Friday, July 17, 2009

Bastille Day

We have already been home for a day, but I need to post about our last day in Paris, so I will include it here.

Bastille Day, July 14th, is the National Holiday for France. They close down the subways and the Champs Elysees and Charles De Gaulle boulevard (which our hotel is just off of). The day started with a parade and show. We slept in, but awoke to the sound of jets soaring over our hotel room. We could see them and their colored trails from our bathroom window. We quickly dressed and headed out into the street. It seemed strange to be walking down the center of a huge boulevard with no cars in sight. People were gathering and staring in anticipation. We had no idea what was next to come.

Then suddenly a swarm of helicopters began a processional down the street. I had never seen a helicopter parade before, and it was quite a spectacle. In the distance we saw paratroopers in red, white and blue. I was standing in the center of the road taking pictures of the helicopters when I heard Pete yell at me "GET OUT OF THE WAY!!" As he shoved me aside, I turned around to witness that we had a front row vantage to the military convoy coming down the road. We were so close the tanks could have run us down. I stepped back enough to snap a few shots. It was a memorable time.

Later that evening we attempted to see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. It turned out to be a bust. We walked for a couple of hours amongst a sea of humanity, all searching for a vantage point from where to view the fireworks. Everywhere we went, the streets were blocked off. Cars were stuck in traffic with angry drivers all around.

After giving up, we returned to the hotel. Amazingly, we could see part of the fireworks in the window reflections from the buildings around us. Sadly, I have no pictures of the fireworks, but it has been a great trip and we have some wonderful pictures to document the girls' experiences. We are sad to leave, but we are happy to be home. I am grateful for elevators, uniform stairs, ADA standards, doors that my children are strong enough to pull open, sidewalks, ramps, gutters and well-conditioned roads. Where we lack the beauty of glorious old buildings, we have the convenience of spaces that are easy to navigate for all ages, young and old. I was saddened to see a very elderly woman attempting to leave a pay restroom in a UK train station, having to navigate a turnstile and haul her luggage up a steep flight of stairs. I still regret not having helped her with her bag even though I had my own and two little girls to manage. I was so worried about catching our next train.

The girls were wonderful travelers. I think the only challenging part was Chloe's bladder. She cannot be far from a restroom and needed one at the most inconvenient of times. Pete had to whip out a "pull-up" in the middle of a crowd while I was trying to navigate through customs in France. One feels so helpless in the middle of a long line. Too late to turn back and no way to move forward. Nevertheless, we all had a blast. We are already planning our next long weekend in Carmel and possibly San Jose. Donna, are you ready for company?

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