Bastille Day in Paris: Millions of people gathered in the streets to celebrate yet another anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the French Revolution. We woke up early and spent the first couple hours of this holiday viewing one of the most recognizable and iconic landmarks of Paris: The Eiffel Tower. After taking a few pictures and soaking in the magnitude of the monument, we headed to the Champs-Elysees in the hopes of seeing the Bastille Day Parade. To our dismay, the crowds were quite extensive and it wasn't quite possible to get close enough to see the parade, but we did get to see the scale of the crowds (and some amazing fly-bys by the French Air Force!)
After leaving the parade area, we continued with the original schedule as planned. We had a open lunch in the Latin Quarter, in which we split up and students got to explore the plethora of options in one of the most incredible areas for food in the world. After lunch, we met back up to visit Notre Dame Cathedral; students and leaders alike were mesmerized by the scale of the monument, as well as the enormous stained glass windows, seen from the inside.
After Notre Dame, we made our way onto a leisurely river cruise and tour along the Seine river. From the cruise boat, we saw many of the most recognizable sites in Paris: Notre Dame, the National Assembly, the Alexander III bridge, the Louvre, Les Invalides, Trocadero, and of course, the Eiffel Tower itself, all narrated and explained in detail by our tour guide, Jacques.
After the river cruise, we headed back to the hotel and had an open dinner in the Saint Michel area (around our hotel), where the food options are almost as diverse and delicious as in the Latin Quarter (though some of our students opted for more American-style fare). After dinner, we had an optional excursion to the Mountain of the Martyrs (Montmartre), where we experienced one of the most incredible views of Paris from above, visited the famous Sacre Coeur Cathedral, and got a few glimpses of the Bastille Day fireworks before heading back to the hotel for the night.
The next morning, everyone was very pleased that the wake up time was an hour later than usual after the intensity of Bastille Day (usually we meet at 9 AM, today we met at 10 AM). We departed the hotel at 10:30 AM after breakfast and headed to Paris' North Station (Gare du Nord) to catch our train and head to our next destination: Cologne, Germany.
Everyone was very sad to leave Paris, but our European adventure continues! In Cologne, we had enough time this evening to have a traditional German dinner (lots of meat and potatoes) and explore the stunning Cologne Cathedral. It's a shame we can't spend more time in this beautiful city, but tomorrow we head to Berlin and the next stage of our trip: History will again take the forefront in this city so caught up in the struggles of the 20th century. And we will also be experiencing some excellent food and culture as well!