So, I think we all know from A Tale of Two Cities, that the French Revolution was the worst of times, and that it all started by the storming of the Bastille, the great medieval prison on the right bank in Paris. So I went there today, totally pumped to see the guillotine guys out steam-cleaning the blades and a woman with an enormous, scary mole, leading some filthy peasants in a chant of: “Guillotine! Guillotine!” if only for the benefit of the tourists. (Come on, we keep the cable cars running in San Francisco, and they’re not exactly the cutting edge of public transportation.)
But no, when I got to Place Bastille, what I saw was this:
And instead of forboding, rat infested prison, there was this:
I know? WTF? It turns out that the first French Revolution of 1789 didn’t take. While it was more or less inspired by the American Revolution (and the writings of Jean Jaques Rousseau, who had the audacity to write about the individual rights of man, which had also influenced Jefferson and Adams) it was different in that the people who were revolted against were in the same country as the people who were revolting, and the revolutionaries, or at least their leaders, held this thing they called The Reign of Terror.
Basically imagine this: Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, and Washington kick the bejeezes out of the British, kill all their families, then go, “Well, that went well, let’s take this newly realized power and just continue to slaughter people we disagree with.” That was the Reign of Terror, which led to a military coup, we’ll call that, oh, Napoleon Bonaparte (should be something about him on Wikipedia) who was a little full of himself. Well, stuff happened, Napoleon lost power, the royal aristocracy got power back, so the French had another revolution in 1830, this one creatively named, The July Revolution, so as not to confuse it with the first one, which, of course, also started in July, but on a totally different day. In this second revolution, they kicked out King Charles X. (No, not the ancestor of Malcome.)
This, is the famous painting by Eugene Delecroix, Liberty Leading the People, depicting the July Revolution.
Clearly, Liberty has found the way to motivate her troops.
So, the French had a couple of more revolutions, which brings us to today, when I went to the Bastille and there was a Farmer’s Market going on…
But the main thing I found were fruits, vegetables, and people snogging in public, which is what people do in Paris. Joni Mitchell even wrote a song about it.
On the Right Bank of the Seine:
Park Benches are prime real estate for Public Snogging:
Sometimes it’s a glance across a crowded market:
It’s more or less what everyone is doing or thinking about, unless they’re smoking. Below, one of the new non-smoking sections in Paris:
And we’ll look at the rest of the market and learn some French.