This is the fourth time I've gone to the Champs de Mars, stared at the Eiffel Tower for hours, read books, ate cheese, drank wine and shooed away the “Beer, Wine Champagne” sellers. Every year the first 5 hours go very well and then people start to fill in. People start to get nastier and more desperate and the fight for space starts. The last 15 minutes people just walking into the center of groups and stand there waiting. It all gets pretty nuts. This is probably the last year I do Bastille Day on the Champs de Mars unless I buy an apartment overlooking both the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower (I can dream right?).
Several years ago they placed a stage at the opposite end of the Champs de Mars which made little sense as most people had to choose whether they wanted to see the band or the fireworks up close. This year they put a stage on the same end as the Eiffel Tower. This posed a bit of a problem too because the closest section of grass was now off limits for space reasons.
Overall the show was amazing as always. If it weren't for that last hour we'd do this every year. We did have one hitch though, in past years our apartment was near the Eiffel Tower so we walked home – this year we were in the 10th arrondisement which was too far away. We'd normally take the metro but with 800,000 people streaming out onto the street there's no way they will let them cram into the metro stations. We had 2.5 hrs until the last metro trains ran so we were not worried. So we walked, and we walked… We crossed the Seine and attempted to get the metro at the Alma-Marceau metro station but it was closed too so we continued to walk toward the Arc de Triomphe where we attempted to board the Line 9 metro to Republique. We were down to an hour and we were standing in a long line to get on it.
I ran down the hall to the Line 1 and there wasn't that many people boarding so after retrieving the others we stood in line there. In about 15 minutes and a couple trains later we finally got onto the Line 1. The Line 1 wouldn't take us home but it would get us further away from the madness where we could jump to a different line and get home. As the people packed onto the train we got pushed further toward the back. We were now down to about 30 minutes until the last trains run and I had to make a decision to either go to Bastille and catch the Line 8 all the way home or get off earlier at Hotel De Ville to catch the Line 11 which gets us close to home. I had two stops to make this decision while calculating the remaining minutes until the metro system stopped. The problem with going to Bastille is that we'd be on our current train longer making it less likely to catch the Line 8 home. We may get there and find the last train has already gone and we need to walk the rest of the way. Keep in mind that it's 1 am and we're all exhausted. I don't think we would have made it. At the last minute I chose Hotel De Ville. My reasoning is if we miss the last train it's closer to home so at least our walk would be a bit easier although it was still 1.6 miles on tired feet. Leah was in charge of the wheelchair, I had Piper and Kris had Grandma. As the door opened Kris and Grandma exited, Piper followed and I grabbed the wheelchair as Leah forged a path through the people. The metro Line 1 is an automated train meaning there's no driver so when the doors close they close. A nice couple saw me pushing toward the door and attempted to hold it but to no avail – my family was on the platform and I was stuck on a train that's now pulling away from the station.
At the next stop I exited and had to make a decision of walking back or crossing under the tracks to the other side and catching the last train in the reverse direction back to them. The last train wasn't for another 10 minutes and there's a chance I could walk it in that time since most Paris Metro stations are about ¼ file apart. The problem was my phone was about dead and I had no map, and it was dark and we had only minutes left. I crossed over and waited for the return train. It may take 10 minutes but I know I'll get there and if necessary we'll all walk home. My train arrived and exited to the platform which was on the opposite side as my family who was waiting patiently. As we went under the tracks to meet in the tunnel we had Leah run down to see if there was another Line 11 running. She came back up the stairs frantically waving her arms so we ran to the platform and just barely caught the last Line 11 to Republique which was about a half mile from our apartment. We got home at 1:45 am. The fireworks ended at 11 pm.
The problem with Bastille day is that cars don't move for at least an hour after it's over, the metro stations near the Eiffel Tower are closed and buses aren't running. There's no other option really than to do what we did which makes it difficult. This may be our last Bastille day.