Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Happy Bastille Day

We woke up and prepared to go on the bike tour we had been looking forward to for a few days. Some of us showered ad we put on shorts and shoes for the four-hour ride. We were ready by 9:30 and then headed out for our hour hike to the Eiffel Tower. After picking up Danishes for breakfast we quickly realized something was odd, there were armed guards, police and military personnel everywhere and roads were blocked off all the way to the Eiffel tower. It was Bastille Day, like the United States 4th of July. So we kept walking to see the parade, knowing that the bike tour was not going to happen. After another 15 minutes of walking we ran into the throngs of people with the same idea as us.

There were hundreds of thousands of people packed onto the Chance Eelyses for the parade. We walked past Prada Valentino, Gucci, Dolce and Gabanna to the main street where military decked the roads up to the Arche de Triumphe. At a little after 10 the planes started to fly and out on their show while the band played the French national anthem. It was a fantastic show and massive planes sped overhead, dispelling red, white, and blue smoke behind them. We decided a river tour would be cool on Bastille day and had to take a massive detour to cross the river because everything was closed off for the parade. When we walked across the bridge to the Eiffel tower the sky was dotted with helicopters all over the place. Occasionally they would fly over the bridge and it seemed like a scene from Independence Day, being on a bridge overlooking the Eiffel tower with massive low flying army helicopters coming at us.

We took the tour at 12 where we got on a boat for an hour and saw almost the entire city by water. An earpiece told us the history and background of Paris and we learned about the massive history and cultural perspective of Parisian life. We saw the Lourve, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, and many other buildings we will hopefully pass again on the bike tour and get closer too.

After the bike tour we hiked back to the hotel where we took a nap, hiking about 3 miles each way to get to the center of tow can be exhausting. At around 6 we got back up again and headed out for dinner at an outdoor café. The café’s are arranged differently than in the United States. Instead of sitting across from the person you are eating with all the chairs are angled toward the street, as though it’s a runway and all the passersby are there to people watch. It’s unnerving to pass by a crowded café and have 40 sets of eyes direct themselves at you. But we had a fabulous dinner, we were all starving, and not a speck of food was on anyone’s plate when we finished.

We walked, yet again, to the Eiffel Tower, and fought our way to a good spot to watch the fireworks show. We sat there for over an hour taking with people and having a good time, Tarah had wine and other people brought other things and we waited for it to get dark. At 10:45 the most amazing fireworks show began. Yes, many people can say they have seen great fireworks shows, but who can say they have seen fireworks shows off the Eiffel Tower on the French Independence day. The show lasted for half an hour till the grand finale with massive red, white, and blue fireworks and a twinkling Eiffel Tower.

The amount of people was amazing. The streets were overrun once the show stopped and cars and Vespas had no way of moving without running over pedestrians everywhere. I guess it would be like 4th of July in D.C. We walked back to the main street and found a McDonalds where people could use the bathroom, we thought about getting food but the line was not even a line, it was a massive throng of people as though they had announced the re-release of beanie babies in McDonalds Happy Meals and all of Paris wanted one.

We made it back to the hotel at around 1, tired and hungry and excited for the bike tour tomorrow as well as the release of the new Harry Potter movie.

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