The "Défilé du 14 juillet" includes always choirs singing the famous French national anthem "La Marseillaise".
I don't think to be wrong saying that the French national anthem is known far outside the borders of the country by its music, the tune is immediately recognizable, and the very warlike lyrics.
Aux armes, citoyens !
Formez vos bataillons !
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur...
Abreuve nos sillons !
Take arms, citizens,
Form your battalions
Let's march, let's march!
That a tainted blood
Water our furrows
The verses are even more aggressive. La Marseillaise is indeed a warrior song and hymn to freedom born when the Revolutionary France was fighting for survival against the armies of the monarchies.
Rouget de Lisle wrote the song in 1792. Did he compose the music is still discussed. This revolutionary song was adopted by many revolutionaries on every continent.
Actually the Marseillaise was prohibited in France by Napoleon I and later by Louis XVIII and Napoleon III !
The real name for "Bastille day" is "Fête Nationale Française" or "Quatorze Juillet" by the French referring to the 14 juillet 1789 "prise de la Bastille" but also the "Fête de la Fédération du 14 juillet 1790".
The military parade is the "Défilé du quatorze juillet".
It's a quite important military parade going from the Arc de Triomphe over the Champs Elysées to the Place de la Concorde. This year (2011) there were 7000 military, among which 5000 on foot.
Among the military schools Saint-Cyr is the most colourful.
Remarked this year were the Chasseurs Alpins, mountain troops dressed in white with their very large "béret alpin"
Most remarkable among the military on foot are every year the pioneers of the Légion Etrangère. This section of pioneers from the 1st regiment of the Légion wear an ax on their shoulder, a leather apron and all are bearded. The Légion Etrangère is marching on a slower step than the other troops.
All French troops are professional soldiers so that the marching drill is perfect.
Most spectacular on each parade is the cavalry (241 horses) from the Garde Républicaine wearing the cuirassiers helmet with plume (photo).
This year the Forces d'opérations extérieures (Opex) present in Afghanistan and Côte d'Ivoire were at honor. Sadly, six of them had been killed in Afghanistan the day before.
Many of these forces belong to the Troupes de Marine (they wear an anchor on their kepi and are the French equivalent of the USMC) with infantry (the RIMA), paratroops (RPIMA), armored infantry, and artillery. There were 300 military vehicles on wheels or tracks descending the Champs Elysées.
Add to this 84 airplanes and helicopters flying over Paris and you will realize that the military parade of the 14 juillet is the most important in the EU.
If you are in Paris on a 14 juillet it's worthwhile to see it. The parade starts at 10.00 hr but you have to be there well before to be able to see something. Best is to look from the French television sitting in your comfortable (I hope so) hotel room or at home like me.
This is a day I had been wanting to get to for a few years and finally did - and not for the fact that it was a so called 'Independence Day' celebrating when the working class rose up and chopped off the heads of anyone slightly associated with aristocracy or nobility and then turned on each other and chopped off whoever could be accused of being in rank! but that it was celebrated as a highly regarded celebration day on the Parisienne calendar.
But anyway I got there for it and it was a day that seemed to be met with great enthusiasm - more a military celebration day really - all the units out on parade in full regalia and uniform - even with jets and an assortment of planes flying over in formations, helicopters and tanks - and outside the military museum even an open day with military vehicles and personnel on hand for the public to interact with - a large turnout of participants and spectators.
The main parade though was blocked off as if it was ticket or authorised attendance only or maybe it was crowd control quotas. The closest access I found at the time was from Musee D'orsay metro station.
The military ceremony thats usually held up at the Arc du Triomphe near sundown each night the tanks and military vehicles passed me heading on up to be present there too.
Often at the "Défilé du 14 juillet" "Bastille Day"a choir is singing the "Chant des partisans" the anthem of the French Resistance during the occupation by Nazi Germany during WW II.
It became the anthem of the Resistance in France but also other countries where it was whistled. During WW II it was an indicative on the BBC.
It is the most moving patriotic song I know. Being one of the very few VT members whose childhood was marked by the Nazi occupation of his country you will understand what this song means for me.
The music and Russian words were composed by Anna Marly in 1942; the French words were composed by the French authors Joseph Kessel and Maurice Druon in 1943 in London. The song starts with:
"Ami, entends-tu le vol noir des corbeaux sur nos plaines ?
Ami, entends-tu les cris sourds du pays qu'on enchaîne ?
Ohé partisans, ouvriers et paysans, c'est l'alarme !
Ce soir l'ennemi connaîtra le prix du sang et des larmes.
My friend, do you hear the dark flight of the crows over our plains?
My friend, do you hear the dulled cries of our countries in chains?
Oh, friends, do you hear, workers, farmers, in your ears alarm bells ringing?
Tonight all our tears will be turned to tongues of flame in our blood singing!"
The crows here refer to the black uniform of the SS.
The lyrics are very hard. The words call to kill the invaders.
