Saturday, August 18, 2012

The sunset cermony at Arche de Triomphe

There are many battles listed on the Arche de Triomphe, they were all fought, but not all of them ended in victory. We walked through Paris starting at Place de La Madeleine filled with red blooms and people sitting on the steps. Thinking this is Paris where building a church is considered a public service, useful in keeping people sane and full of hope. We walked a beeline to the obelisk and lined ourselves up with the Arche de Triomphe along Avenue des Champs-Élysées.

We slowly waded into the ocean of tourists, passed a man cutting out silouhettes in 2 minutes using just scissors, got pigeon poop on my bag, saw the citroen demo car with solar panels on the roof and had a burger at Q being served by a very tall girl. We got lost crossing the roundabout to get to the arch and went round in a cricle before we figured out the right underground tunnel to take. As usual there was a huge queue to climb the Arche, I am not really into queues so we went and sat under the arch. All these random events led us to sit next to a very small old lady (we later found out that she was 92), carrying a large flag.

I started doing my usual sketching thing, the old lady was a subject you just can't pass by. Some tourists noticed us and introduced us to the old lady. She spoke excellent English and had served with the Free French Forces under Charles de Gaulle during WWII, in intelligence. We came around to discussing the olympics and to our surprise she started reciting the venues of all the olympics since the 40's. I did some quick sketches of her and dutifully handed them over, she asked us to stay for the sunset ceremony alongside all the dignitaries in suits.

It was a rather odd half an hour as we struggled to be inconspicuous among all the military attire and the ambassadors. The tourists were all herded out and looked on from the outside. All the national anthems of allied countries were played - France, UK, Australia and some I did not recognize. Wreaths were laid on the memorial to the fallen soldiers. The logo on my t-shirt was mistaken for a regimental emblem and I was asked which one I belonged to. It was a rather strange end to our random walk through Paris. Thanks for letting us stay Paulette.