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January 2, 2011


Le Réveillon Saint-Sylvestre

by soundlandscapes

THE AVENUE DES CHAMPS-ÉLYSÉES – La plus belle avenue du Monde, as the French call it, the second most expensive strip of real estate in Europe, is a focus for French national celebration – and no more so than for the Réveillon Saint-Sylvestre – New Year’s Eve.

I spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in the Champs-Élysées, walking the two kilometres from the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde recording my walk, people-watching and window-shopping.

The car showrooms in the Champs-Élysées are guaranteed to provide fascinating displays at any time of the year and, on New Year’s Eve, the Peugeot showroom didn’t disappoint.

On show wsa a Peugeot concept car and a wonderful Peugeot touring car, neither of which, sadly, appeared under my Christmas tree!

I can’t help wondering why a prestigious French car company who can afford the €1.1 million annual rent per 100 square metres of floor space in the Champs-Élysées, and who can put on such an elegant display, should feel the need to accompany it with sound of such banality.

The sound inside the Peugeot showroom:

However, that particular sound assault soon passed when I found a man, who resolutely refused to be photographed, making these sounds outside the Arcades des Champs-Élysées. He was trying to sell devices to make bird sounds – and, although he seemed to have no customers, I thought his sounds were infinitely better than those in the Peugeot showroom.

The sound outside the Arcades de Champs-Élysées:

Scroll forward towards midnight – and I find myself at the bottom of the Champs-Élysées in the Place de la Concorde, sound recorder at the ready, waiting for 2010 to expire and 2011 to appear.

Next to me is the “Big Wheel” that has appeared at this end of the Champs-Élysées every year at Christmas since the millennium. It’s not as big as the “London Eye”, but it is the largest ‘portable’ big wheel in the world.

The view from here up the Champs-Élysées is truly magnificent. The trees planted in straight rank and file along the Avenue glitter with delicate, pale, purple lights with lighting tubes which act like snow falling from the trees or maybe even teardrops. The Obelisk de Luxor stands proudly ahead of me and the Tour Eiffel stands to my left with only two-thirds of it visible – the top one-third is shrouded in mist. The grand Hôtel de Crillon is covered in Christmas lights over to my right with porters standing stately at the door in their dress coats.

It is difficult to comprehend on this New Year’s Eve, that close to where I am standing, Louis XVI was beheaded in January 1793. His Queen, Marie Antoinette, suffered the same fate on the same spot some nine months later along with many others during the reign of ‘Terror’. The shadow of history falls across this place as midnight approaches.

There are no formal light shows or firework displays to celebrate the arrival of the New Year – but that doesn’t stop the crowds from bringing their own fireworks and generally showing their enthusiasm when the moment arrives.

The first moments of 2011:

And, of course, just like the revellers who came to watch the executions in 1793, so today the revellers leave the physical evidence of their presence!


1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Jan 3 2011

    Happy new year Des.
    Nice recordings. I like this fabulous “bird”
    There are clearly more fireworks in Reykjavik than Paris. 🙂


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