It is the second time I do this: I wait until the last moment and then I jump into a plane and I fly some place. You’ll probably say this is an arrogance. No, on the opposite! I realized a trick, quite late, but still, I did realize it.
NEW YEAR’S EVE IN PARIS. HOW MUCH?
Last year, I decided very late to go on New Year’s holiday (in December 2018). I looked for a ticket for London, because I wanted very much to go there for holidays – I had never been in December.
I discovered that, on the 31, the afternoon flight of British Airways had a very good price. So I bought it.
This year (in December 2019), I had the same trouble deciding, the same talks with the friends about the place where we could celebrate the New Year’s eve, the same conclusion that, no matter where we could find accommodation at that moment, in Romania, would be very expensive, so we forgot the whole thing and we each went on our own.
I went online to look for a plane ticket. A cheap one, somewhere close to home. I took the flight companies, one by one: Tarom, Blueair, Wizz, British, Air France and I looked for flights to Italy, UK, France, even Greece, Turkey, Hungary, Austria, Estonia or Sweden. I had no special requirements regarding the destination.
By elimination I came to a choice between London with British or Paris with Air France. They had the best tickets for December 31, in the afternoon: 161 euros with 23 kilo luggage. (So, just with hand luggage of 12 kilos, the price is even better. And for three days in Paris, 12 kilos are all right, believe me! Only I am desperate to had a large suitcase, just in case I feel like buying things there J))
As for the hotels, I found enough options. Some expensive, some not so expensive. I looked for a hotel in the center of the city, with more than three stars, with a very good score on booking, at prices under 150 euro per room for a night. And I found!
HOW CAN YOU GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO PARIS ON NEW YEAR’S EVE?
I got there during a strike of the transportation companies, but I was calm, because I discovered last summer a very cool bus, that leaves from important places in the city towards the airports and back. Le bus direct. 18 euros one way (31 Euros the trip form CDG Airport to Paris and back). Valid for one year. And you can be very relaxed, because they have many buses. ONLY, what do you know, I found out on the 31, in the morning, that during that day, their last trip is at 16, because it is the New Year’s Eve. Take that, man!
Never mind, I take the RER and the metro, I thought, but I did not feel like walking with the large suitcase and the small one inside the metro system.
I landed in Paris at 20:00 and I wandered around in the airport for some time to see what to take to the city – the train, a taxi or some carriage, maybe even an electric scooter…
Some gentlemen dressed in costumes, with earpieces, told me the taxi is the solution. Do they have a fixed price? – I asked. Yes, 50 Euros, but today it is 80 Euros, because it is the New Year’s Eve – they tell me. What?! This cannot be! I start looking for an Uber. Over 75 Euros… If these are the solutions, I decide to take a taxi, as it was there…
The men with the earpieces see that I changed my mind and they sent me to the other end of the world, to another gate. I was lucky that a good man told me that I was going to the illegal taxis, a sign that the guys with earpieces were not “officials”. What people…
I go towards the official taxis, I ask the man coordinating them if they have a fixed price and he says they do: 50 or 55 Euros – probably depending on the number of persons and suitcases (I have seen this in Italy too). I get in a taxi and, after more than one hour, in a terrifying traffic and after having to avoid many of the main streets closed because of the New Year, I get to the hotel, closer to the Arch of Triumph. 50 Euros is the ride. Not one cent over this because of the special night.
WHERE TO SPEND NEW YEAR’S EVE IN PARIS?
I looked up on the internet and I saw there are no special street events on this night in Paris. The only place where the people gather is the Arch of Triumph, on which there are projections and where there might be fireworks too. (I read that they do not have fireworks on the New Year’s Eve, only on their National Day, July 14. I shall see…)
When I got to the hotel (at about 21:30), groups of people were already going to the Arch. I get dressed in some warm clothes and I go after them. But I fail! A few hundred meters ahead, there is a blockage before the round. There are a lot of policemen there who tell you in a civilized manner that it is like this on all the arteries that tale you to the Arch. And the metro is closed.
As I cannot wait for two hours on a fence, waiting for midnight to come, I decide to go on Champs Elysées, where at least I can see the show from the front, not from the back side (my hotel is right behind the Arch).
It is quite an adventure to get to Champs Elysées! Normally, this is a walk of some 2-3 minutes, that now took me over 40, because the police blocked the access and you had to go in circles on the streets around the Arch. I would go and all the streets that led to the Arch were closed with fences. And police. And gendarmes. And ambulances.
And people standing here, waiting for 2020 to come…
Finally, at 22:55, I get on Champs Elysées. Quite close to the Arch. Practically, at the first metro station – George V. Before I enter the boulevard, from the lateral street, some people check out bags. And the large ones some people have. They do not let us take the water bottle with us, I see.
