When someone mentions the Fourth of July, most people think of fireworks, barbecues, and good old-fashioned American liberty. However, my last Independence Day was nothing like the relaxing image of beers and hot dogs that we usually think of, and I’ll never forget just how different it was.
I had landed in Paris and been there for a few days—just enough time to check out the Louvre and Notre Dame, but nowhere near enough time to know my way around the city. Since I was staying with my cousin at the time, I hadn’t had a chance to meet many people… leading me to solve that problem the way I solve all my problems: with the Internet. If you haven’t heard of Couchsurfing, it’s an awesome website where people look for hosts wherever they’re traveling and others can host travelers to make new friends! There, I discovered meet-up happening at the Parc des Buttes Chaumont for a wine and cheese party. I figured wine and cheese was close enough to hot dogs and beer, and I ended up taking a ride on the metro to meet up with these travelers from all ends of the world.
My first mistake, of course, was forgetting to charge my phone—I had no way of finding out where exactly in this enormous park to find the meetup. After some various interactions with French people and an interesting conversation with a drug dealer, I finally found the promised land of wine and cheese and settled in for a nice relaxing evening with travelers. Unfortunately, the park security didn’t agree with our plans that night and we were kicked out because the park was closing shortly after.
Our night was just beginning, so we didn’t let this stop our Fourth of July celebrations. As we were walking to the metro to get back to our temporary homes, someone yelled that we were all going to take a train to the Seine River and finish our wine and cheese party along the water. From here, the night escalated. Somehow on our way to the metro, another Couchsurfer procured a giant speaker box. Not even your run of the mill boom box, we needed a dolly just to move it. Naturally someone connected their phone to this thing and suddenly this wine and cheese picnic had just turned into a traveling rave.
Now, here comes the part that would have never flown in the United States. Our picnic group took over an entire subway car, and all of a sudden we had turned this public transportation service into our own personal night club. People were popping open bottles of wine, shooting champagne corks into the group, and dancing their asses off. What was going to be a fifteen minute ride to the river turned into us taking over this train for about two hours.
This whole time, I was having the time of my life, but there was a little part of my brain that was freaking out just a little bit. We were drinking in public, creating a huge disturbance, and confirming the stereotypical image of tourists in Paris. I couldn’t help but think that the night would end up taking a turn for the worst once the authorities got involved.
But they never came. When we reached the first stop, everyone who wasn’t interested just got off and went into another train car. By the end of our metro rave, we actually ended up with more people than we started by accumulating random Parisians who felt like partying for a while..
We ended up getting off at the river once the trains stopped running and decided to just keep partying until they started up again at six in the morning. (This of course led my cousin to freak out since I had no way of contacting her. Whoops!) After about twelve full hours of meeting new people, dancing all over the city, and drinking heavily in public, I finally got on the train again and reacquainted myself with my bed.
It was probably one of the most memorable nights of my life, and will always be the kind of Fourth of July I could never experience in the United States.