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July 14th Bastille Day celebrations in France, around the world

Bonjour à toutes et à tous !

As you know, Thursday July 14th is the French National Holiday known as “Le 14 juillet” in France and “Bastille Day” around the world. Besides celebrations in the US (some of my favorites in Washington DC: at Bistrot du Coin, as well as the French Embassy), there are celebrations all across France.

You can see fireworks schedules for major cities in France on this page . For example on the Champs de Mars in Paris the fireworks will take place from 10:30 to 10:45pm on July 14th.

A local tradition in France is also Bastille Day Firehouse parties hosted by firemen everywhere at fire stations around the country. Paris and the region has dozens of them July 13th and July 14th. You will be expected to donate money to firemen in exchange for drinks and good times.

You can find a list here and here for even more information.

Expect crowds, but enjoy!

In honor of the holiday, here is the French national anthem below, La Marseillaise, complete with lyrics.

Paris transport system slowed down by snow, Eiffel Tower shut

December 8th, 2010 No comments

So after much of France was hit by significant amounts of snow (15 inches in Lyon, etc.), Paris is finally getting hit by some winter weather (very uncharacteristic for Paris in general, especially at this time of year). However it is not as bad, and total snowfall for the Paris region is predicted to be 5 to 6 inches maximum. But you can never be 100% sure. For the latest weather conditions, check out Méteo France’s map of weather warnings (you’ll see the weather warnings are not limited to Paris).

Right now the Paris RATP public transport system is experiencing significant delays, with the bus network “paralyzed” as crews clear the streets (they are not used to snow here). Metro lines 5, 6, 8, 9 and 13 are experiencing delays. RER A and B are having some technical problems as well. See their site for more information. You can also see for RER trains updated information on this site.

National railway operator SNCF has also warned of 30 minute delays or more for some TGV’s (high-speed trains). France24 reports on traffic delays due to weather and that the Eiffel Tower was shut down today.

For up-to-date air travel info, check with your airline. BBC says that Charles de Gaulle airport had temporarily stopped flights.
You can see some video here.

I know I walked to lunch today from my office, the snow was coming down quite hard and the streets had yet to be cleared. Good luck and try to enjoy the beauty of the snow!

U.S. terror alert raised in Europe

October 4th, 2010 1 comment

New evidence has come forward recently on the European terror plot, leading the U.S. State Department to raise its level to an official terror alert.

There is information that Osama bin Laden has been linked to the financing of a terrorist plot in Europe in high-tourist density area (danke, Der Spiegel):

German Islamist Ahmad Sidiqi has delivered new details about the apparent new terrorist plot against Europe and the United States. According to information obtained by SPIEGEL, he has told his interrogators that al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden approved the attack plans and also provided financing…He met with Sheik Younis al-Mauretani early this summer under conspiratorial circumstances in the city of Mir Ali in Pakistan, the German claimed. He said he discussed possible attacks in several European countries, including France and Britain. He allegedly claimed that Osama bin Laden had given his personal approval for the plans and that he had also provided some of the money that was needed for the attacks.”

So now the American authorities are urging citizens to be “vigilant” in Europe (BBC). So much so that the State Department is likely to raise this from travel alert to travel warning, the most serious level.

French authorities have detained a man who is suspected of threatening to bomb Paris St. Lazare train station, but no connection has been found to terror plots or networks. But European authorities have stated their approval of American warnings, saying that they too are being vigilant and increasing security presence in London, Paris, Berlin and elsewhere. The Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and Berlin’s central train station have been said to be among targets for Mumbai-style commando executions. Stay safe and alert of your surroundings, but don’t let this hamper your travel plans; I just had a great weekend in London and now back to work in Paris.

France under terror threat alert in wider European plot

September 28th, 2010 2 comments

This is not to scare my readers but to inform them. For the past couple weeks, the threat alert in France has been high as intelligence agencies from the US and EU have picked up on widespread and credible hints at a terrorist plot of coordinated attacks on targets in Europe, particularly in France. This in the wake of French nationals being kidnapped in Niger by Al-Qaida affiliates and bomb alerts against the Eiffel Tower, and French transport systems.

French weekly Le Point talks about how the French government is communicating on this issue, with predictable criticism coming from left and right about how they are creating panic. But according to French Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux, there is a “real threat of an imminent attack.” And Police Director Frédéric Péchenard adds that “we have serious indications from reliable intelligence sources that there is a risk of a big attack.”

Meanwhile, the CIA is upping drone attacks of militants in Pakistan in an effort to hamper terrorist threats against European targets.

As the Wall Street Journal stated:

“…Last week, France stepped up its level of vigilance over what was thought could be an imminent al Qaeda threat. Authorities said that they had uncovered a suicide bombing plot to attack the Paris subway linked to al Qaeda’s North African affiliate. They said the threat might be connected to France’s recent vote to ban the wearing of burqas, the head-to-toe garb worn by the most conservative Muslim women…”

The US Embassy in Paris has issued this warning against attacks.

Authorities are trying to prevent a repeat of the 1995 Paris metro bombings and related scares or something even worse.

Louis Caprioli, former anti-terrorist intelligence chief at DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire) (former French intelligence services agency, now part of the larger DCRI), was interviewed by Le Figaro here below talking about how there is a real threat notably from Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb including Algerian networks that use women suicide bombers.

Stay alert, stay safe, but don’t let this interrupt your daily life, of course. Il faut vivre.

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