Celebrating 225 Years! What do you have planned?

Today is my sixth Bastille Day (or as the French call it, “la Fête du Quatorze Juillet” or “la Fête Nationale“) on French soil. Although it’s a big anniversary — the French are celebrating 225 years of no more Bastille — I sort of missed out on the fireworks last night. I had bailed on a dinner/fireworks-viewing party earlier in the day because I was feeling under the weather, and our apartment in La Courneuve offered a less than optimal vantage point for the municipal fireworks display. I could still hear them, though, as well as all the fire crackers being tossed in the street below my window! There have been other events, of course, including the big parade down the Champs Élysées this morning, but we didn’t watch that either. The only thing we have planned, in fact, is a long walk in a park to get some exercise and fresh air. It seems like catching the French air force’s practice flights over Le Bourget yesterday afternoon is about as festive as it’s going to get for us this year … Continue reading Celebrating 225 Years! What do you have planned?

Where’s the Fire?

This weekend, I celebrated my fifth Bastille Day in France, and I’ve done something different every single year. Back in 2007, I was en route from Marseille to Washington after a vacation in Provence: nothing too special to report from the short layover at Charles de Gaulle. In 2009, I picnicked with Michel and his friends in the Bois de Vincennes and happened to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower fireworks from the Louvre on our way home. In 2011, Michel and I trekked down to Pont des Invalides to watch the fireworks from a better vantage point. They were pretty impressive. Last year, we just stayed home … but by doing so, we got to watch from our window fireworks in four different Paris suburbs: La Courneuve, Le Bourget, Drancy, and Bobigny. This year, we kicked it up a notch. We went to my first ever …

Firemen’s Ball Continue reading Where’s the Fire?

The Bastille Might be the Symbol, but it Wasn’t the Beginning … or the End

Today is July 14, the French national holiday. Here in France, it’s officially called La Fête Nationale (“The National Celebration”) or more commonly, Le Quatorze Juillet (“The Fourteenth of July”). In English-speaking countries we call it Bastille Day. We think of it as the start of the French Revolution but, as usual with the beginnings of revolutions, it wasn’t as clean-cut as that …

The Back Story

The First and Second Estates on the back of the Third

Like the American Revolution that preceded it by 14 years, there was a long fuse leading to the powder keg of the French Revolution. Every historian will tell you that the French Revolution was the product of a number of factors: malnutrition and hunger from a series of bad harvests and the resulting spike in the price of bread, the country’s financial crisis arising from France’s loss in the Seven Years’ War and its foray into the American Revolution and, crucially, the unwillingness of France’s Ancien Régime to address these problems effectively. King Louis XVI’s series of finance ministers had repeatedly attempted to address the crisis by calling for reform of France’s regressive tax structure that placed an inordinate burden on the poor to the benefit of the aristocracy and clergy. Not surprisingly, this progressive idea was adamantly opposed by the country’s parlements (regional bodies representing the aristocracy that exercised limited veto power on such matters). Continue reading The Bastille Might be the Symbol, but it Wasn’t the Beginning … or the End

Vive la France … à Adams Morgan!

While I was watching fireworks from the Pont des Invalides in Paris on Bastille Day, my neighbors back in Adams Morgan in Washington, DC were doing this:

© Liz @ SocialStudiesDC.com

Is it wrong of me to think I wasn’t in the right place on Bastille Day?

Read Liz’s article about it on SocialStudies!

What do you say to a French person on Bastille Day? Nice fireworks!

In this post from yesterday, I pondered the appropriate way to wish a French person a Happy Bastille Day.  After last night, I think my friend Nicolas was right: “Bon feu d’artifice !” … “Nice fireworks!”

(You can watch this in high definition by selecting 1080p HD after starting the video.)

Continue reading What do you say to a French person on Bastille Day? Nice fireworks!

Happy Bastille Day?

What does one say on Bastille Day to a French person? Having been here long enough to know that the French don’t call July 14 “Bastille Day” the way we Anglophones do, I was in a quandary as to how to wish a happy national holiday to my French family and friends. I asked Michel and he said, “We don’t do that. We celebrate, but we don’t have a sentence like that, like you do in America. It might seem strange, but we don’t.”


Continue reading Happy Bastille Day?