Introducing… Le 14 Juillet
Welcome back to our “Introducing” series! You haven’t come all the way to Paris to study French at ACCORD French language school in July to miss out on the 14 Juillet celebrations have you? Whether you’ve planned your trip to soak up the atmosphere in Paris on Bastille Day or it’s just a happy coincidence, let’s find out more about the big day and why everyone should experience it at least once in their lifetimes here in Paris.
A potted history
Why do the French celebrate the storming of the Bastille every year on the 14 Juillet? The Bastille was a political prison and symbol of King Louis XVI’s oppressive powers over the French people. An angry mob of Parisians gathered outside the prison on July 14th 1789 after hearing that the King was planning to arrest the new National Assembly, which was to be the voice of the people. But the rebels weren’t there to free the prisoners inside the Bastille… they were there to steal the gunpowder and weapons the fortress housed alongside its inmates. The King and Marie Antoinette fled after the Storming of the Bastille and left the prison to be pillaged and burnt. The Storming marked the beginning of the French Revolution and the French celebrate it today as the symbol of the end of the monarchy and beginning of a modern republic.
Celebrating Bastille Day
First of all, Bastille Day is a bank holiday in France so your ACCORD French language school is closed for the day and you can enjoy the festivities. Paris celebrates Le 14 Juillet with a huge military parade (the oldest in Europe as a matter of fact) and flyover at 10.30am on the Champs-Élysées, which sees the iconic street decked out with flags. President Macron will make a speech after the parade with Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister, as his guest of honour. After that, make a beeline for Champ de Mars where you’ll find free concerts in the early evening before a special classical music and opera performance at the base of the Eiffel Tower at 9.10pm. The festivities end on a high with a spectacular fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower on Champ de Mars at 11pm. So bring a picnic (NB: no alcohol consumption after 4pm) and blanket along to soak up the atmosphere at the park then feast your eyes on the show.
Bals des Pompiers
Traditionally, fire stations around Paris are the place to be for the Bastille Day after party! The first “firemen’s ball” happened in 1937 when locals followed the firemen who had marched in the military parade back to their fire station… the rest is history. Nowadays the main fire station in the city’s 20 arrondissements throws a huge party on the premises or at a nearby venue between around 9pm and 4am. What to expect: food for sale, music, dancing, live bands, DJs, alcohol and soft drinks. Some stations charge a small fee or ask for donations (2-3 Euros) dropping in the traditional barrel to help improve working conditions for the firemen. Don’t be surprised if you have to queue to get in for an hour or two at peak time (around 11pm-3am) but do expect to join in with a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise! All together now!
Allons enfant de la patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L’étendard sanglant est levé…
We hope you’re enjoying our “Introducing” blogs. Are there any landmarks or profiles you’d like us to cover in future blogs? Get in touch.
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