La Fête Nationale, or Bastille Day, is celebrated on the 14th of July each year and commemorates the Fête de la Fédération of 14 July 1790. The Fête de la Fédération was a celebration of the establishment of the constitutional monarchy in France and was held on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 17 July 1789, which in itself is seen as a symbol of the modern French nation and the French Revolution.
Bastille Day is similar to our 4th of July celebrations and festivities are held all over France and usually include parades and fireworks. In Paris, however; the oldest and largest military parade is held on the morning of July 14th on the Champs-Élysées from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, where the President and other French officials and esteemed guests view the parade.
After the parade there are concerts and other happenings all over the city, but the main evening event is the concert and fireworks display on the Champs de Mars.
We brilliantly planned our time for the events over the two days by not staying too long at the Bal des Pompiers so we could get up early the next morning and go to the parade. Our early departure from the Firemen's Ball had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that we're old and crotchedy and don't like that newfangled beat-driven music, crowds and needing at least 8 hours of beauty sleep. Nope. It had nothing to do with that. So we got up early and took the metro to the perfect spot at the end of the parade route with plans to wriggle our way into a fabulous vantage point. After the parade, we went home for a little rest and to prepare for our picnic on the Champs de Mars and another late evening out.
Here's the story of our day, told in photographs and captions:
|There were lots of military-type police around - partly directing traffic and such and partly securing the area so close to the President and Very Important People and Guests|
|Just on the other side of the bridge, Pont de la Concorde, in Place de la Concorde, the President and other Very Important People viewed the parade from under the white canopy.|
|First, there was a breathtaking flyover with colors by the Patrouille de France, a precision aerobatic team of the French Air Force. The pilots fly Alpha Jets from Dassault-Breguet/Dornier.|
|Then lots of planes and helicopters flew overhead|
|If they turned left, we could see them quite well!|
|The French Republican Guard|
|The parade ends with the Paris Fire Brigade|
|Each troop has a unique uniform and hat, and if you really know your French Military, I'm sure you know which uniforms and which hats belong to which troop. I believe this young man is a St. Cyr Cadet.|
|Cadet from École Polytechnique|
Our planning for attending the parade was less than stellar, but we did get to see parts of it and experience the flyovers. The views on the Champs-Élysées were probably much better, but if we had planned better, we wouldn't have had the opportunity to meet an amazing American family from Santa Barbara, The Towheads. They are currently taking time off from their conventional lives and traveling around the world. Check out their website!
After the parade, we headed home and rested a bit, then packed our trusty green polka dot trolley and headed over to Champs de Mars for a veerrrryyy long picnic and to watch the fireworks.
|We were probably the only people there with a trolley - but we don't have any backpacks here and it was a lot easier dragging our picnic through Paris with this than with a bunch of shopping bags!|
|Ron - holding down our blanket and securing 20 sq ft of breathing space!|
|Timbao - La Batucada (Samba-Reggae fusion percussion) - awesome!|
|Most people wore more than he did; however, none of us were quite as popular|
|It was a long wait from our arrival time until the show started - this man even had a birthday while waiting!|
|At long last, the concert started. Of course, our 20 sq ft of breathing space was quickly being encroached upon!|
|Towards the end of the concert, we were treated to the most spectacular sunset ever!|
|The light and colors were changing so fast, each second more beautiful than the last|
|Finally the concert ended and it was getting dark enough for fireworks. The anticipation was palpable. At this point, our blanket was wrapped up and our 20 sq feet of breathing space shrunk to about 4. Fortunately, we were all in a good mood!|
|After waiting and hanging around for 6 1/2 hours, the fireworks started! I am shooting hand held, no timed exposures. :(|
|The theme this year was "From Broadway to Paris - The World of Musicals"|
|Fireworks with the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower - beautiful!|
|There was an amazing Grande Finale - this was part of it|
|After the Grande Finale and before all the smoke cleared|
Being a part of the Bastille Day celebrations was an incredible opportunity and one we won't soon forget. We had an amazing time celebrating with the French. It was also really cool that so many of the French knew the words to the Broadway tunes and most of the Champs de Mars crowd sang along. There was an incredible feeling of solidarity and more than once I had tears in my eyes. The song of the day was "Let The Sun Shine In". It was sung in English and French and in either language, the message hit home.
Peace will guide the planets
Love will steer the stars
Let the sun shine in