Bastille Day was our last day in Paris. We figured just to take a day to wind down and catch the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower at the end of the day.
We had tickets to take the Le Cars Rouge tour that we didn’t use on our first leg of the tour, so we figured that taking this tour was better than losing the tickets, and the tour sounded good. Our hotel was located close to the first pickup point, Champ de Mars, and we walked over and got on the first bus in line, as several were waiting.
We got prime seats on top (it was an open topped double-decker) and struggled with our headphones for a bit as the tour got underway. We followed along with the tour, which played a nice classical music, and a scratchy female voice would explain the history of the major landmarks that we passed. This was pretty cool, and after a few sights We were excited to see that we were passing by the street that our first hotel of the trip was on. We passed the first Cafe that we had lunch at after we landed, and then I noticed something strange.
These streets were not actually on the tour route on the bus map. I had little time to contemplate this as horns blared all around us, and the bus screeched to a halt, only a foot or so away from another bus. We barely managed to keep from falling out of our seats, and both bus drivers screamed at each other for a bit in French before driving away. Both drivers had just pulled into the intersection without looking. As I have said before, driving in Europe is insane.
We finally made it back to Notre Dame, back on our tour map, and then headed over to the embankment of the Louvre. Then our driver looped around another block off the map. Then he headed towards the Bastille, off the tour. We had moved downstairs at this point since it was sprinkling rain, and our driver was screaming into his phone in some Arabic language. It didn’t take too long until we realized what was up. This guy was lost. There is a giant map of the city painted in the bus with a big red line to follow and this guy was lost.
We got off at the next stop. Fortunately we were pretty close to the tour route, so we just walked around a bit and got ourselves back on track by foot. We found a strategic corner Cafe and ate while we made our next plan. The tour was on TV, so I finally caught a bit of that while we watched our busses drive by outside. They seemed to pass our location on several streets, all different than what our driver too, and then headed out in different directions each time. From what I could tell, most of those drivers were lost, and you pretty much got a different tour for each bus, or maybe this was some form of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle in action, as relates to tour buses and the French in a way that I could not understand.
Eventually we decided to jump back on one of the buses that was actually on the right road, and hoped that it took us back in the direction of the Eiffel Tower. That finally worked, and we actually got to see the rest of the sights, although the headset system on that bus was totally shot, but changing again might get us off in some random direction again, so we just enjoyed the view. Most of Paris was done up and ready for the bastille Day Parade, with barriers, Flags, and Chairs lining the main streets.
We finally made it back to the Tower, and walked back to our hotel. This gave us a chance to rest before the festivities of the evening, and also gave the Daughter a chance to play with the Lobby Kittens for a bit. The weather had started to get real hot and muggy, so a few showers were needed as well. After an hour or so we headed out to eat, and the crowds were already gathering in our area. The Champ de Mars was set up with a big concert at one end, and the Eiffel Tower and fireworks at the other. The crowd control was huge. Our cafe was at one end and we saw all the police, medics, and military prepping for everything.
By the time we were done eating, it was time to find a spot for the concert, and the park was full, completely, shoulder to shoulder. We saw the opening act of the show standing in a crowd, this was re-broadcast on a massive screen halfway up the park, and was pretty cool. This was Nelly Furtado, some American pop star who does “Promiscuous Girl” and a few other dance hits. When she was done we looked for a better , less dusty spot. We found a corner section on grass near one of the public water taps, where we could see the tower, and still hear most of the music. The main act was some French artist who was super popular with the crown, but we had never heard of.
At this point I went in search of some food and drink, as we had expected some kind of services in the park, like you would see in the US, but there was nothing. I knew that there were some stands on the opposite side the Tower, so I moved through the crowd hoping to find some water and a crepe of some kind. The crowd was insane, with more and more folks pouring into our area, I looked out once I was under the tower and could see, and I saw that the stands opposite us were closed. So I swam against the crown and found a Brasserie that was at least selling water, and after waiting is a long, slow line, was able to run this back to our spot.
It was really hot now, and getting some water was a real life saver. but the daughter is becoming hungry. The fireworks start in about 45 minutes, so I head out towards the hotel, which has several stores that were open when we left, and I felt that was my best chance for finding food.
I end up being correct, and find a small Italian deli selling sandwiches near our hotel, I get one with Jambon and run back to our spot, the crowds thick enough to literally pull me along if I lift my feet. I make it back in time, drenched in sweat. We rest, dink, and eat for a short while longer, noticing that the bats have come down from their roosts on the Eiffel Tower to snack on the bugs that are snacking on the crowd.
When the fireworks start we follow the crowd to catch the best viewing location we can, and I carry the daughter on my shoulders while the wife films the show. It is really a spectacular show, with the fireworks and the lights of the tower synchronized to music, and went on for nearly half an hour. We were impressed. And hot. And sweaty. Crowds tend to do that.
After it was all done I lowered the girl off my shoulder and we walked back to the hotel to pack and get ready to leave. After a day that long, amazing, and filled with adventure, my daughter had only one thing to say:
“Man, you really smell.”