Vive la France

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.

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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!

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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!

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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.)

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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.

Adventurous Chamonix: A Winter Wonderland

Chamonix, better known as Mont Blanc, has become a real Mecca for winter and summer sports enthusiasts. Drawing in skiers and snowboarders in the winter months, the beautiful valley boasts breathtaking backdrops and fresh powder, which serves as the perfect drug for all the adrenaline junkies that visit this beautiful resort. Savour the magic that fills the Chamonix valleys when you capture the stunning scenery of the mystical peaks of Mont Blanc. Now isn’t that an image you’d like to wake up to through your bedroom window every morning?

Despite your intentions, this famous angle of the French Alps is brimming with character and a distinct charm that will certainly transform your winter holiday extravaganza. If you have no aspirations in becoming the next Eddie Eagle or conquering the monster slops Mont Blanc has to offer, you will still fall in love with this magical town. With history, culture and allure lining the picturesque streets you’ll become lost in a beautiful wilderness. Think shopping, delicate and exquisite cuisine, romantic walks and sightseeing in a town which boasts the most impressive scenery the French Alps has to offer. It’s certainly not all about the physical elements of your escape!

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However, if you do feel the need for speed, Chamonix has an obscene amount of thrilling activities to offer. Whether you’re visiting as a family, a couple or a group of friends you’ll never be caught at a loose end. Apart from the obvious skiing and snowboarding opportunities, think mountain biking, paragliding, dog sledging, speed riding, ice climbing, trail running and many more exciting options available – all aiming to feed your appetite for excitement.

Worried that your lack of experience will hinder your Winter Wonderland experience? There are always options available! Naturally, there are slopes aimed at different levels of ability, but if you’re still anxious about being set loose on slopes or breaking a limb or two, Chamonix offers a range of options to make sure you feel safe and secure on your decent down some of the steepest and breathtaking slopes the world has to offer. High Mountain guides will teach you all you need to know at your own pace. Affordable and an experience in itself, meet friends along the way and sport new skills and tricks on the slopes that you learn off these friendly professionals.

Whatever your preferences, Chamonix makes the perfect winter or summer getaway destination. Whether you’re setting to throw yourself head first into a world of thrilling winter sports, or your planning on savouring the more relaxing elements this ski resort has to offer, look no further because you’ve found the perfect option to fulfil your every possible need.

It’s never to early to start planning for next winter.  Check out  My Destination Chamonix for a local travel guide including, mountain bike guides, planning tips including five free things to do in Chamonix!

Author: Hannah Copues is a young travel writer who loves nothing more than to travel and write about her experiences worldwide. Hannah has travelled to over 20 countries and is currently planning her next adventure.

Thanks to Hannah for today’s guest post.  If you’re interested in guest posting with IShouldLogOff, email us at info [at] ishouldlogoff.com.  Thanks!