowd went home - all to the same Metro station at the same time. The police ended up having to block the entrance to the station so that the crush didn't send the commuters onto the tracks. We got home just after midnight - more than a little disappointed.
They didn't even sing their National Anthem.