The rest of the world calls it "Bastille Day", but in France, they call the 14th of July La Fête Nationale. You get the fun parties and fireworks like the 4th of July in the States...but with more tanks and heavy artillery. Mind you, in Brooklyn there would be a Bastille Day celebration. There were can can girls and boule courts and lots of wine. I was maybe expecting something a little more festive in its homeland, but alas, Brooklyn was always a bit of a romantic. Ah well.
The fighter planes actually gave me quite a fright a few days previous, as I had no idea that there would be so many jets zooming close over the city for a really long time, and I would get little flashes of high-speed objects darting too and fro through the rainclouds. Alarming!
With all the crowds and Metro closures and street closures and the Tulleries closed and other confusions, we missed the majority of the parade on the Champs-Élysées. Seeing gathering crowds on Rue du Rivoli got me curious, and we eventually got to see all the heavy equipment roll on out.
There was lots of noise and jets and helicopters and people parachuting onto The Concorde, and it even rained a little bit. Not quite as cheerful as the Carnival Tropical, and far less fun with the buttoned-up jackets and very little skin showing.
While most businesses and attractions are closed, there's lots of free stuff to do- the Louvre opens its doors to the public, various concerts, a ballet at the Opera Garnier, and arguably the best perk: all the Firehouses open their doors to the public for dancing. All this is accessible to anyone with the patience to wait in line all day.
I just happened to see a sign that the entry to see Napoleon's tomb was Gratis, so we checked that out.
Nope, no complex there.
The theme of the fete was Disco, so the Tour Eiffel was rather festively equipped with a giant chintzy disco ball.
Closer to home, we found out where all the tanks went to. They parked in the center of the giant traffic circle and let everyone who wanted to play commando for the afternoon.
The fireworks were amazing. Paris really knows how to put on a good flashy show, with the Tower alternately going dark and sparkling to add to the show. [BEGIN RANT] Rather unhappily, pretty much everyone in attendance decided to hold up their cell phones and record the entire show. I found it really difficult to get a good site line without having to see the screen of a phone held up in my face, blindly filming a sea of cell phones taking videos of cell phones. Take a picture or two, but enough already with the 20 minute videos. I just don't get it. Is this for you to watch over and over again? Do you expect your friends elsewhere to sit through the entire shaky blurred mess you are preserving for eternity?
(A friend sent me this image. I have no idea who it belongs to. Let me know if you know, but I think it illustrates my point beautifully.)
A quick tour of YouTube today confirms what I smugly already knew. All of your videos came out blurry and unwatchably terrible, and your cinematography sucks. [END RANT]
Trying to get home was kind of a mess- the crowds of people and the traffic trying to leave the area was epic. The Metro was running late hours because of the holiday (it gets dark here so late, the fireworks don't start until 11pm), but the Metro was so packed, we couldn't even get near a station until we had walked most of the way home. The further we walked, the more peaceful it got. It was a nice night, people were in a cheery mood, and despite the late hour, lots of places were open and serving. Added bonus: it wasn't even raining.