"Ici chacun sait ce qu'il veut, ce qu'il fait, quand il passe ;
Ami, si tu tombes, un ami sort de l'ombre à ta place.
Demain du sang noir séchera au grand soleil sur les routes,
Sifflez, compagnons, dans la nuit la liberté nous écoute.
But here, each one knows what he wants, what he does with his choice;
My friend, if you fall, from the shadows on the wall, another steps into your place.
Tomorrow, black blood shall dry out in the sunlight on the streets.
But sing, companions, freedom hears us in the night still so sweet."
You can ear the "Chant des Partisans" on YouTube and other websites by a large number of singers. For me the original by Anna Marly, the hardest performance, is the best.
So "ami" I hope you will share my emotion when listening to this song.
The "14 juillet" does not only belong to the military but is also marked by a number of festivities.
The parade usually includes a spectacle.
In 2011 the Brigade de Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris (Brigade of firemen of Paris) was celebrating its bicentennial. With a staff of 8.500 they are the largest body of firemen in Europe and belong to the Army (pioneers). At the end of the parade they performed a gymnastic exercise on the Place de la Concorde.
In 2010 things were even more spectacular. A team of eight Special Forces paratroopers jumped above Paris and touched the ground precisely in front of the president's stand.
Apart from the parade there are all over France "Bal du 14 juillet" often on the evening of the 13th.
In most towns of France there is a "Feu d'artifice" firework on the evening of the 14th.
The firework in Paris is always a huge event: the duration of the fireworks is impressive (about 35 minutes) and the quality of the fireworks is breathtaking!
The fireworks are drawn from the Iena bridge and the Jardins du Trocadero. The Champs de Mars is the best place to look at the fireworks and the Tour Eiffel. Place du Trocadero is also good but the Esplanade du Trocadero is not open for the public.
If you are in Paris on Bastille Day 14th July, there will be a parade at Champs Elysees in the morning and this would be followed by a fireworks display from 11:00pm to 11:30pm.
The best place to watch the parade is along the road at Champs Elysees.
The fireworks can be viewed from Tower Montparnasse. There is a fully glass enclosed observatory and another at a higher level but with full height metal mesh.
The conquest of Bastille is, maybe, the most remarkable moment if French history, the birth of citizenship, under the principles of freedom , equality and fraternity.
In location of the destroyed prison there's a square with the same name, but, I don't know why, the central and unique monument is "Colonne de Juillet", celebrating another revolution about 50 years later.
Funny things, hard to understand!
The Bastille day is the French National holiday that takes place the 14 of July.
Called Fête Nationale it commemorates the 1790 Fête de la Fédération, held on the 1st anniversary of the storming of the Bastille, back in 1789.
Storming of the Bastille is seen as symbol of the uprising of the modern French nation.
Festivities are held the morning of 14 July, the largest on the Champs-Élysées avenue in Paris in front of the President of the Republic.
The opening parade starts with the cadets from the École Polytechnique, Saint-Cyr, École Navale.
Bastille, an emblematic place in french history , to the point that english speakers refer to the french national celebration of the 14 juillet as Bastille day (technically incorrect as july 14th celebrates the Fete de la Federation: july 14 1790).
The original Bastille fortress was built at the end of the XIV th century and was supposed to be part of the city's defence system. But it fast appeared inefficient and the building was converted in a prison for aristocratic offenders, among them Hugues Aubriot (not very famous but i mention him since he was the one who supervised the fortress construction), Bassompierre, the man with the iron mask, Palissy, Sade, Voltaire...
Ironically, since 1784, the king wanted the building to be destroyed (too expensive to maintain), but didn't get the budget to pay the demolishers !!!
In 1789, when then unrests became serious and foreigner troups were waiting around Paris, people stormed the hotel des Invalides to get the weapons stored there (with the idea to fight against the invaders 'invited' by the king) they managed to get hold of guns but needed powder which the rumour had stored in the Bastille. And so went history : about 1000 people (not much) marched on the Bastille, had the gates open and the last 7 prisoners staying there free (the others had been evacuated previously due to the poor state of the building). The Bastille was taken !
Two days later, an entrepreneur, Palloy decided (all by himself) to have the fortress destroyed and sent his guys to take the (good) stones, doors and such (he later tried to sell pieces of it, a bit like what happened recently with the Berlin wall).
Now, if you want to see stones of the Bastille, look at the Concorde bridge : it was built using them.
In 1792, it was decided to have the place cleaned from the last remnants and to have a place celebrating the revolution, the first part was done and a fountain installed but it's only in 1833 that the column you can now see in the center was decided (installed in 1840).
on Bastille Day, take a ride on the bateaux in the evening, along the River Seine. you'll pass beautiful bridges and buildings, and the boat will stop for the fireworks. the atmosphere is amazing - the city is packed and everybody is celebrating! if you survive the whole night partying, there's free French Onion soup for brekkie! (at least there was when i was there)
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