Thursday, July 16, 2009
le quatorze juillet (Bastille Day)
Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet("14 July"), is celebrated in France on July 14th each year.
It commemerates the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille fortress-prison in Paris in 1789. The Bastille was a symbol of the absolute and arbitrary power of Louis the 16th's Ancient Regime and capturing the Bastille was the beginning of the French Revolution.
This uprising led to the creation of the modern nation of France, and of the reconciliation of all the French.
It is celebrated with a presentation of many of the armed forces on a march along the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris, with aircraft also flying overhead.
There follows a day of demonstrations and exhibitions of the armed forces, with tanks, helicopters, boats and all sorts of military paraphanalia on display and available for everyone to look at and often climb into.
We celebrated with some friends at Invalides, which had the largest amount of displays including helicopters, tanks, gliders, various trucks and machinery, gymnasts and especially parachutists landing nearby.
Then we wandered amongst the displays and watched the parachutists descend from above, landing on a small patch of grass nearby.
Some descended with some speed and skidded across the grass as they landed and one parachutist even had a dog strapped to him.
And there were even free speed boat rides along the Seine.
That night there was a free concert at the Eiffel Tower with Johnny Halliday, but we aren't big fans and the crowds would have been massive, so we gave it a miss. It would have been cool to see the fireworks though.
During the day they had managed to fall to earth, but no one at Invalides managed to fly, despite their best attempts.