Monday, July 18, 2011

Midnight in Paris

Well the title is exactly as it is for a recent Woody Allen movie which I happen to watch in a theater in France, but, here I would be writing a different story. To write a little about the movie, I must say I was lucky to watch it in English in France though they named it "Minuit à Paris", but still it was in "English". Anyway, since I said I am not talking about the movie, the question is, what I am talking about? I am going to talk about a real midnight I spent on the streets of Paris last weekend. This was my second time in Paris. Last time as well I did spend most of my midnight on the streets but this time it was magical. I had gone there to watch the 14th of July fireworks near Eiffel tower. Me and my friends reached near the tower almost two hours before the event started. We were lucky to get near the tower as the security allowed only a limited number of people near the tower. All the while we kept staring at the sky for the darkness to fall. Then darkness came around 11 in the evening and we were staring at the tower for the fireworks to begin. Suddenly the tower went dark and the fireworks began from the other side of the river opposite to the tower. Anyway realizing our first timers' mistake we turned towards the display and enjoyed every bit of the dancing fire. But wait, this is not the magical part because the midnight had yet to begin. The midnight started the moment the fireworks finished. Now, it was our turn to return to our hotel by boarding the Paris metro. Never in my short stay in Europe I had seen a crowd of this magnitude and density. Wherever you turn, you see only heads, millions of them and all heading for the metro. On any usual day we should have reached the entrance of the metro station in 10 mins but on this day or rather midnight it took us almost one hour to reach the gate only to be told that the station is too crowded and please walk to the next station towards the center of Paris. At this time we all did what we were told even though me and my friends had to go away from the center to reach our hotel. Why we did that, is pure mystery? May be the sight of million heads on the streets of Paris on a midnight had a captivating effect on us and we walked towards the next station. All the while watching the people in the pubs and restaurants enjoying their food and drinks. The road was also full of cars moving at snail's pace. On any ordinary day it is unthinkable to walk on anything other than the pavements but on this midnight we were walking between and with the cars on the street. If it was possible then the pavements would have put up a sign "house full" as seen outside many theaters playing good or over hyped movies on the first day first show. Nonetheless, the streets had plenty of place. We reached the next station and even before we could queue to enter the station we were told please walk to the next station. I don't remember the name of the station anymore because by this time I was hypnotized by the sheer madness on the streets of Paris and I almost accepted the fate that I will probably have to walk all the way to the hotel some 6-7 kms from where we were standing. Our last try was the next station where the crowd as smaller but equally discouraging for people hoping to take the metro. Anyway we queued up and the crowd moved forward much slower than one would expect. By this time we had already spent around one and half hours on the street after the fireworks ended. But the magical midnight had to end somewhere and it was at this station that it ended. After much waiting we got into the station and since we were taking a train away from the center it was less crowded. And within half an hour after changing one metro we were at the hotel. Once, in the hotel I realized though I would avoid the Paris fireworks for the rest of my life I would always remember that particular midnight on the streets of Paris. It was Mad, Chaotic and Magical at the same time. As an after thought I must add that this piece I am writing here will not give the full picture of what was happening. The best way to find the magic is to visit at least once the fireworks in Paris on 14th of July not just to enjoy the display of fire but to experience the magical midnight in Paris.

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