Fête Nationale (Bastille Day)

Every year, on the 14th of July, France celebrates the Fête Nationale, their national holiday, the holiday we call Bastille Day. It’s the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille prison which happened in 1789 and helped kick off the French Revolution. Nowadays the fortress doesn’t exist – it was demolished and replaced by the Place de la Bastille – but the French love to commemorate this moment in history.

This year I was lucky enough to be in Paris at the time of the Fête Nationale. There were lots of things happening, in particular the military parade on the Champs-Élysées and the fireworks across the city. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to the parade because I had been out celebrating the night before (celebrating a Tuesday off work, ayyy), but I wasn’t going to miss the fireworks for the world, so I went with some friends to the Champ de Mars at the Eiffel Tower in the evening.

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We hadn’t predicted just how busy it was going to be. My friends arrived at 5pm, six hours before the fireworks were due to start, to try to find a place, but the entire grass down the centre of the Champ de Mars was packed full. It was so busy in and around the area that no one could get phone signal so it made finding my friends almost impossible. It was pretty stressful, due to being given wrong directions and having no phone signal to get the right directions, but I eventually got through to Sally who told me the right place and I made my way (very slowly) through the crowd to find them. We sat and relaxed for a few hours, listening to the concert that was out on to entertain the masses of people before the fireworks, and when it go to about 10pm we walked into the crowd to find a good place to stand (where we were sat before, the Eiffel Tower was completely blocked by a tree).

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We’d left it a little bit late by then unfortunately, but we found a spot which wasn’t too horrible. The tower was partially blocked by a tree (and later by an inconsiderate tourist’s selfie stick/GoPro) but we still had quite a good view. The tower was all lit up and looking her beautiful self and the French national anthem was played and then the fireworks started.

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The fireworks were absolutely phenomenal even despite the slightly obstructed view. The theme was “France and the rest of the world” and they played lots of different songs, lit the tower up with flags of different countries and set of fireworks which coordinated with this perfectly! I’ve seen the London New Years fireworks before and they were astounding and by far the best fireworks display as a whole that I’ve seen, but there was one part of the sequence of the Bastille Day fireworks this year that really won me over. It was the English section (surprise, surprise! But really!) and while it wasn’t so obviously British – the tower was pink and so were all the fireworks – it was the music that let you on to it being the British section, with Adele’s “Skyfall” playing alongside the most mesmerising fireworks I have ever seen.

To watch the Skyfall section go to 10:30, or you can watch the entire thing! It’s just under 40 minutes long:

After the fireworks were over it was crazily busy getting away from the Champ de Mars. There was no way I was going to try to get to the Metro because it would be way, way too busy! So I headed for the nearest bus stop which went to the area I lived in. As I arrived at the stop I saw my bus pulling away but assumed it would be OK and another one would be along very shortly, but no. I waited an hour for a bus home and finally got back at 2:30am…needless to say that work the next day I was a little bit tired! But it was definitely worth it and I am so pleased that I got to spend Bastille Day in Paris!

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Until next time,

H x

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