Paris…France for that matter, is in heaven. Riding a high that may last four years, but perhaps another twenty; which may be the cadence for Les Blues World Championship wins. Walking the streets, the generally stoic faces of Parisians are plastered with broad bright smiles. I almost don’t recognize my neighbors.
A bit of a recap – how we arrived here…
Over the last month, the World Cup tournament, Coupe de Monde, has set Paris on fire. For the French this is most definitely an exciting time, but Paris is an international city. Citizens and tourists wore their team shirts with pride. It became very easy to identify the restaurants and bars owned by Belgiams, English, Argentinians etc. Large crowds dressed in team colors and painted faces would gather in the bars and spill into the streets, dancing and chanting their team songs or national anthems.
On Sunday, July 15th, the day of the final, I knew I was in for a ride. The day before had been Bastille Day – a celebration of liberté, égalité & fraternité. The French take this holiday seriously and enjoy a huge state parade, fighter jets with tri-colored smoke trails, spectacular Eiffel Tower fireworks and live music. The entire city is a festival. At night, people retreat to their arrondissement for the Bals des Pompiers (Fireman’s Ball). These are local neighborhood parties with live bands, dancing and cheap drinks. Admission is usually free and the dancing continues to four or five in the morning. Needless to say, Friday and Saturday nights were not meant for sleeping in the city.
Back to Sunday…I followed my normal routine and made my way to the Richard Lenoir open market. I was a little later than usual due getting my best sleep from 6am – 9am that day. On my way home, I heard my first airhorn. It wasn’t much later when a chorus of motorcycle and cars jubilantly honking started filling the streets. Horns continued through the day (and eventually the night), punctuated by an occasional booming firecracker.
Just before game time, I walked to Place de Bastille, the major landmark of my neighborhood. Incidentally, Bastille used to be a prison and the liberation of this prison marked the beginning of the French Revolution (i.e. Bastille Day). An impressive drum group was rallying the crowd, french flags had become superhero capes and team pride was the oxygen everyone breathed. If you had just happened upon this scene you would have thought the French had already won the tournament.
I opted to watch the match from my apartment with my windows wide open. I had the best of both worlds, a great view of the game and the boisterous unedited response of the french fans. The “narration” from my neighborhood crowds, while in french, was easy to understand. The crowds hung on every ball possession. In the 59th minute, Pogba scored which prompted fireworks. You might have thought the game was over. It was not!
One of the most enjoyable parts of the coverage was getting a glimpse of Emmanuel Macron at the game. I am convinced Les Bleus had no greater fan.
The 4-2 win created instant delirium in the city. I put on my red sneakers and ran outside as quickly as possible. The streets were instantly impassable by car. Grown men paraded with bottles of rosé in hand and a tri-colored flag cape on their back. The celebration was good-natured and all fans came out to congratulate the French and to be consoled in their team’s world cup attempts. Later in the night I learned the passion (and drinking) caused some smashed windows on storefronts on the Champs Élyseés. It seems celebrations around the world can’t escape destruction.
All in all, it was a terrific win and celebration. Monday evening the team and trophy arrived in Paris. A victory parade and reception at the Élysée, Macron’s home/palace followed.