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French Culture

Do You Know The Hidden Secret Spot to Paris’ Fireworks?

Olivier Karfis By Olivier Karfis on July 11, 2016

So, you decided to go to Paris to see the fabulous Bastille day fireworks – You and about a million Parisians :-)
Here are my tips to best enjoy the Paris Bastille Day Fireworks. I may even let you in my secret… But first, let’s look at your options:

1. You Watch the Bastille’s day Fireworks on TV

You go about enjoying your day in the City of Lights, take a long bath, have a nice relaxing dinner with friends/family, sit down on a comfy couch and tune in to TF1 at 10:30PM to watch the Bastille’s day fireworks like millions of French do… but then, why did you come to Paris?

You could have just tuned in to TV5 International from your home in Springfield!

2. You Have a Great View of the Eiffel Tower and the “Feux d’Artifices”

Paris Tour Eiffel by Night

You are truly lucky and befriend a Parisian with an apartment (or even better a ‘péniche’) with great view of the Eiffel tower.

You enjoy your champagne and experience life the way it is supposed to be (next year, do invite us !!).

3. You Camp out on le Champs de Mars all day

L1 + L2

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You are hardcore and arrive on the Champs de Mars or Trocadéro around 10AM with your picnic blanket, several baguettes, a bunch of close friends/family and 2-3 bottles of wine…per person (Remember that you can drink in public in France :-)

Then you proceed on either having the best picnic day of your life or spend 12 hours guarding your precious spot against 900,000 Parisians trying to outsmart you…

4. You Pick the Sacré-Coeur View of the Bastille Day Fireworks

You are softcore and arrive at La Basilique du Sacré Coeur in Montmartre around 6PM with a jacket, one sandwich and… 1 bottle of wine per person.

You’ve basically gained back 8 hours of your life but traded it with seeing the fireworks from more than 4.5 km (2.8 miles) away.

You’ll still have to fight for a decent spot but it’ll be a great experience too (although relatively very quiet since you will not hear any of the explosions).

(Note, in both 3 & 4, you’ll have to fight your way back home in le métro with 1 to 2 million other “very disciplined” Parisians so think about that part too :-)

5. You Know our Secret to get a Great View on the Paris’ Fireworks

You are like Camille and I who do not have the courage nor stamina to wait in one spot for more than 17 minutes.

So you listen to your sister-in-law who has lived all her life in Paris telling you, in that very Parisian smart-ass tone: “Tu sais, dans ‘Montparnasse’, il y a le mot ‘Mont’ (in the word “Montparnasse”, there is the word “Mount” or “hill”)”…

You then proceed on strolling to the Montparnasse neighborhood, more precisely the corner of Boulevard Vaugirard and Boulevard Pasteur (map) and find a place for dinner (looking for something different, we chose an Italian place and ate a more than correct prosciutto and arugula pizza).

After dinner and less than 20 minutes before the firework starts, you casually walk around a little to look for a spot.

The best thing about Boulevard Pasteur is that the street is very straight and goes downhill so no matter where on the street you stand (between Place de Catalogne and Métro Pasteur), you’ll have a very decent view of the Eiffel Tower’s top 2 thirds.

Paris Tour Eiffel By Night

Now, don’t get me wrong, you will not feel like you landed on a deserted island or in a French supermarket on Sunday afternoon!

However, you’ll only be dealing with 4 to 5 thousand people…That is a lot more manageable even for yours truly.  And since you’ll also be less than 2 km away from the action, you’ll get to hear the explosions too which definitely adds to the fun.

Seeing the fireworks in Paris this way was truly amazing considering the small amount of time we had to wait around.

The one negative thing was that I thought that the Parisian crowd was extremely quiet and restrained.  I’m used to seeing fireworks in the US where everyone ooohhhs and aaahhhs at every shimmer of light but there, for most of the show, you could almost hear a pin drop. The crowd only got a little more vocal towards the ‘bouquet final’ but it was still way below the noise level of even a minor league softball game…

So, here is the well guarded secret of Bastille’s day fireworks… Please use this knowledge for good and not evil :-)

6 – French Vocabulary For Fireworks

  1. Les feux d’artifice – fireworks
  2. Une fontaine – a fountain
  3. Une chandelle romaine – Roman candle
  4. Un volcan – volcano
  5. Un mortier – mortar
  6. Une fusée – bottle rocket
  7. Une comète – a comet
  8. Un pétard – firecracker
  9. Oh la belle rouge / bleue – what people shout during fireworks “oh the pretty red / blue…”
  10. Le bouquet final – the grand finale

To know more about Bastille Day in France – customs and French vocabulary, check out Camille’s article. You may also like Vive la France – patriotic expressions in French.

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