Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bastille Day (aka La Fête nationale or Le quatorze juillet)

La Fête nationale (the National Celebration), which is commonly known in France as "Le quatorze juillet" (the 14th of July) and in the United States as "Bastille Day," is the celebration of the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1989, at the beginning of the French Revolution.  In Paris, it is celebrated with the oldest military parade in Europe, balls at local firehouses, music, free arts events, and fireworks.

We decided that we had to see the famous military parade (which I suggest renaming to "the Parade of Funny Hats") so we dutifully arrived an hour early to find a good spot at the end of the parade route near the Assemblee Nationale (formerly the Palais Bourbon). At our vantage point, the parade began with all forms of military aircraft flying overhead. After the airplanes, it seemed that every branch of the military, police and fire departments had an opportunity to strut their stuff.
The parade had everything you would expect from a military parade - bands, platoons of singing soldiers, swords, guns with bayonets, tanks, artillery, soldiers on horses, soldiers parachuting out of the sky, generals with chests full of medals, and (of course) lots of funny hats.  Even the firemen had machine guns with bayonets and shiny helmets.

Not to be outdone, the protesters (not pictured here, but you can watch a video at http://www.zie.nl/video/fa4zvgtfhazp) had their own funny hats and songs (their favorite seemed to be "L'Internationale").  At least one protester decided to lie down in front of the parade, but he was quickly carried away by the police.  Although the protesters were relatively ineffective at blocking the parade, the swarms of newsmedia trying to get video of the confrontation, as well as the gawkers and platoons of police watching the protesters, managed to effectively block the parade route, which caused a large part of the parade to be diverted away from us,  Eventually, a line of paddy wagons arrived and parked across the street from the protesters.  That seemed to quiet things down.
Pompiers (firemen) retuning their shiny hats

Unfortunately, after the parade, it seems that everybody except the protesters had to return their swords and funny hats. We didn't have any funny hats to return so we treated ourselves to lunch at a small (5 tables), very French, cafe near our apartment. We had a very relaxed lunch on the sidewalk with great food at a reasonable price.

Tonight we head to the Champs de Mars to watch the fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower.

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