Saturday, June 21, 2008
The longest day
Sky over the Tuileries garden, 10.20 PM tonight, June 21.
This is northern Europe, and the sun goes down late in the summer. Tonight was the longest day of the year, and the sun set around 10.20 PM. Ever since the early 1980s, this night has been the "Fête de la musique" in Paris and other French cities, in which musicians from the Paris Opera House orchestra to pick-up bands and lone accordionists play live music all night (if the Afro-French ensemble currently playing reggae-flavored Beatles covers just outside our apartment is any measure) in the streets of Paris.
We walked the streets from about 6 to 10, roaming from a tango band playing for scores of couples in a covered passage near the Opera to an unbelievably perky bunch of identically dressed multi-ethnic teenagers doing what we suspect to have been French hip-hop gospel music in the Place Vendome, all over central Paris and finally back to our neighborhood. It was a good night for observing Paris, too, with clear midsummer light suffusing everything, from the statuary on the facade of the Opera:
to the fancy post-Byzantine woodwork on the facade of a Georgian restaurant:
to the antique street signs that still survive above the street-level shop windows: