Tag Archives: Eiffel Tower

Vive la France!

My most recent lesson on life à la française: Parisians really know how to party.  The Bastille Day celebrations began here on Monday night, with the bals des pompiers (firefighters’ balls).  In just about every neighborhood, a firestation was open starting at 9pm, with a band, a bar, and dancing.  Entrance was free, but donations accepted, and money from the drinks went to charity.  What a much more effective fundraiser than phone calls… 

Happy Bastille Day!

Happy Bastille Day!

Clara and I met up with Joe, a friend from high school, and his girlfriend, who have been studying here for a year.  The first place we went was packed, and lines wrapped around the block just to get in.  For a Parisian firefighter, it seems, this is a moment of glory.  Their finest moments are not battling the fires of Paris, but getting to be the hosts of the city’s best parties.  After spending an hour packed into the small courtyard, where lights were strung overhead, and the crowd swayed to a band covering American 80’s songs, we decided to find somewhere with a little more breathing room.  The second firefighter’s party we found was held in the Arène de Lutèce, an old Roman gladiatorial arena in the middle of the city’s Latin Quarter.  The scene was much the same, but instead we were dancing to bad 80’s rock in an ancient ruin.  Only here…

After our night with the pompiers, Clara and I decided to skip the military parade in the morning on Bastille Day, but went to Invalides (the gold-domed military hospital) to see the exposition during the day.  All sorts of jeeps, helicopters, and tanks were around, and uniformed servicemen explained how they worked and posed for photos with kids to inspire the next generation.  There was a short gymnastic show, and a parachuting demonstration.  The last parachuter to land had jumped with his German Shepherd strapped in with him.  Seriously well-trained dog.

visual overload!

visual overload!

At night, the Champs de Mars, the park leading up to the Eiffel Tower, was packed  for some pre-fireworks concerts.  The music was mediocre, but we came early to claim a sitting spot on the grass to picnic and wait for nightfall (it never gets dark until after 10 here).  When the show finally started, it was, in short, incredible.  The Eiffel Tower herself was being honored for her 120th birthday, and so the fireworks framed the tower, which was lit up with different colors.  With millions of other spectators gathered around, and a perfect view, it was an unforgettable “right place, right time” moment.  Paris, je taime!

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Landmarks

Life in Paris has been a little slower these days.  I’ve been working on my internship articles a lot (although they haven’t been posted to the website yet, since I just finished the editing process), and hanging out with Clara and Whitney.  The weather has also changed dramatically from the heat of last week, which was stifling in this top floor non-airconditioned apartment, to chilly and overcast with sporadic rain showers.  So walking around the city aimlessly has been a little less appealing these days.  Still, we have some more exciting excursions planned for this weekend as long as the weather manages to hold up.  Today marks the halfway point in the Paris part of my summer, which is pretty hard to believe.  We’ve been here for two weeks, which sounds way longer than it’s felt, and we’ll be here for two more, which sounds far shorter than it should be.

with Whitney and the Eiffel Tower

with Whitney and the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower has become our own personal beacon, the Paris landmark we’ve visited more than any other since our arrival…by now it feels like our own: the place to picnic for lunch, the first place we take new visitors to our apartment, a place to hang out at night, and a helpful navigation aide when coming from unfamiliar parts of the neighborhood.

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La vie est belle

The first few days here in Paris have been somwhat of a whirlwind, and I’m finally settled now.  Two friends from Princeton came up from Bordeaux (where they’re taking an archeology course) for the weekend, so instead of spending the weekend resting/posting photos, I was thrown straight away into life in the city.  On Saturday, we hit all the major sites–from the Sacre Coeur to the Arc de Triomph–which are impressive no matter how many times you’ve visited them.

the Sacre Coeur

the Sacre Coeur

I’ve found myself appreciating many of the quirky little things you notice walking around the city (like a giant IranAir store on the Champs Elysees, which I don’t imagine is doing great business these days), and I’m looking forward to spending more than just a few touristy days here.  There are all sorts of holidays and fun-sounding festivals going on while I’ll be here that are being advertised around town, including apparently yesterday a big gay pride festival…which I didn’t know about until I got back that evening, but now explains perhaps why we saw some 6’4″ drag queens in fabulous pink cinderella dresses and ridiculous wigs in front of Notre Dame.

Notre Dame meets drag, apparently

Notre Dame meets drag, apparently

We also had a wonderful lunchtime picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower, and as there is no shortage and beautiful green spaces (with free WiFi!) around the city, I’m sure it will become a tradition.  I love how outdoors friendly Paris is compared to other large cities.  No matter where you’re walking there’s always somewhere nearby to stop and enjoy your baguette.

Today, we did some final meandering before my friends left, and discovered a little carnival next to the Louvre: cotton candy, haunted house, boardwalk games, the whole nine yards.  Took the spinning swing ride, and enjoyed the slightly surreal feeling of whizzing over Paris in a tiny chair…Louvre, park, tower, park, street, Louvre…

view from the swingset

view from the swingset

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Paris

First night in Paris:

view from the apartment balcony

view from the apartment balcony

The view from the apartment balcony.  If it weren’t for that construction, you could see the Eiffel Tower even better.  It sparkles for the first ten minutes for every hour.

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