This past weekend was my last full weekend in Europe before heading back to the US. A couple days ago I had planned to take it easy and relax a bit this weekend, considering I have multiple final exams coming up and have traveled quite a bit as of late. But then something happened. The French football (soccer) team advanced to the final round of the World Cup, and were set to play against Croatia on Sunday night. Well, looks like I’m going back to Paris.
A couple of my fellow classmates had expressed interest in going as well, so we booked a ride through BlaBla Car,a rideshare service in Europe, and left at 9am Sunday morning towards Paris. The concept behind BlaBla Car is to converse with your driver and the other passengers, hence BlaBla. We had two additional passengers, Victor and Sammy, who were both half German, half French (not related though!). They were also headed to Paris to watch the game, so naturally we invited both to join us, as there would be a massive public viewing at the Eifel Tower. Sammy had already made plans, but Victor was all-in on watching with us. Not only was Victor cool, but he spoke both French and German, which was ideal, considering none of us knew any French. We made it into Paris in incredibly good time. I’m not sure if it was the old Ford minivan or the fact that our driver drove for over a mile on the shoulder of the road to avoid traffic, no complaints either way.
We quickly headed to drop off our bags at the hostel, as you were not allowed to bring anything into the viewing, due to security reasons. Upon entering our 10-bed dorm style room we met Kayla, who was from Nashville and was traveling across Europe. We invited her to join us, and without delay she accepted the offer (gotta love spontaneity!) and we headed towards the Eifel Tower.
As expected, the subway was an absolute disaster. I’m convinced that one more person couldn’t have fit on that train. You didn’t even need to hold onto handrails to keep you balance because you had people pressed against you in every imaginable direction. It was also 90 degrees that day, so I can’t say I made it out of that subway feeling clean. Finally, we arrived, only to find that the 90,000-person limit had already been reached for the public viewing, the French are clearly passionate football fans.
This left us wandering from bar to bar, trying to find a place where we were actually able to see the TV, as every place showing the match was overflowing into the streets. Long story short, we never found a place. With that said, there was no mistaking when France scored, as the streets would erupt with chants, fireworks, and people just going wild. But this celebration was nothing in comparison to what ensued after the final whistle blew, crowning France champions…
We immediately made our way to Champ Elysees, along with over one million, yes, a million, other fans. I can honestly say I had never experienced anything crazier. Looking down the Champ Elysees, there was people are far as the eye could see. It was pure insanity.
The streets were filled with chants, horns, flares, fireworks, people standing on top of bus stops, climbing light posts, people riding on the roofs of cars, and naturally, French flags flying high. At one point, I felt something hit my foot, I look down only to discover a firework as it exploded. This thing was LOUD. Like loud enough that I couldn’t hear anything but ringing for a solid 10 seconds. I’ll remember that when I’m an old man and lose my hearing 6 months earlier than I should.
The energy and emotion during this celebration was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The entire city came together as one to share the moment. I can’t say I felt an overwhelming feeling of safety, but boy was it fun. Definitely worth the trip and missing class the next day (Sorry Frau Osterhus!!). Being the somewhat responsible (and incredibly hungry) being that I am, I left the party before things got out of hand (which they did). We wandered the streets looking for a place to grab some food, but between it being a Sunday and the fact that France had just won the World Cup, not much was open. So, we headed back towards our hostel, stopped at a classic (not) French restaurant, Burger King, and got some much-needed rest.
At 8:30 in the morning we headed out to catch our BlaBlaCar ride back to Germany. Another really nice guy, but he was towing a trailer, which meant he was limited to a maximum of 60 miles an hour, devastating news considering Germany’s lack of speed limit on the Autobahn. After 7.5 hours of driving, we finally made it back to Bonn, tired and hungry, but still in awe with the previous day’s events.
So that’s that. 32-hour trip to Paris and back. Probably the most insane 32 hours of my time here abroad. This now leaves me with less than a week from my departure from Germany, wild. Should be quite the hectic week with the combination of farewell events, moving out, and eventually flying out of Frankfurt for a 5am on Monday. From Frankfurt, I fly the polar opposite direction of America to Kiev, Ukraine (again, cheapest ticket possible), where I then fly to New York. THE city. I’ll spend a day there hanging out with some friends before catching my next flight to Denver where I will then meet up with my family who is driving out for a vacation. The plan is to do some hiking, climbing, and be super jetlagged. The combination of no sleep, jetlag and an extra 9,000 ft. of elevation should make for an interesting couple of days…still excited though!
Thanks for reading!
Oh, and Allez Les Bleus!