THE NEW YEAR ON CHAMPS ELYSÉES
Lots of people, my man!!! I have never seen so many people, and more are still coming in waves…
I get into the crowd, I identify the place – I am between the Louis Vuitton shop and Lido – famous for its cabaret shows. So I am in very good company, I would say J. In the midst of lots of people of all nationalities, who speak over the phone with their relatives, get the 2020 goggles ready as well as other funny accessories, look for a better place on the sidewalk, drink and become more happy with every second…
I think that here there are tourists from all over the world for whom, normally, the New Year comes at different hours. But we all gathered here, on a famous street in Paris, in a huge crowd, to enter 2020 together, at the same time…
Here and there, there are some big screens on which you can see either a DJ playing nice music, or thank for the sponsors. There are announcements too, saying that at 23:20 the projections on the Arch will begin and they can be watched on those big screens. Of course they can! What could the hundreds of thousands of people behind me see? I try to understand how far is the crowd spreading around, jumping like a goat J. It is shocking: I can see a huge mass of people spreading on Champs Elysées all the way to Place de la Concorde!
I cannot catch this on my phone never mind how far I try to stretch my neck and the hand holding the phone… I think the drones of the organizers captured the image of the mass of people. This is impressive!
AND THEN, MIDNIGHT COMES…
The projections begin. My God, everybody took out the phones to film and I cannot see anything! I try to catch some images avoiding the hands of the people around. In front of me there’s an Asiatic man who is too high for this context and he is blocking my view. Under other circumstances, I wouldn’t have minded checking out his dimensions J))
I try to stretch my neck so much that I am afraid I will leave Paris as a giraffe. And the hand holding the phone looks as if it has exercised a lot at the gym…
After a few minutes during which we all try to film the spectacle on the Arch on our phones, we realize that the projection is repeated again and again so you can film or take pictures of anything you might have missed anytime. And suddenly we all become relaxed.
The projection presents some sort of a funny statistics and all I remember of it is that there are 5,615 restaurants and 12,000 terraces in Paris! All right, so enough places where I can eat J)).
People speak American English, Spanish and Italian around me. There are entire families or only couples, friends or single people who gathered here before midnight.
Some discover the covers of the bus stations and they get on them although it is not easy to climb there. They start making selfies to show their friends, or they dance to the music and we, the rest, are amused.
I look at my watch. They showed the statistics until 23.45, when some very interesting projections began (I have seen such before, on the buildings in Bucharest, on Calea Victoriei), accompanied by some short fireworks, as if to reanimate us.
It is not as cold as I thought it would be. And you can only feel it in the head, because there are so many people here and we are so crowded, that no one could really be cold!
I look at my watch again… It is five minutes to 12, four… One minute to 12… I start filming so that I do not lose the countdown and entering the New Year.
The thing is that there was no announcer to count down, they did not have the Romanian Dan Negru of Paris, so that we could take after him and count. I heard someone close to me saying “seven” and I saw that on the Arch there were some numbers, very artistic, but too small to gather us into counting. From 5, I started counting, in Romanian. And… Happy New Year!!! 2020 is here!
We film the fireworks, some people kiss, others drink whatever they brought with them in paper glasses. I can hear wishes in different languages, a drunk woman shouts, very happy. We film the fireworks again and that is all! At 00:05 the fireworks are done. What?!? Are you for real?? Only 5 minutes of fireworks??? Let no one say that in Romania we don’t know how to have fireworks. Even for the weddings in the restaurants close to my home they last longer than here!
I hope there is still something more to come. But no… There isn’t. People start leaving. Is this all??? Wow!
I go towards the Arch, although all the other people go the other way, and I try to catch the projection with 2020 on the Arch. But, what do you know? It was switched off. Funny. It is only 00:12, don’t think it is later in the night. That is it. The projection people finished their program and they are going home, to their families…
The streets are terribly dirty! I step on beer cans, papers, boxes and bits of food. Some young people next to me light some illegal fireworks.
The police start shouting something I do not understand. In connection with leaving the area. Then I see on the big screens they are asking us to leave for the cleaning teams to be able to come and for the traffic to be restored. Yeah, right! I don’t believe that! How can you open the roads to traffic? I look back towards Concorde. There are thousands of people on the boulevard. What are we to do? Evaporate?…
It is a holiday feeling. Many take pictures with their friends, others, with their families, some couples take pictures too. I take a selfie, after the people leave and the Arch can be seen. But I don’t succeed in doing that, because each time I try, another drunk or drugged person stops next to me. I take a photo with the first one who stops, then I become more attentive, so that I don’t look like the monkey for the photo J)).
Some people in street clothes take an apparently inoffensive young man. They stick him to the window of a shop and start frisking him. I only now notice they have earpieces. Most probably there have been a lot of such people among us…
The police, the gendarmes are still in position on all the streets around the Arch. They are very vigilant spectators of the street show…
I go with the wave of people towards the hotel. I am very hungry. All the restaurants are open. On the one on Champs Elysées that I wanted to go to, all the places are reserved. I find another one, on the corner. It is open until 2 o’clock in the morning. It is only ten to one, so I go in to eat some beef for the New Year and drink some champagne, so that I cannot say I did not drink during the New Year’s Eve night. When I look up, I am in shock. The traffic has already started! Unbelievable! It is 1:15. Incredible coordination!
The stone and iron fences are gone, the policemen and gendarmes left and this is it… Everything is back to normal.
I am relaxed, as I live close by, but I understand that transportation is a bitch now and I have no idea if it is the strike or the New Year…
So… A Happy New Year!!! I’ll go to my room to eat the sponge fingers I brought from home, as I have already drunk the champagne…