Bastille Day! We were looking forward to being in France for their national holiday. For years, we have watched the Tour de France and heard the announcers always say what a magical day it was. The entire countryside would be in full celebration of Bastille Day on the 14th of July. We didn’t really know what they were celebrating, but we knew we wanted to be part of this tradition.
In France they actually don’t call it Bastille Day, much to our confusion. It is Fête Nationale or 14th of July. What are they celebrating? Liberty, fraternity, equality. On this day in 1789, peasants stormed the Bastille (a prison/munitions storage) and released prisoners and blew stuff up. But it is pretty confusing as to what Bastille Day actually is. The Wikipedia article says that the date is actually the year anniversary of the storming of the Bastille and the holiday is marking the successful end of the revolution (as it would turn out, the revolution lasted a few more years and became much more bloody). One of our French friends finds it strange that a date celebrating the ideals of the revolution (Liberty, fraternity, equality) by having a huge military parade down the Champs Elysees.
But we got up early and Amy had 2 goals: see a giant French flag hanging beneath the Arc de Triomphe and see the French fighter jets fly over the Arc leaving contrails of red, blue, and white (colors of the French flag). We accomplished both before noon. We found our way to a back entrance to the parade, and it ended up working really well. We didn’t see the parade, but got to see a lot of military vehicles queue up. It was pretty cool.
After the flyover we headed back to pack up and clean up the apartment. Amy was going to do the Sunday Skate at 2:30. They shut down a section of the streets of Paris for nearly 10,000 skaters to go through the streets. Everyone meets up around the Bastille (nothing to see, just a statue now) and heads out with a police escort both in front and behind. Amy was nervous but excited; Nathan was nervous to see his wife go off with thousands of strangers.
Normally they do between 20-25 kilometers (12-15 miles). It was blazing hot. About 90 degrees and sunny. Pretty early in the ride, Amy found a group of women with quad skates, she asked if they did roller derby and of course they did. They were part of another league in Paris. Amy was very thankful for their company. At the halfway point, Amy headed back to the Bastille. They still had another 1 1/2 hours and we had a party to get to. It turns out that the derby girls suggested Amy take the subway part of the way back because the roads weren’t good to skate on. Adventure! She didn’t have any shoes, so navigating the subway in skates was very fun and a lot scary.
Amy was exhausted after her skating adventures, but we still had a full day ahead of us. We had to finish packing up all of our gear and make sure to leave the apartment nice and tidy and then bring all of our gear to a roller derby party. Viking (yes, a derby name) invited us to a BBQ at his house. We got there some time around 7pm and entered the party zone. They had been celebrating since 1:30pm and there were a lot of bottles strewn about and a ton of young French people crowded into a not so big backyard.
Everyone was so welcoming and friendly. It’s always a little awkward because we really don’t know anyone, but we tried to chat with some of the Panam roller guys. It was a big derby party with at least 3 Paris leagues represented. We arrived shortly after the ketchup and shaving cream fight. Some how we were okay with that. We hung out for over an hour and talked of politics (mainly US and French), continually amazed at how well many Europeans have an extensive knowledge of American politics compared to our understanding of theirs.
We left the revelry of the party and headed back to Julian and Michelle’s who invited us for dinner for boeuf bourguignon. We were exhausted from our very busy day, but were incredibly grateful for their hospitality and incredible food. It was a wonderful way to end Bastille Day. We heard the fireworks, but didn’t try and find a view; we kicked back and enjoyed good wine and conversation.