Friday, 15 July 2011

Fête Nationale - Bastille Day Celebration 2011

For days, the barricades were left on the wide side walks and dirt paths along the Avenue du Champs des Elysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde
And finally, they were all in place for  Bastille Day, July 14 - a national holiday, a day of celebration with a parade, partying, and a spectacular fireworks show.

Bastille Day, The French National Day, is a celebration of the birth of the French Republic. It was on July 14, 1789 that the French Revolution began, when the Bastille prison was taken over by the people. They were in search of arms and ammunitions. This was also the symbol of King Louis XIV's absolute power. The feudal oppression and fiscal mismanagement had taken their toll on the peasants, who found the option to finally revolt out of desperation. Upon the capture of this symbol, it signified to the French citizenry that the power now rested with the nation and its people, limited by separation of powers. 

This was also a time when the Catholic Church, with her close relations to the royalty,  lost her power in France. Like the nobility, the church was tax exempt while owning vast land and other property holdings, which were all sequestered. Although to the present time, France considers herself a Catholic Nation, inspite of abandoning the idea of God's existence during the revolutionary days. 

It was a bloody transition from monarchy, to anarchy, to democracy. The fight was for equality, liberty, and fraternity for all.  With absolute monarchy now passé, the first French Republic was created in 1792. Their ideals have become the same battle cry among peoples of the world seeking a voice in their own countries and in claiming their rights as citizens.
Passed the Rond Point des Champs-Elysées, and just passed the metro station Champs-Elysées Clemençeau, I noticed that by July 13...
sitting-sections had been put up, each with a portable potty installation, behind . Thinking that it took an early riser to get to avail of a seat to watch the parade, I asked if the public was welcomed here. "Pour les invités" was the response. It was by invitation only! Both sides of the avenue were readied for the invited guests and I had to stand somewhere else to attend this celebration. I thought  of several locations in my mind.
The grandstand was constructed on the Place de la Concorde, facing the avenue. This blue, white, and red canopy-covered section was for the president of the republic, President Nicolas Sarkozy, other officials, and the diplomatic corps.
At the corners of the avenue, cameras had been positioned to film and televise the festivities along with the sound systems.

On the morning of July 14,  it was show time!
 As I was prettying up, I heard the cadence of the horses hoof's. I ran to the window and caught this sight of good-looking men mounted on their handsome horses. They were passing through, enroute to their assigned place on the grand avenue parade.

By the time my friend and I got out to walk to the Champs-Elyées, we could hear buzzing in the air. Then, we saw the plane formation above us, sans the red, white, and blue colored trails that welcomed the arrival of the president. The show had began.

 We positioned ourselves between the round about and the metro station but could not see much. I decided to go back to the apartment to get my camera-extension stick and a small step-up stool.
 I noticed that just at about the time the parade began, this first-aid unit already had one patient. People had been waiting for the last two hours, I imagine, to hold their choice spots to watch the parade. 
 Someone's car had been towed - perhaps, it was parked on a side of the street that had been cordoned off.
 It was dropped off on another street, but I wondered how the owner was going to figure out where his car had gone.

 Back on the roadside with my viewing aids, my camera could "see" the parade now, while I could see just barely above the heads.
 I made it back in time to see the companies of men - elite forces of the French army.

Then, it was time to show the military might of France.
 Soldier movers, with ammo carriers attached to the back of the trucks

The fire brigade:

Fire engines
 Paramedic response team
The ambulance response team
 The helicopters, in formation, flew over to signify the end of the parade which lasted for about an hour. The day was young and this was going to be a whole day affair for the spectators. What else was there to do? For others it was partying at any time of the day in the Fireman's Ball as there were balls being hosted by different fire stations. Others went to have family time.

People headed to the parks.
 Jardin des Ambassadeurs - bound by the Champs Elysées, avenue Marigny, Place de la Concorde and rue Gabriel, to relax and get a taste of the sun.

 Jardin des Tuileries -  enclosed by the Quai des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, rue de Rivoli, and avenue du Gal Lemmonier

 The carnival at the jardin, on Terrase des Feuillants (on the side of the rue de Rivoli). Entrance is always free but the rides are not. There are game and food booths, and entertaining rides for the young and the adults. 

 Champs de Mars, a large, public, green space next to the Eiffel Tower  was filled with people for the 5:00 p.m. concert. 

Major routes leading to the Eiffel Tower - from where the fireworks display setup was near,  and to the Trocadero - the ideal place to watch from, were blocked to vehicular traffic. The movement of big groups of people by early evening, to find an ideal location to view the show of the evening, was so heavy. 

I started to find my place by 9:45 p.m. I headed for the Trocadero and managed to find a spot in the midst of the thick crowd that had gathered. Packed like sardines, we waited until 11:00 p.m. for the show to begin. While waiting, I was questioning myself about what I was doing here. I could barely move. I was constantly being pushed - more like goosed all over, along with the others, as waves of people were insisting on passing through even when there seemed no space to go through.
When the tower's lights shut off, it was time. After a couple of minutes, the fireworks show was underway. Soon, there were damsels in distress as fainting spells where brought upon by the heat generated by the crowd. Every time someone fainted, some of the people could be heard saying "Porte la...pour respirer" meaning "carry her to breath some air." People had to strip off their jackets to feel cooler. 

As the finale number came up, the Eiffel Tower's twinkling lights went on and the last set of fireworks bursts into patterns that fascinated the huge crowds all over.
The theme was "From Broadway to Paris." 

It turned out to be a spectacular production and one of the best fireworks show I had ever seen. Was it worth all the trouble I went through? The answer to that is timing is everything, for next time...if there is a next time.

This big celebration was over and it was time to call it a day. For the most part, the people quietly dispersed, except for a few who had too many drinks, and now creating some unpleasant scenes. Streaming out from different roads and converging on main roads looked like a river of people flowing out. Some were stranded as the metro and bus services were disrupted.
The out of towners got into their cars and did not get too far. Traffic was jammed. Not all roads had been reopened to traffic. 
Any which way the cars turned, patience was what they needed to get through and out of the mad situation.

This celebration cost beaucoup euros. It brought the citizens out to take pride in their national identity, their country, their culture. It was the French way of celebrating, and I, along with the other foreigners, were happy to be a part of it.


  1. Great photos, Yogi! It felt as if I was there!

  2. Thank you for sharing these great pics YB! I felt that I was there myself experiencing all the fun and excitement! I know it wasn't easy for you but I truly appreciate your effort in sharing these great pictures with us!! BOO

  3. It seems that the way to really get to see this type of celebration from a vantage point is to be out on the road several hours before, to claim your spot. SInce I didn't do that, I was just happy I had my Xshot to extend my camera another 3 feet higher, to take pictures of things sometimes could not see.

  4. Believe talaga ako sa iyo, Yogi! I would never have braved the crowds and the traffic and the sun too! Enjoyed the photos and commentary, though. Now I feel I don't ever have to be there for Bastille Day! No more surprises. LOL

  5. It was my first experience, JG. I will try something different, at least, once.



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