One of my best memories from my first year in Paris was in impromptu picnic on the Champs de Mars, on the eve of quatorze juillet (Bastille Day) with a friend from UCSF. We arrived around 6pm, grabbed a patch of dirt (all the grass was taken) and dived into our bread, cheese and wine. We watched the sun set behind the tower and then the fireworks explode from all sides. It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment.
This year I hoped to repeat the experience with the good friends (and grassy spot) that I had not been able to collect last year. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was not in agreement with my plan.
The rain began around 10 am and lasted throughout the day – drawn-out, violent thunderstoms that often turned the sky black peppered the mid-day and afternoon. Within an hour of emailing/texting back and forth our plans for an outdoor picnic were cancelled. Plans were bantered about and we definitively settled on continuing the picnic plans, but doing so in someone’s living room, rather than a public park. After that we debated the possibility of hiking down to seeing the fireworks at the tower, going to the horse races and seeing fireworks at the Hippodrome or just playing events by ear.
After trying to wait a while for the rain to calm down, I finally set off to join friends in the 10th for this living room picnic. I wish I had taken the time to take pictures of all the people waiting out the rain underneath the various awnings between my place and the metro. There rain was coming down hard and fast and only those of us running late to another obligation were venturing out to take it on, full force. Once I arrived at Strasbourg-Saint Denis, it only took stepping through some shady puddles (in sandles – ewwww) to make it out of the train and onto the street, where I easily found my way to my destination.
There were only a fraction of us there that were planning on gathering on the Champ de Mars, so the amount of food per person was greatly increased and mostly focused on the Best. Onion. Dip. Ever. Seriously (there’s bacon in it). I was proud of my quiche and slaw (and everyone liked them too!), but really, the onion dip carried the day. We entertained ourselves trading funny YouTube clips and playing MarioKart. Eventually, we made our way down to the canal to soak up some of the last bits of evening sun and figure out what was next.
It became clear that, while last year was about fireworks and grand spectacle, this year was about close friendship, good food and some fierce Wii competitions. Laughing our way through the thunderstorms, watching the sunset over the canal and enjoying the holiday afternoon with close friends ended up being the perfect way to spend our mid-week holiday. Fireworks? We can get them next time…