New Years Eve at the Eiffel Tower

New Year’s Eve; the beginning of a new year, resolutions, fresh starts and for some just new hope for their lives. As we hold our breath for the stroke of midnight, as if we Cinderella at the ball, there are certain worldly destinations that we think will make it the best year ever. That the mass population of New Year’s Eve party seekers claim, “One year we are going to there for New Year’s Eve.” Times Square in New York City, Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Australia and of course, Paris. Times Square in the states has become our official center for the New Year. The glistening crystal ball, Dick Clark (or now Ryan Seacrest) have become the essentials to our December 31st celebration. Though, before our year begins, we watch  the rest of the world ring in their New Year’s first. Fireworks from around the world are seen and one of those essential worldly New Year’s staples, that I knew one day I would be in front one year,  is the Eiffel Tower.

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I knew that my first New Year’s celebration in Paris had to be herding with all the other tourists from Japan, China, Australia, the USA and all over the EU, to see the glamour that is the Eiffel Tower. I prepared my legs for the four-hour trek to hold the best post for the picture perfect photo. I was no amateur to not only crowded (Las Vegas in 2003, the craziest) but also cold New Year’s parties (Montreal in 2001, the coldest I have ever been in my life!). As New Year’s is one of my favorite holiday’s, I wanted to enjoy it to the fullest. However, as the crowds started to thicken, my gut, conscious and every other blood cell in my body, told me to put on your best dress and head somewhere glamorous. Yet, I ignored the call and as important as Carnaval is in Brasil, you have to do New Year’s at the Eiffel Tower at least once.

We had started out the day strolling through Saint Germain des Pres and knew to eat our New Year’s meal early. Staying at the lovely Welcome Hotel in the 6th arrondissement and the heart of Saint Germain des Pres, we wanted to enjoy the day, checking out the Christmas market one last time and local gourmet shops. It had been suggested by our cousin that we try a restaurant in the area called, Le Procope. The name sounded familiar but it was not until going to the main entrance did I see it was titled the oldest restaurant in Paris. Founded in 1686, it became the world’s first literary cafe and meeting point for political and literary geniuses, imagine those dinner conversations!  You could still feel the vibe of the intelligent French elite among the artifacts as if walking through Napoleon’s own private party den. If I could have named a restaurant that was historical Paris, this was it.

In front of historic Le Procope

In front of historic Le Procope

We had a late lunch, prepping for our rendezvous in the rain and luckily the food matched the standard and the price. The Brut Apanage Prestige holiday special for a minimal 19,50 euro a glass, was the essential start to our New Year’s Eve celebration. The ambience went perfectly with intensity flavored pesto, olive oil escargot and fresh from the sea oysters. With the Italian family sitting right next to us, having a record-breaking picture section that would put any worldly tourist to shame, we completed our intellectual meal. The restaurant was offering a complete four-course meal for 150 euro later that evening but of course, something to keep in mind for next year’s reservations.  Here’s the website to make a reservation throughout the year. http://www.procope.com

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In Le Procope

We made our way over to the Eiffel Tower early, eager to make our night complete with a climb to the top to get the perfect New Year’s view of the city. We took the RER C to Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel and arrived with the crowds, but were too late for the game. The security check point at the tower on New Year’s Eve closed at 4pm. It seemed early for the 12’oclock kickoff, then if this was Times Square, we would have been sitting out here since yesterday.

The security for the Eiffel Tower was strong, as it would be in any iconic major cities in the world where the threats of terrorism are forever lurking. The line of not only police but military personnel surrounding the area increased as people got pushed further and further to the other side of the river. Eventually by 10pm, what I assumed was a bulletproof barricade, lined with military personnel blocking all civilians, should anyone get the urge to sabotage the tower.

We held out the rain at a hidden but not tasteful cafe and then walked towards Champs-Elysees carefully ensuring we did not wait to long to return to the Eiffel Tower. The metro around 9pm begins to close as more and more get ready to celebrate. The Champs-Elysess station closes around 9pm and others are pushed towards alternative routes. One of the reasons, so many are rushing to the metro is the New Year’s gift given by the city which is the free metro on New Year’s. Around 9pm, the meters are turned off and stay there until noon the next day.

