Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The National Holiday

Today is July 14, or le quatorze Juillet, which celebrates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, which in its turn celebrated the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France, one year after citizens stormed the Bastille, where King Louis XVI had imprisoned political prisoners who had opposed his rule. Americans always call the holiday "Bastille Day."

If you say that to French people, they look at you oddly. The official name of the holiday here is "Fete Nationale," and almost every French person we spoke to referred to the holiday as "Our National Holiday."

The concierge of our hotel sounded almost apologetic whenever he mentioned "the National Holiday," as though to placate us for being inconvenienced by closed stores or museums.

We, on the other hand, were a bit puzzled. When we asked what people do for the National Holiday, we were told that most people who live in Paris leave town. Our taxi driver, when we arrived, drove us around the Place de la Concord, where we could see the bleachers being set up and the TV trucks positioned. Apparently, these festivities are for all the tourists who remain in town.

This morning as we walked from Montparnasse to St. Germain des Pres, there was a helicopter circling over the city, and as we looked up the Rue de Rennes, suddenly a jet flew over with a cloud of tricolor smoke - red, white and blue.

I tried to snap it before it faded - I'm not sure if you can see it - can you? It really was red, white, and blue, just for a little while, at least.

Then there were fly-overs from a giant military transport and a formation of fighter jets.

Tonight late, there are supposed to be fireworks over la tour Eiffel. We thought about going over, but I quail at crowds, so we're looking for another way to celebrate.

It's now eight o'clock here, and there are shouts in our narrow street. There's a big party in the building across the way, and people are singing. A restaurant across the street has its slate out, and people are "Whoohhh!" -ing.

I think we might just stay here to celebrate. This might get interesting.


Tristan Robin said...

I've never been to Paris on Bastille Day - lucky you!

I'm sure the fireworks are wonderful - but, I can't imagine anything more exquisite than the Eiffel at night anyway!

Crystal said...


Anonymous said...

I bet the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower would be spectacular, but like you, I try to avoid crowds.
My baby brother was born on this day - he's 41 (much younger than France!)