Bastille 2013 en Paris a La Tour Eiffel!

Liberte! Fraternite! Egalite!

I had the pleasure of seeing the fireworks over La Tour Eiffel for Bastille Day.  It was fantastic!  My host was kind enough to meet me, and we grabbed a drink before the fireworks.  It was already a pretty big day for me walking-wise, because I went to Versaille with my cousin.  It was a pretty great experience, but very tiring.  It was an extremely hot day, and we walked further than I did when I visited Versailles last year.

Luckily, my host is as much of an excited six-year old as I am when it comes to big crowd events.  So, we spent the beginning of the fireworks trying to get closer and get that better view, and it actually paid off.  We were able to see almost the entire tower, and have a nearly clear view (minus some tree branches which I did not mind), of the entire show.

The music was timed to the fireworks, and every once in a while they worked a speech about freedom into the soundtrack.  It was beautiful, and inspiring.  It did amaze me how many songs were from American bands, and in English, considering we were celebrating France’s independence day.

Then, my host and I headed back in the sea of people.  At times it reminded me of an apocalyptic scenario-all the stores and restaurants were closed down, and everyone was headed in the same direction, but could barely move.  It was strange because in my country when there is a national holiday like this, arrangements are made-the metro is open longer, bars and clubs stay open.  In France it was all the same, and my host had to rush to make the metro back home.

She walked me back to my apartment and showed me that there is an entire street I have not yet discovered.  She also showed me that there are places to get liquor late at night, more bars than I thought, and snacks, too!  We parted happily, and have plans to hang out again.  That makes me happy because I get to practice my French, and I am making a local friend!

Vive la France, et vive Liberte!

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Flying by the Midnight Light of Paris

I definitely have some catching up to do!  I always struggle with the balance between experiencing, and writing my experiences down to treasure in the future, or share with others.  The last few days have definitely been a blur, in a good way.  The heat of the days melted into my nights, and the lights of the city at night bled into my dawns.  Night and day became one, delineated only by experiences.

After dropping my cousin off, I met a Parisian friend who I knew from studying abroad.  I hadn’t seen him in 4 years, but we were as friendly as ever.  He had just come from a play, and I was worried it was a bit late for him, but we climbed onto his motorcycle anyway, just before midnight.  It was an absolute rush!  I have only ridden two other times on the back of a moto, and it was not for as long, or in as thrilling of a place.

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As we rode swiftly through the warm night, I began recognizing places from my first trip to Paris a year ago.  They would come to me in a flash-there is the street corner next to the Citroen dealership, where I sat down and cried because my French was not serving me as well as I’d hoped, and we couldn’t find out hotel-or-this is where my boyfriend pressed me against the wall and kissed me in front of La Tour Eiffel.  It was magical, re-living these memories at high speed.

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My friend had a route planned in his head, so I just enjoyed the view.  He took me to La Notre Dame, which was magnificently lit at night, and showed me where he had attended University.  That neighborhood was still awake and alive with partying, unlike the area I am staying in that shuts down at 11 pm.  We parked the moto and walked down a small cobblestone street lined with bars.  Here, another memory washed over me of when I was visiting Germany, and had walked down a similar street, with partiers pouring out of the bars, loudly laughing, making out, or scuffling.  I was told to choose a bar based on my gut instinct, so I chose a small, wood paneled bar at the end.  I treated my friend to a drink to thank him for taking me on this adventure.  We took our time with the drinks, and he helped me work on my French.

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We got back onto the moto, and he took me past the famous Moulin Rouge, with its windmill lit at night.  The area was still pretty overrun with tourists.  Then, we rode up a hill, through winding cobblestone streets and ended up at La Sacre-Couer, overlooking the City of Lights.  It was a magnificent view, but I especially loved the intimate, quiet streets in an area that has a very old feel to it.  The tourists were gone, and I felt like I stepped into the past-not that I was merely a tourist looking at the ghost of what had been.

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We walked through the streets and tried to find a view of La Tour Eiffel.  As we walked, we passed a man who was rambling in French, and had a deep, gravelly voice.  I had no idea what he was saying as we passed him in the shadows, but my friend turned to me and remarked in English, “now you have seen a true French Drunk!”

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We got back on the moto and descended the hill.  It felt like a roller coaster following the serpentine streets, and feeling the cobbles below.  He turned right, and we rounded a circle where my friend came to stop.  I didn’t realize where we were until he began walking away.  I took off my helmet, which had been blocking my peripheral vision, and saw that I was standing with a breathtaking view of La Tour Eiffel!  I had not been on this side of it when I visited last year.  We were in a space between two buildings, up on a hill that made us seem like we were halfway up the tower.  It was not lit this early in the morning, but I really enjoyed seeing the silhouette.  Something about seeing the looming tower at night, made the structure even more impressive.

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We left La Tour Eiffel and were getting close to what my friend told me he had been saving for last.  I was nearly disappointed that the night was coming to a close because he’d spoiled me so thoroughly with this adventure!  I am not used to riding a motorcycle, so I admit, my legs, and arms were getting a bit sore from holding on, but it was worth it.  When we entered Le Champs-Elysees, all of that melted away, as my eyes drank in the splendor of the lights at night on the broad street.  Ahead of me, L’arc de Triomphe was lit, and getting closer.  The way the darkness surrounded everything except the avenue made it seem like we were racing down a tunnel of light towards L’arc, and it felt like we were riding faster than we had all night.  My friend kept going as we approached L’arc, and drove around it as I soaked in the view.  I had only been there in the day, and it was quite a different monument at night.  So far, this was the highlight of an already amazing night, so I leaned into my friends ear, and asked if we could do it again!  He happily obliged.

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On a high from Le Champs-Elysee and L’arc de Triomphe experience, I had no agenda, and was just enjoying our ride.  We stopped by a bridge where it is popular to lock your secrets, and write the name of you and your love on a lock, and throw the key into La Seine.  I was led down stone steps, and we walked around a small park and ended up at the very tip of a stone island in the middle of La Seine.  It was beautiful seeing the river flowing by on each side, and I could appreciate the view of both riverbanks, with its impressive centuries-old buildings.

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My friend took me back to where we started, but then asked if we had seen everything I wanted to.  A part of me just was not ready for this amazing adventure to end, and I absolutely love Le Louvre.  I didn’t quite realize it was directly back the way we had come, but again, my friend kindly obliged saying, “I could ride through Paris all night!” We sped through the night, in and out of tunnels with hills-it was so exhilarating!

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The space in front of Le Louvre pyramid was completely empty.  It was just me, my friend, and the gargantuan glass pyramid.  The vast space between the historical buildings felt calm, and peaceful.  We walked around the gardens a little bit, and over to a smaller arch.  Every once in a while, a small wind would kick up the dust into swirls dancing around the benches.  There were lovers pressed against the trees, and at times, they seemed to be a part of the branches, with their arms reaching overhead in a moment of passion.

I had to go to the bathroom, and my Parisian friend told me to just go in the garden.  He told me it would be a badge of honor to say that I went pee in Le Jardin des Tuileries, and that the French always pee in public.  I had seen that happen enough already on my visit that I knew he was telling the truth.  So, I earned my badge of honor.

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What an amazing treat to see the City of Lights with nothing around me but the night air. We got back onto the moto one last time, and rode through the tunnels of light, charging fast, with the crest of dawn at our backs.