The stroll to the Eiffel Tower

The stroll to the Eiffel Tower

As we strolled back with the rest of the anxious travellers to the Eiffel Tower, the bridge sparkled with flashes of tourists getting their official New Year’s photos.  We picked our spot along the river wall preparing for the next two hours.  Vendors filled shopping carts full of cheap champagne, auctioning of the bottles as any souvenir, for a steep 20 euro per bottle. Remember though, as in major city, practice your bargaining skills to not pay the 800% upcharge.

We took our pictures, bargained our bottle of almost useless champagne and held fort at our spot until midnight. The crowds grew thicker but we ensured to get in front to have the best photo possible. Maud, my roommate, said that the fireworks, which I assumed lite up the sky at midnight, were not as glamorous as on July 14th, if there was to be any. However, I had the hunch that due to the over glooming clouds that she was accurate if they were to exist. As it is, the Eiffel Tower sparkles Christmas type white and blue lights every hour, on the hour, 365 days a year. I ensured to take a great photo at 10pm as backup should I not get the best sparkling tower shot among the crowds at the midnight hour.

Happy New Year but guess what time it is?

Happy New Year but guess what time it is?

As midnight came close, tourists, families, local teenagers and drunk onlookers, all stumbled to their spots to get ready for the countdown. We counted together in many different languages, French, English, Japanese and every other language surrounding us to the stroke of midnight, sparkles!!  Everyone kissed their New Year’s date, even if it was someone they just met and then fireworks???? Yes, there were fireworks, two little proofs as if someone set them off in their backyard on the 4th of July. I was surprised, happy and anxiously waiting, “maybe there’s more, there has to be a bit more.” However, Maud and a few others who had said, “don’t hold your breathe for a spectacular show”, were correct. So, I enjoyed the excitement that was my hope for the New Year after all the years, hours and minutes waiting for my New Year’s at the Eiffel Tower.

After all the “excitement” we pushed to the metro stop for the hour and a half waiting to go on home on the RER C. Luckily, the trains run all night and their free.

Well, I could say I knew it. I knew I could have taken a picture at 10pm or even the day before, avoiding being pushed and shoved like a sheep being herded through the metro. I knew I could have rang in the New Year at a glamorous party at Champs-Elysees but, I don’t regret any of it. I can check it off my bucklist and get ready for next year. I had to say I did it once. I believe everyone should see New Year’s Eve at the Eiffel Tower at least once. As I don’t know where I will be next New Year’s, I am glad I can say I waited out the rain, the train and the sparkles of the Eiffel Tower 2014. Just as a French visitor would feel if they were spending New Year’s in Times Square, it is just more exciting if it is not your own.

New Year’s Tips at the Eiffel Tower

  1. Umbrella. Spend the money on the umbrella. Before you head over to the tower, ensure to buy a less expensive one at Monoprix or another full service store.
  2. Bring your own drinks. Bring your own celebratory drink. Stopping by a bar on the way there, might not happen as most places require a reservation or will have a line out the door. Ensure to bring your own champagne or cocktails from the hotel or liquor store near you unless you want to bargain the “Smirnoff Ice” of champagne.
  3. Eat early. If you plan on saving your 150 per person four-course meal, do not expect to just grab something while your over there. There are a few pizza and fast food restaurants but the lines start getting longer. As people are getting pushed farther away, the restaurants not requiring reservations are far and few between. Eat something near your hotel or where you are staying.
  4. Tower closes early. The Eiffel Tower tour to the top is open 365 days a year until 9:30pm, except on New Year’s Eve. The last tour closes at 4pm and you are allowed to still go up before then but that is if you have already bought a ticket. They start to bring people down around this time.
  5. Metro stops. Though walking from Champs-Elysees is easy, the metro stop starts to close around 9pm becoming free until noon the next day. The RER C will take you to stop Champ de Mars/Tour Eiffel but you have to get there as early as possible. You can take the metro to Concorde or Franklin D. Roosevelt and walk to the tower but keep in mind the stations begin to close around 9pm. When returning to your hotel or the next party, expect at least an hour wait for the metro and though it might seem worth the 100 euro to get in a cab, don’t waste your money because you wont get back any faster. Lastly, as always watch your bag with your life!!!

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