Bastille Day Adventures In Paris
We have visited Paris during the most crowded week of the year and there was only one reason for this: we wanted to experience the celebrations on Bastille Day, known in France as La Fête Nationale. Although I had an idea about how that day would go, or better said, how I was hoping it would go, there was a huge difference between expectations and reality….
What I had imagined:
We weren’t planning on going to the parade on Champs-Élysées, since we knew we would have to be there super early for a decent spot, so after breakfast we would avoid the crowds and visit something while everyone was still admiring the troops. Then, in the afternoon, we would go towards Pont de l’Alma, find a nice spot on the bank of the Seine (on Av de New York) to set up the tripod, watch the fireworks and maybe drink a bottle of wine or champagne. After all, it was a special occasion.
What actually happened:
Although we started our day later than the previous ones, we still managed to see the view from the Montparnasse Tower, as well as some parts of the Louvre, where it was unexpectedly easy to get in (there was a free entry that day and the wait in the seemingly long queue was over before we knew it). I don’t regret going to the Louvre, it was this time that I truly saw how beautiful it really is on the inside. However, being surrounded by a noisy crowd in every room had made me feel like I couldn’t breathe, so stopping at Tuileries Gardens afterwards was definitely needed.
Then comes the not-so-fun part.
After buying some souvenirs for the people back home, from the more-or-less tacky shops, we were hoping to see the Notre Dame Cathedral, but our growling stomachs had other plans, so we decided to look for a Subway (since we didn’t want to spend too much on food…again). We have found online (WHY don’t the wifi networks work anywhere?!) that the closest one was a few streets away from the Opera Garnier. On the map it says 1.5 km, but with all the arguing, grumpiness and fatigue (not to mention hunger), it sure felt longer. But like in a stupid comedy movie, when we finally arrived at Notre Dame, guess what we saw. A beautiful shiny Subway right across the street 😆
Get to the fireworks already!
We left from Notre Dame, to see Hôtel de Ville (ugh, ugly stage in front of it!), Place des Vosges (the oldest square in Paris) and finally, Opéra Bastille after walking in the opposite direction. By that time, we had split into three groups but we all decided to meet on Pont de l’Alma. Since we were quite far from it, the simplest solution was to take the metro to Gare d’Austerlitz and then the RER to Pont de l’Alma. Easy, right? So we thought…. After the train had left from the Invalides station, we were supposed to get off at the next one so we went to the door. To our surprise, without any announcement, the train had passed the Pont de l’Alma stop. As well as the next one, Champs de Mars. Confused, we got off at Javel, and a lot of other people did the same, not knowing where they were. At that point, we were closer to Versailles than the bridge where we so wanted to be.
We thought it would be a good idea to ask the guy at the metro information desk what’s the quickest detour route, since it was already getting late. “GO TO THE RER,” he said bluntly. Well thank God, phew, why haven’t we thought of that? We managed to get the right metro, heading towards Alma Marceau. Luckily, they announced that the Trocadero and Alma Marceau stops were closed, so we got off at the one in between, Iéna, where policemen carefully checked our bags. We pretty much followed the crowd, until most of them stop at a fence where they could see the top of the Eiffel Tower. Knowing the fireworks aren’t directed towards the top, we kept on walking and we had finally reached it. It was the biggest crowd I had ever seen and the street was closed so the perfect spot I saw on Google Maps? Gone. Trying to make our way to the friends on the other side of the bridge while swimming in a sea of people? Priceless.
Finally, FINALLY, we got to a decent place, set up the tripod and when the fireworks started we realized a good part of the view was blocked either by people or by a big-ass tree. Facepalm! From what we’ve seen, the fireworks were indeed stunning, but most of the time I was either cursing the people in charge for closing the street, wishing I had a better spot to take a picture and thinking that we should’ve gone to Champs de Mars, where it would have still been crowded, but the view would have been better.
But then I took the picture below and everything was better, I admired the rest of the show and the outstanding finale. I feel like the picture is less about the fireworks and more about the people watching the fireworks and this is why it’s my favorite from that night 🙂
Going back to the hotel wasn’t as difficult as we’ve thought, we got on the metro at Invalides quickly and we were at the hotel in no time.
Looking back, I would have done a lot of things differently that day, but all I can do now is to think about the good moments and laugh at how I almost saw the fireworks far away from the Eiffel Tower (which may or may not have been a good idea, you never know).