Bastille Day, Paris
Bastille day as it is called here on VT is called "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 (photo 2). 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 1).
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 famous RIMA - photo 3), 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.
I purposely scheduled our London/Paris trip so that we could spend at least part of Bastille Day in Paris, we had to leave in the evening but we were there during the day and the night before. We made an attempt to get to see some of the military parade but when we got to the metro station shortly before the parade was supposed to start, they had just closed off the exits because of overcrowding. My niece then said she wasn't interested in the military parade so we turned around and went to a less crowded metro station where we got out to walk along the Seine. We did get to see a little of the military flyover.
Bastille Day is what English speakers call July 14th, the French call it La Fête Nationale. It commemorates the Fête de la Fédération, held on the 1st anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on July 17, 1789. Although we didn't participate in much my understanding is that the military parade is held in the morning along the Champs Elysees starting at the Arc de Triomphe and running to the Place de la Concorde. The military flyover is also along the Champs Elysees although we could see it along the Seine. We missed out on the Fireman's balls which are held in the evening on the 13th and 14th and also the fireworks held on the 14th.
In terms of things being closed, I didn't really notice much that was, we were able to eat lunch, public transport was running, the boat rides were still going and the museums were open, the Louvre is even free on July 14th.
Often at the "Défilé du 14 juillet" a choir is singing the "Chant des partisans" the anthem of the French Resistance during the occupation by Nazi Germany.
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.
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.
This year (2011) the Brigade de Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris (Brigade of firemen of Paris) is 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.
The "Défilé du 14 juillet" includes always choirs singing the famous 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 it seems. This revolutionary song was adopted by many revolutionaries on every continent.
In the field of classical music Tchaikovsky used the theme of the Marseillaise in his "Ouverture 1812" celebrating the Russian victory on the armies of Napoleon. Actually the Marseillaise was prohibited in France by Napoleon I and later by Louis XVIII and Napoleon III.
Of course if you are in or around Paris on the 14th the other thing not to be missed is the firework display in the evening. Shot from the Trocadero, just opposite the Eiffel Tower, there are not that many places to get a good view, unless once again, you can get up high. If you can afford it at the restaurant at the Eiffel tower, high on the Montparnasse tower. I was at a private party about 200 metres from the tower, near the Hilton and had a superb view. I don't generally bother with firework displays, but invited onto the 14th floor terrace for an aperitif and overlooking the Seine and Trocadero, it was difficult to say no.
If you're in Paris around the 14th July, try to get a good spot for early in the morning around the Champs Elysees for the traditionnal march past, or as high as you can get around 10.50 for the fly-past. In 2008 I was lucky enough to be at a friends place (7th floor) and got a good view of the 'planes moving down the Champs Elysees and around down to the south of Paris.
The Bastille Day is more than a parade down Champs-Elyses on July 14. The night before (July 13) and on the Bastille Day itself, the firemen of each arrondissement of Paris are hosts of each of their 'bal des pompiers' (Firemens ball) which often includes live music and partying in the streets. This summer, 2006, I was lucky to be able to experience this great tradition as I came by Place de la Contrescarpe in the 5th arrondissement, and enjoyed a great live band with a lot of other people who were drinking and enjoying the warm summernight. If you're in Paris on the 13th of July, I recommend you to go to Place de la Contrescarpe in the evening, as it's surrounded by cozy cafés and located just a few minutes walk from a ton of lively bars and pubs. Enjoy!
At the evening prepare going to Champ-de-Mars or somewhere near Eiffel tower. Actually I don’t know if fireworks are usually there, but have heard that near hear. We choose to go to Champ-de-Mars. Despite we were there hour before, everything was full here and it seemed that people were gathering here from midday to take the best place. The show longed one hour. It was fantastic with music, lights and fire, and on the center was Eiffel tower. I don’t know who was playing the music, but knowing that Jean-Michel Jarre is from France, and he’s very famous with his shows, I might think that he had helped there. I hadn’t see in my life such grandiose show, and it was something magic. Eiffel tower sparkled in all colors, also in French flag colors.
I suggest you to take with you water, because if it’s very hot day, the dust from square get up, when those large people crowds leave the Eiffel tower. Also prepare for long walking, because nearest metro stations will be packed, and try to choose unpopular metro routes to get home or to hotel.
And the last thing - it was definitely worth to see!
More pictures from fireworks you can see on my album.
Before I went to Paris, I’ve heard that in this day are held grandiose celebrations with parade, fireworks and so. It roused my interest very much and I planned everything to be there on this day.
So, everything was very interesting and a bit funny. We thought that fireworks are on 13th, as somewhere I read so. We went to Champ-de-Mars, and believe me or not, we weren’t the only ones, who thought so. Many people who gathered there, also French were coming to us and asking if the fireworks will be tonight. Possibly we looked quite Frenchy, because we had camera with tripod :). We waited till the half past eleven and went away, thinking that we’ll try next day.
Next day we woke up quite early to see the parade at Champs Elysees.
Going by metro you’ll hear which stations are closed, so you can plan to get off somewhere near Louvre or somewhere near Arc de Triomphe. We got off at Metro station Franklin D. Roosevelt and with big crowds moved some streets straight. Believe me, crowds of people here are everywhere, and you can only stand and try to watch parade, where they aren’t so many. Those who come here usually already know to take with them small stairs or chairs, but it helps also if you’re tall :).
Parade begins at half past ten with planes coming from Arc de Triomphe, leaving behind them French flag colored sky. Then come more everyday and military planes.
After that by Champs Elysees are going military persons, policemen alone and with dogs, firemen, some kind of military technique, also tanks. And after that, parade end helicopters. It longs about two hours, so take with you water and on sunny day also hat.
After parade I can suggest you to visit Louvre, so it’s open this day and there are no entrance fees.
More pictures from parade you can see on my album.
If you are in Paris around July 14th, you can miss the Bastille Day parade going on in the center city. Most people will be going to Champs-Elysees early on to be ready for the start of the parade, but you can also choose to take a stand somewhere at the route following Champs-Elysees, to get a view of the marching military-corps, policemen, firefigthers or maybe even the president.
There will be massive crowds in the streets, and most of the center city will be guarded with fences, so it's hard to get around in town this day. In top of that, all the metro stations are closed, as it's a national day.
In the evening there will be a huge firework-show near the Eiffel Tower...didn't get to see that in 2003 though, as I were sitting in a bar :0) - but it should be very beautiful!
Fete National (Bastille Day)is held once a year on the 14th July. It marks the day when the Bastille (a prison) was stormed and all the prisoners were released. This was basically the beginning of the French revolution. Ask a French person for the exact history behind it! Anyway, the night before there are parties at all the fire stations in Paris and everyone is invited if the behave. At 10am there is a military and fire parade down Le Champs Elysee from L'arc du Triomphe down to Place de la Concorde. At about 11 pm starts the firework display around the Eiffel Tower. This year (2001) the fireworks were launched from the Trocadero. If you are in Paris at this time these two events are NOT to be missed!