Thursday was my much anticipated day off, thanks to the French National Holiday – le 14 juillet. In a manner similar to the last public holiday I spent in France (Parc Asterix) I decided that a day off mid-week should not be wasted.
The 14 juillet is often nicknamed Bastille Day by those of us who studied some basic French history as this celebration takes place on the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 to commemorate the Fete de la Fédération which took place exactly one year later. Traditionally the day is celebrated with a military parade, (one of Europe’s largest – along the Avenue des Champs Elysées) Firemans balls, fireworks, fairground rides, and even free access to some museums.
I was pleasantly awaken around 10 am to the sound of parade music as I don’t live far from the Champs Elysées and Place de la Concorde. I quickly got dressed and rushed outside to join the festivities. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of the parade as it was already over-crowded by 11am and many streets had been closed off even to pedestrians, making access impossible. I spotted a few tanks and the helicopters flying over head but decided to cut my losses and head to the Louvre.
Upon arrival I was dismayed by the length of the queue at the main entrance but decided that I should no longer put off going inside one of Paris’ most famous historical and cultural tourist attractions. I decided to use my knowledge of French to my advantage and asked the staff whether there was a lesser-known entrance. Voila! I entered in minutes with no queue. There are actually several entrances to the Musée de Louvre although most tourists tend to enter by the pyramids.
I am ashamed to say that after living in Ile de France for a total of 17 months on and off, this was my first venture inside the Louvre. I started with the obligatory tourist photo under the Pyramids and then dashed off to see the Mona Lisa. Once the essentials were out the way I really enjoyed wandering around this amazing building, as much for the architecture and layout of the exhibitions as for the exhibitions themselves.
Although I spent almost three hours inside this labyrinth, I didn’t manage to get round all of it. My personal interests were the Greek and Egyptian collections (although after visiting the Britsh Museum, the Eygtian collection was slightly less impressive) so I spent the most of my time in these areas. The Medieval Louvre exhibition was interesing and a totally different environment to the rest of the interior of the Louvre. I of course managed the Italian art on my way to and from the Da Vinci. Once the tourist season is over, I’ll be sure to re-visit the wonders hidden in this huge building in the centre of Paris. Definitely a must for any Paris trip and always free to EU residents 26 and under!
To top off the day, Aliyah and I visited the Fair in Jardin de Tuleries and took some pretty decent photographs from the ride heights before arriving at Invalides in time for the Grand Finale of the Fete Nationale – Les Feu d’artifices or Firework display, behind the Eiffel Tower. We watched from a bridge further back from Champs de Mars but still had an excellent view and no stress from all the crowds. All in all a fun-filled day of festivities.