During the 14th of July celebrations, the morning parade was great, but it was definately the events of the evening that made the day one to forever remember. After buying a picnic and meeting up at the hotel room, we headed out on the metro for the Champ de Mars: the large open space which extends in front of the Eiffel Tower.
We arrived a little after 7pm, and the entire length of grass (780 metres, according to Wikepedia) was covered in people and picnic rugs. We had come to see the fireworks, which wouldn’t be on until 11pm. Since it was over three hours before it would be dark, sitting on the dry dirt path was not very appealing. Thankfully I glimpsed a small patch of grass with just enough room for two to sit, and enough dirt next to it for us to place our picnic and our books. I asked the people behind us if it was ok, and they happily let us sit ourselves down.
As the sun slowly descended, we alternated between reading, writing and snacking on our picnic dinner. At around 9pm, an orchestra began to play somewhere in front of us, and we enjoyed listening to it broadcast live through the loudspeakers. As the light got less and less, and the space got more and more crowded, we began chatting with the people around us. On one side of us, there were a few friendly young adults who had just finished year twelve, and were coming to the fireworks for the first time. On the other, there was a Parisian woman who had been coming every single year for decades. “It’s well worth the wait, ” she told us. “You’ll see, it’s something quite exceptional.”
The lights on the Eiffel tower had been shining in gold and sparkling in white. There was a cut to darkness, and a ripple of energy and anticipation rippled up toward us from the depths of the crowd. It was time to hear a speech and sing the Marseillais, the French National Anthem. It was a moment of truth: I realised I knew none of the words, but at least I could hum along to the tune. By the end of the night, after two or three repeats of the song, I had learnt two lines of the chorus and nothing more. I’m now inspired to at least learn the rest of the reprise so that I can sing along if ever I find myself back in France on the 14th of July.
After the national anthem, there was a deep silence which was broken by the boom of the first of firework lighting up the tower. It was amazing to see the coloured lights dancing off the sides of the tower, bursting out in front and behind, playing with the architecture and creating an astounding display. The fireworks went on for forty minutes, while we stood and watched in awe.
My photographs can’t do the moment justice. In fact I soon stopped taking pictures in order to stand mesmerised, captivated by the lights and sounds before me. There are some photographs here that capture the magic. This was a moment to remember. We left feeling tired but full at heart, wandering home slowly enough to avoid queing way too long in the overcrowded metro, the music and the booming of the fireworks in our ears, the lights and colours dancing on our weary eyelids.