The U.S. isn’t the only country that celebrates an independence day in July. France celebrates the end of it’s monarchy with Bastille Day. In 1789 French subjects stormed the royal prison fortress of Bastille, which at the time held only seven prisoners. Still, the fortress was a symbol of the monarchy and the fall of the Bastille became the flashpoint of the French Revolution.
Today it is celebrated as the birth of modern France with all of the parades, pomp and circumstance an independence celebration usually comes with. Having lived in Washington, D.C. for a number of years, I can only say that watching a nation’s independence or national celebrations from the capital city is without comparison. For sure, Bastille Day celebrations in Paris are probably some of the largest in the country and for good reason. The government likes to spend money where the government can appreciate that money! The annual Bastille Day military parade in Paris is the oldest in Europe and has been ongoing since 1880. In the spirit of the European Union, the French have recently invited foreign troops to participate in the parade, even inviting old enemies such as the British and Germans to march!
France is still very regional though, and its people, culture and even dialect vary from one province to the next. Although Paris may have the grand military parade, each province has its own particular celebrations for Bastille Day. In Provence, a region known for it’s history and incredible geography, St-Remy-de-Provence and Maussane-les-Alpilles hold “une manifestation tuarine” or a running of the bulls on July 13th and 14th. Like the French revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille, these bulls storm down the main streets, lead by cowboys on horseback to corral them back into a pen!
Fireworks in a capital city are breathtaking, but in my mind, fireworks over the ocean can’t be beat. If you’re like us and would be celebrating in Provence for the bulls, Terre Blanche is a great place to catch Bastille Day fireworks. Provence, home to the French Riviera and the foothills of the Alps seems to have the best of both worlds, which would make it a very unique and spectacular place to watch fireworks. Plus their fireworks displays are apparently rather extravagant, but it is the French Riviera so really, I would expect no less! (Considering the celebration lasts but one day, there is still plenty of time to visit the spa or the beach with a bottle of wine in hand.)
Bastille Day may be a French holiday but it’s celebrated all over the world. In the U.S. huge Bastille Day celebrations close down 60th Street in New York City and in Washington, D.C. a French restaurant sponsors a running of the waiters for charity. London boasts one of the largest Bastille Day celebrations outside of France, their 2010 celebration included cabaret dancers and crepes. What more could be better?
Photo Credit: CafePaname[dot]com, Flickr user byammar under the Creative Commons license, Flickr user melanieandjohn under the Creative Commons license, and ElegantHolidays[dot]co[dot]uk.