Thursday, 15 July 2010

Celebrating le 14 juillet

The 14th of July is France’s Fête Nationale. In English, it’s often called Bastille Day but the French don’t really use that name. Because they like to refer to actual dates (they even use historically significant ones as street names, perhaps as a way to back up the French school system, where the teaching of good hard facts is still at the heart of the curriculum), they often just call it le 14 juillet too.

Anyway, the great thing about le 14 juillet is that you can actually start celebrating it on the 13th, so it’s basically a 2 day party. And if you are lucky enough to live in Paris, you get to party with the firemen. Tradition has it that , on the evening of the 13th and sometimes the 14th too, the Parisian fire stations are opened up to the public for the Bals des Pompiers (which translates rather nicely into English as Firemen’s Balls ;-) ) I went with a group of friends to the one in the 18ième (Montmartre). We started off at the Ristorante Pulcinella for some delicious pasta and Barbera d’Alba. Living in France has clearly brainwashed me, because I had forgotten just how good Italian food and wine can be and I’m now even more excited about heading back to Italy in August. Then we went down to the fire station, where we were lucky not to have to queue for long to get in and were greeted by lots of lovely firemen looking muscular and heroic and collecting donations from everybody as they went in. To be honest though, after that, we might have been just about anywhere, as most of the firemen were either serving drinks or standing around watching the crowds of ordinary people as we danced. There was a rumour that there would be a strip-tease later, but we didn’t stay long enough to see it. The parties go on until 4am and there was a massive queue when we left about midnight, so I’d be prepared to believe that things would have heated up later on, but we got kind of bored of shuffling around to 80’s music and the last train home was calling. It was fun while we lasted, though, and I’d definitely go again, especially as different fire stations have different kinds of parties, with different music and so on.

Inside the Fire Station

Big Red Shiny Fire Engine

On the 14th itself, I was supposed to be going to a picnic, followed by watching the fireworks at 11pm, but the picnic had to be called off because of the massive thunderstorms that raged all morning and most of the afternoon, so we ended up in a bar instead. It cleared up in time for the fireworks, though, which we watched from the Pont Alexandre III and which were spectacular. I was surprised, however, by how quiet it was. Despite the massive crowds, everyone was just standing around talking quietly, and when it was all over, most people seemed to just head home. I guess that’s (one side of) France for you though – quiet and restrained even at a national party

1 comment:

  1. italian food is great, but the party looks a blast!!