We arrived in Paris the evening before Bastille Day and we knew there would be lots happening in town. The concert and fireworks on the Eiffel Tower were an incredible start to our Paris sojourn. In addition to the big splash on Bastille Day, there were many other opportunities to see live music and Paris and we endeavored to take advantage.
Bastille Day Celebration
We didn’t know until we arrived that we would have a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower from our apartment. We already knew from some friends that a big celebration with a concert and fireworks would be on the Champs de Mars, the park just in front of the Eiffel Tower. As we walked around the day before, we saw that lots of streets leading to the tower and many metro stops near the tower were already closed. We also heard that much of the celebration was canceled due to the recent violent protests in Paris. We had no evidence of changes due to the protests, and President Modi from India was the guest of honor.
Picnic in the Park?
Some friends had suggested that we picnic with them on the grass before the big show. We found, however, after we arrived in town that the concert started at 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. and fireworks weren’t happening until 11:00 p.m. In addition to the concert and the fireworks, there was a military parade that we skipped and a fly-by that we were able to see from our apartment.
Our friends messaged around 2:00 p.m. and said they were sitting in the park with some wine, staking out a place, and asked if we wanted to join them. But, at that point, I couldn’t see myself sitting in the park for 9 hours until the fireworks. So we said no thank you and that they should keep us posted. Around 4 pm, apparently, everyone on the grass was shooed off and security was set up. About an hour after that, our friends said they had just gotten back onto the lawn. There was no way that I was standing in a one-hour security line followed by 5 hours of waiting for the action.
We spent some of the day figuring out the apartment, which included the TV and we learned that there would be a simulcast of the concert on TV. Armed with that knowledge, we discovered that we could enjoy the entire show from our living room, thanks to the TV and the spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower that we had. So that is what we did: we skipped the security line and sat on the grass to see the festivities from the TV and our living room.
Finally the Fireworks
I can tell you it was hard enough to stay awake in our apartment the day after we arrived. The concert had a large orchestra and more than a few guest artists, mostly singing opera and it was really great. Similar to a Fourth of July event at Shoreline Amphitheater, even though the simulcast was on a seven-second delay. But being this far north, it wasn’t fully dark until nearly 11 p.m. At that time, the fireworks and fancy lighting on the tower started. I can honestly say, being someone who loves fireworks, and will go out of my way to see them, this was one of the best fireworks show I have ever seen.
With a platform like the Eiffel Tower, they could light successive fireworks fully up and down the length of the tower. The fireworks from the tower were much more unique than your standard show just in the sky and we could see at least 2/3rds of the tower from our living room. Here are some pictures and videos from the once-in-a-lifetime event. It was special like seeing the end of the Tour de France from the Champs-Elysses in Paris, which we did in 2010.
Listening to Jazz
There are a number of places around Paris where you can see live jazz music. There are many varieties of jazz and Mike likes the blues. That said, we went to check out a place called Le Caveau des Obliettes in the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood. Upstairs is a really small bar, and downstairs in the music venue, there are very small tables and chairs. The musicians are actually standing in a cave in the rock, the place is quite charming. The evening we went the musicians were playing upbeat modern jazz, which was nice but didn’t satisfy Mike’s need to hear the blues.
Caveau de la Huchette
Another place in the same area is the Caveau de la Huchette. I didn’t go that evening so I’ll let Mike tell you about it… Well, I enjoyed this experience more than the modern jazz evening. After the prior evening, our friends found another gig that promised to be a bit more energetic. I met them and we scurried downstairs to the performance area to grab some seats along the wall, at least they had some degree of back support. The band played some fairly straight-up rock and blues. From their playing, there was no doubt they were native French speakers and they had real jobs elsewhere. Still, good energy and a lot of fun. I would go back if (when) we visit Paris again.
Buskers Are Back
We had heard that musicians in the metro stations and on the trains had stopped during COVID-19. But we are happy to let you know that they are back, be it many fewer.
As we walk around town and go in and out of metro stations, we see signs advertising all kinds of entertainment. One such sign advertised a Gospel Concert that had dates at churches all over Paris. Originally, I was looking for a concert in Sainte Chapelle, a famous chapel with beautiful stained glass windows. But the dates and prices never seemed to work out so I finally decided we would enjoy a Gospel concert in the magnificent Eglise de la Madeleine.
The building couldn’t look less like a church. It looks like a neoclassical-style building that Napoleon intended as a monument to his armies. There are huge Corinthian columns on all four sides and there is little external indication that it is actually a church. Your impression changes quickly after you enter. The building is magnificent with several domed ceilings and lots of statues. But, the most wonderful thing was the acoustics. The sound of the gospel singers was a real treat.
This wasn’t the first time we saw a concert in a church but this was definitely the most majestic. If you ever have the opportunity to see any kind of a concert in a church in Europe, I would highly recommend taking advantage.
Cabaret Au Lapin Agile
Years ago Mike and I went to a play written by the very talented Steve Martin called Picasso at the Lapin Agile. So we knew that Lapin Agile was a cabaret in the Montmartre section of Paris. There are more famous cabarets in Paris like Le Moulin Rouge but that place is fabulously expensive. So, we decided to go to Lapin Agile with our friends after having a lovely dinner in Montmartre. There were also some very famous artists who frequented Lapin Agile, including Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, Modigliani, Utrillo, etc. I don’t think any of us knew what to expect.
The entire place was a fairly small, very dark, rectangular room with built-in wooden benches around the outside with tables and more tiny stools and tables in the middle. Seated at a table near the center, there were six people singing along with someone playing the piano. By singing I mean they would each do parts of a song or story. It was like they were having a conversation but with music. We were served a sweet mead and then ordered drinks.
About the Cabaret
As the evening progressed, the guy who seated us came in and sang a song with the quintessential French nasal accent. Then one of the women sang the Edith Piaf song, La Vie En Rose”, which is very recognizable. She accompanied herself with an accordion. It was quite a treat, but alas, after three hours we saw ourselves out. It was a bit odd, the singers took breaks but the audience didn’t. Overall, it was an amazing very authentic French cabaret experience.
Overall, as with any big city, there is lots to do including many live music venues and events, especially in the summer. This is one of the reasons why we find this city so engaging.
What kinds of live music do you like to see?