Spring in the Champs de Mars Paris is indeed a special time. Actually the Champs de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower is probably a special place anytime, but in Spring something extra happens. The population changes with the season. Instead of the intrepid tourists, real live Parisians take to the park like they have been drawn by the invisible magnet of the change of season.
This year the beginning of March was still below freezing temperatures, winter reluctant to give way to Spring regardless of the very cold snap. The fact that the sun had a different light and once out of the biting wind could be felt on the small parts of exposed skin that dared free itself from heavy winter clothing. Parisians ever determined to enjoy what their city has to offer, find their way to the city’s parks and lunch time is probably one of the best times for this. I like nothing better than to take some slices of “Sophie Cake”, a French savoury cake invention, a bottle of water and some fruit and sit on a bench and have my picnic lunch, watching the crowds and their antics.
Firstly it is the children who appear like little previously caged animals walking in crocodile with their teachers. Their chirpy chatter is non stop; they are clearly delighted to be free of the constraints of the classroom. Lessons in the junior school seem to be over, at least for that part of the day, and now it is time to stretch limbs, play catch, football or simply argue the toss with other children over which bit of park bench is their territory.
The Champs de Mars, where Napoleon used to exercise his troops, up and down, up and down from the Ecole Militaire to the river, has kept its grand design almost intact since those far off days. Now grass has been grown and there is a rotation for where the public may or may not walk on it, depending on the stage of growth.
Nowadays the various aspects and vistas have many different uses. I have seen advertisements being filmed, “Churchill Insurance” to name but one. Last week I saw a pop movie being filmed and watched for quite a while. All film equipment was there except on a smaller scale. There were photo umbrellas, train tracks for the camera, the continuity girl keeping people in check. The make-up girl was dabbing the parts of the face of the pop singer which had become shiny, commands like “cut” ring out, all pure Hollywood. I once asked a film maker why they went to the bother of going to actual locations to film scenes in front of the Eiffel Tower when it could easily be effected in a photo studio. His answer was that it was more prestigious to film in exact locations and added to the “cudos” of the end product. People liked to know that the scenes filmed were on authentic locations no matter how effective studio mock-ups can be.
Another use for the Champs de Mars is as a background for wedding photos. A huge white “stretch limousine” draws up and out steps a bride with her photo-shoot attendants dancing attention on her. Her groom appears almost incidentally and a little sheepishly! Because of the wind her veil, train and indeed her dress has to be tamed by the attendants, who carry combs and mirrors and fluff out the train of her dress. What intrigues me is that these lovely brides all seem to be from oriental countries, as are the grooming attendants. I am guessing that there are agencies in either Paris or Japan or similar who specialise in photo-shoots for Brides in front of the Eiffel Tower. It might be part of their honeymoon package. It seems a good idea to me. However, the bridal couple are always in Western dress. It would be even lovelier if they were in the national dress of their own country. Countries of the orient have such wonderful traditional costumes and these would make great pictures. But then these same bridal photos might have been taken in kimonos and chongsams but with Fujiyama as a background. Nice thought, I do hope so.