New Year’s Eve 2013

I admit there was little planning involved for New Year’s Eve 2013. It would be a repeat of the previous two occasions: diner with some mates in Ghent followed by watching the fireworks over the city and ending in some bar. In the course of the 31th I received a text from the host saying he would be a bit later but couldn’t pinpoint when he would be available. Dark clouds where gathering over the festivities: we had a call and diner was canceled. It was 5h30 PM on new year’s eve and we had no plans anymore. That’s the negative view, on the other side: a world of possibilities just opened. New Year’s Eve diner became doner kebab in our preferred kebab shop and over the Turkish dish we went over options. We consulted some friends to see what they were up to but in the end we made a radical decision: we would drive to Paris and celebrate New Year in the City of Light!

The 4 hour drive was uneventful, traffic was calm, as if people were all at home or had better things to do then drive around. We parked in the underground parking of Forum des Halles and wandered the streets of Paris. We stumbled upon The Thistle Pub, a Scottish Pub in the rue Saint-Denis with great beers and a good atmosphere. We assumed this being the City of Light, there would be awesome fireworks. Our smartphones were without network connectivity and the bar lady didn’t know either were the fireworks would be. We gulped another beer and made our way to the Eiffel Tower. On our way to the famous tower, we walked along the Seine and noticed the crowds swell on the river banks to two, three and even four rows of people, all gazing at the tower, raising our expectations. Midnight was nearing and you could feel the anticipation in the air, it was electrifying.

Suddenly the Tower started flickering and the crowd burst out into roars: the clock-hands had joined at 12 and the new year had arrived! We shook hands and congratulated each other on making it alive to 2014. By now we were in front of the Eiffel Tower and climbed the stairs to Trocadéro, from where we had a view over the river and the city before us. Sadly the Christmas market at Trocadéro was closed, we had hoped for some stalls to be open to quench our thirst, but we were out of luck. Here and there a flare and a spark lit the sky but the massive fireworks were yet to erupt. Our viewpoint was ideal and it could start any minute now.  Quarter past, became half, became quarter before, but the fireworks did not commence. The enthusiasm of the masses was contagious and everybody was in an excellent mood, but there was no fireworks and we realized nobody around us was expecting it to start.

We headed to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées, which was made car free and it was packed with people even at this late hour. Along the sides of this great avenue there were Christmas stalls but they were not open, it appeared impossible to buy booze and we saw little to no people in the streets with a bottle. The only thing that was still open was a Quick burger restaurant. They had a special variation of there flagship burger, Giant, for New Year and were doing great business. So we walked in the early hours of the first day of the new year along the Champs-Elysées with a burger in hand. For the life of me I couldn’t taste the difference between the New Year variation and a regular Giant, but I didn’t mind.

The crowds were dissolving and people were heading home. When we reached Place de la Concorde, police was closing off the lanes and instructing the dispersing party-goers to walk on the pavement so the cleaning crew could erase the traces of the celebrations. We saw this as our queue to call it a day and walked along the Louvre back to Les Halles, for our car, to start the long drive home.

The City of Light scrapped the official fireworks in the early 2000’s.

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