Paris. As i approached La Butte de Montmartre and the bright lights of the Moulin Rouge, I felt my stomach start to flip and my heart start to jump in my chest. The neon tint to the air went as far as the eye could see, partially hiding the statuesque Sacré-Coeur behind, sitting high on the hill overlooking a Paris holding its breath in the final hours of 2013.
Dragging my awed boyfriend down a little side street away from the hustle and bustle and towards the steps leading upwards, we searched for a place to eat. Looking into the windows of all the petites brasseries françaises lining the streets, their windows laced with twinkling christmas lights reflecting onto the wet cobbled streets, we couldn’t have been further away from the hustle and bustle of Paris. However, it soon became apparent that the whole of the 18th arrondissement had already reserved their tables at the select restaurants, which led to a minor panic. Yet luckily for us, on approaching the Sacré-Coeur, a small pizzeria appeared on a corner which was too adorable to pass. We were greeted warmly by a French gentleman and bustled into a space on a long table, with a French family on one side and a German couple on the other. Although the close proximity between diners was rather disconcerting at first, it soon became apparent that we’d obviously walked into the friendliest pizzeria in town. After the best pizza outside of Milan and a bottle of French wine, we made our way up to the Sacré-Coeur, a bottle of champagne nestled amongst the gloves and scarves in my bag.
Whilst climbing the steps up to the Sacré-Coeur, the beautiful basilica suddenly loomed up out of the darkness and into view, and on turning round we could see the whole of Paris lit up by the christmas lights plastered all over the city. It was breathtaking. By this point it was about about 11.40 so we went and established our space on the terrace, and waited in the cold for the New Year, all bundled up in hats and coats. As soon as the clock struck midnight the steps and terrace erupted into applause, whilst the sky over Paris below us simultaneously erupted with fireworks. The copious amounts of champagne consumed led to the hugging and kissing of strangers, congratulating them on the new year, and the atmosphere was electric. Although Paris is strange in the way it does not have an official New Year firework display, the locals made up for it by bringing firecrackers and setting them off in the crowd, giving the event an all more personal, if not dangerous, touch.
After we finally dragged ourselves away from the celebration and numerous parties taking place around the base of the basilica, it was another long walk along the Blvd de Clichy back to the hotel. However we soon again became mixed up in the crowds outside the Moulin Rouge and just stopped and watched the scene taking place around us.
Hundreds of people gathered outside the Moulin Rouge, begging to be let into one of the most exclusive New Year’s Eve parties in Europe, with tickets starting at around €550 per person; people running up and down the street shouting “Bonne Année” at everybody they came across; people just starting to stagger home. Albeit was in the middle of the parisian “red light district”, and probably very seedy to the average outsider, it was the most vibrant place in Paris I’ve ever visited. Would you rather spend your time packed like a sardine in front of the Eiffel Tower with thousands of other tourists, or getting the true French experience from the best view point in Paris?