Paris – New Year’s Eve (No) Light Show at the Eiffel Tower
Paris is known as one of the top tourist destination for New Year’s celebrations and out of all the beautiful places to be around town the Tour Eiffel tops the list (whose list, that’s another question). For years they had an impressive light show at the tower, that included music, fireworks and a count down to midnight. You can go to the tower together with thousands of people and watch the light show from a few feet away, or you can station tourself on top of one of the city rooftops and watch it from there.
I have seen pictures of it over the years and thought that if I happen to be in Paris for New Year Eve it could be interesting to see the Eiffel Tower light show first hand. So we are in Paris, on New Year’s Eve and set to see the much hyped light show. It would be a great photo opportunity and at least I can say that I did it
I rarely go to crowded places (meaning Never) but thought I would make an exception under the circumstances.
We are staying in Saint Germain in a top floor apartment in a prime location and everything is close by. We wanted a casual evening (we have been here a month already) so we went out to the popular Rue de Buci right around the corner and settled at an outdoor table of a local restaurant under the heaters. We ordered a glass of champaign (to start) and watched people passing by on their way to their New Year’s Eve destinations. It was cold enough to keep our coats on, but hey, we are in Paris and wanted the experience. I usually don’t sit outside because of the incessant smoking of people around here but it was a beautiful evening and thankfully most people were eating and not smoking until later and by then we left.
By 11:00 pm we were ready to leave and head to our destination, the Tour Eiffel. We took the metro and followed the long line of people from the crowded Metro to the tower. The festive lights-clad tower loomed in front of us soon enough and we found a position standing on the wet and muddy grass in the park in front of the tower and awaited the light show. We had less than 30 minutes to spare. My Loro Piana suede ankle boots will never be the same.
In spite of the crowds it was quite orderly and people were spread out over the large area so it wasn’t suffocating as it can be in crowds. People were not particularly loud and were standing around snapping pictures with the various phones and texting them to share the experience. In other words, nothing was happening. A few young couples were kissing (they do it a lot in public here) and champagne bottles were available for purchase from unkempt “vendors” (whether legally or not I don’t know) but we are not particularly drinkers and didn’t buy any champagne there (no kidding).
Reading about the light show on the internet we were aware that they have cancelled the fireworks a couple of years ago but it still promised a “spectacular light show”. With today’s lighting technology, we expected something quite special and beautiful. After all we were in the city of lights. Or so we thought.
Midnight came and went and if you blinked a couple of times you would have missed the entire thing. No music, no count down to midnight, no light show other than the lights on the tower twinkled for a few minutes as they do at midnight other times of the year I believe. People were standing around waiting for something to happen but believe me, nothing did. A few fireworks (or was it bottle rockets) went up unsuccessfully by private people trying to add a little excitement to the experience. The police on the horseback who were monitoring the area probably shut them down.
People were standing around looking quite confused. Is this it? When Alexis and I realized that this was “it” we wanted o leave and walk to Champs Elysee but my husband, still convinced that this can’t be “it”, insisted we stay longer because “this can’t be all”. Well, this was all and eventully we left, heading in the direction of the Etoile (Arc de Triomph) on Champs Elysée. The train was out of the questions with the crowds descending to the metro all at once.
The streets were crowded and if you just follow the river of people you’d get to Champs Elysée. It’s a long walk from the Eiffel to the Etoile, especially that late at night, but it’s fun walking and we wanted to be on Champs Elysée. After crossing the bridge over the Seine together with hundreds of people (the poor drivers in their cars were completely ignored by pedestrian stepping in front of the cars), we decided to abort the Etoile mission and proceeded along the gorgeously lit Avenue Montaigne toward the east end of Champs Elysee, closer to Place Concorde. We passed by all the beautiful high end designer store windows decorated especially for Christmas and enjoyed the stunning Christmas lights that graced the trees on the beautiful and luxurious avenue. It was closed to car traffic and was full of pedestrians posing in front of the designer windows, singing and shouting happy new years in several languages.
Champs Elysée was closed to vehicle traffic and thousands of people were walking along the wide avenue. The corner of Avenue Montaigne and Champs Elysee offers a spectacular view of the Christmas lights of Champs Eysee. You can stand in the middle of the road and see the Arc de Ttriomph at the end of the avenue and the Christmas lights on each side. We stood there taking pictures for a few minutes before deciding that we celebrated enough and are ready to go home.
We had walked a long way by now and were still far from our 6th arrendissement abode so we thought we’d take the train. We descended the few steps to the first level and were almost swallowed up by the throngs of people trying to take the metro from this central station. There was no way we were going to fight our way through these crowds so we climbed back up and started walking in the direction of our apartment. Catching a taxi was out of the question, none to be seen.
So we walked, and walked and walked, part of the way even down by the Seine river just for fun (I think), and eventually found a metro station that was not so busy. In two quick train rides we were 5 minute walk form home.
It was unanimous that we do this NEVER AGAIN. Next time we are here for Christmas it’s going to be a nice quite dinner at a restaurant with a view of the city and a quiet bringing in of the new year.