Day 17. La Fête Nationale.
We woke early by earlier standards and got in our showers. We had a quick breakfast and headed out. Today is going to be a long day. Non-French speakers call this Bastille Day, but in France it is La Fête Nationale (National Day).
We headed toward the Louvre on the Metro. The streets were amazingly quiet, as was the Metro. When we made our transfer to head towards the museum area, we were the only ones on the car. We knew there was a parade on the Champs Elysee, but we had no idea it took everyone off the subway.
We emerged by the Orsay and there was a short line to get in there. But we were going to the Louvre, which is about a half mile (.8km) walk. On the way, we say the bridges and walkways full of people, all looking west. I told Jackie, "maybe they are doing the airplanes" and so we found a spot to sit down and wait near the entrance to the Louvre. The first set of planes were jets trailing colored smoke in the blue, white, and red of the flag of France. I wasn't quick enough to get a photo, but it was very cool. I'll have some photos of the other planes at some point on my personal photo space.
Here is a photo of the first set of planes, taken by someone else on flickr who happens to have a lot of nice photos from the air show.
With the flyovers finished, we walked to the front of the Louvre to get in line. There was no line, but there was a guard by the door. A man walked up to go inside and they blocked him. "Ferme (closed)", she told him.
He replied "But it's supposed to be free today".
She said "Yes, on Fete Nationale it's free, but today is Tuesday and we are closed on Tuesday".
So, it's free to go in, but you can't go in because it's Tuesday.
Instead, we walked the half mile back to the Orsay and stood in a much longer queue to get in. The Orsay is my favorite of the Paris museums, so it's not a loss to go there. We split up, with Jackie and Elijah going one way and Beau and I going another. We saw Monets and Manets, van Goghs and Renoirs, Cezannes and Gaugains. If you aren't stopping at every painting, 2 hours is enough time there.
Getting hungry, we decided to tick off one of the items on our bucket list for the kids. There's a wonderful restaurant on the north side of the Seine, on Rue Rivoli near the Louvre. It's called Angelina. The wait to get in was about 15 minutes.
We had a normal lunch, albeit in small sizes. The meal was fine, but the main event comes after the main course. Their speciality is desserts and chocolate. We all ordered different desserts and then 2 pots of their hot chocolate. The taste of the hot chocolate is indescribable. The first sip will send your eyeballs into the back of your head and a tingle goes all the way to the base of your spine. Twenty seconds later, as you slowly open your eyes, you wonder "what the hell just happened" and then have another sip. But the moment only happens once.
By now, it was 5:30 and we knew there would be fireworks at the Eiffel Tower at night. So we went back to the apartment for a nap. At this point, my watch read 16,800 steps with more to go later tonight.
We intended to head down our street (Kleber) in the 16th district to the Trocadero gardens. This would give a great view of the Eiffel Tower. We knew it would be crowded, so we brought a blanket, a bottle of Champagne, some cheese, sausage and chips and planned to be there for a few hours.
What we didn't realize was the Trocadero was reserved for dignitaries and people who had paid to sit in the viewing stands. The National Police were out in full force and directing people down another street, where everyone was grabbing pieces of ground wherever they could. We finally found a nice courtyard at the Palais de Tokyo with a few hundred people around.
At 11:00 PM, the tower went dark and then started sparkling. The roar from up and down the Seine was clearly audible. Then a report from loud shells somewhere to our right echoed off the walls of our courtyard. When the first shells let off, we realized that our view of the top of the tower would not be enough, as did the several hundred others. We waited for everyone else to rush out and then slowly moved to a better vantage point.
We've been to fireworks displays in a lot of places. Aside from Hydro's former city display, we've seen fireworks at the Disney parks, New Orleans, and at baseball parks. We've been in Ottawa, on Parliament Hill on Canada Day and on the shores of the Charles River in Boston on July 4th.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, compares to the sheer size and spectacle of the Paris show. The bombing started at 11:00 PM and continued until 11:45, barely giving time to applaud one barrage before the next began. I had hoped to find a Youtube video of the show, but it may take some time to appear. In the mean time, here is a movie of the 2013 show to give you an idea of the magnitude of the event.
When the show was over, the masses started exiting the courtyard. We made our way slowly through the throng. A few cars tried to move, but there were so many thousands of people on the street that the only vehicles that could move were motor scooters.
Sleep came easy. The lovely thing about our apartment is the windows face an inner courtyard while the exterior walls are granite. Not much in the way of street noise manages to penetrate.
Wednesday will be a trip to the 'Orangerie Museum to view the Monet water lilies and then on to the Louvre. The Louvre will be open late tonight, so we should have plenty of time to see what is there. Thursday's plan is to visit the Versailles Palace and then come home to start packing. Friday morning will be our travel day back home.