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Bastille Day in Paris

Aug 21, 2007
The day is a celebration of independence and liberty. Cities all over France will be celebrating the spirit of freedom and democracy but the major events will be held in the Capital, Paris, making it a great time to plan your visit and take part in the celebrations.

Bastile Day marks the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, a prison which held political rebels who were considered by King Louis 16th to be unlawfully outspoken and troublesome.

At the time, France was ruled by a wealthy King and Queen who did nothing to improve the life of the poor, many of whom were starving on the streets. The middle class was growing and becoming more and more resentful of the life of luxury their leader was living, thanks to the heavy taxes imposed by the King, while France suffered massive foreign debt, and an unstable financial future.

Through their writings and public assemblies, these people called for rejection of the powerful monarchy and for the establishment of a free and democratic society, with leaders elected by the people. Anyone seen to be challenging the authority of the King was arrested and imprisoned in the Bastille. A large cache of weapons was also stored at the prison, making it the perfect symbol of the Kings power and tyranny.

On the 14th July, 1789, a public demonstration protesting the incarceration of these prisoners and rejecting the rule of the king gathered momentum outside the prison walls. At least 1,000 citizens managed to overpower the guards and take hold of the building, burning it to the ground. 98 attackers were killed, as well as one of the guards defending the prison. It was the start of the French Revolution. As the middle class took to the streets, building barricades and fighting the royal army who were struggling to gain control, the King fled with his wife for Versailles, relinquishing his control of the nation.

Soon after this event, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was drafted, outlining man's equal liberties, the rights to elect their own representatives, reject oppression and communicate freely, without fear of prosecution. The country was later declared a republic for the first time in 1792.

A year after the storming of the Bastille, a festival was held to mark the anniversary of its destruction, and the French have continued to celebrate the moment since then. In 1880, Bastille Day was declared an official national holiday under the motto of 'liberty, equality and fraternity', the values which are represented on the French flag- le Tricolour.

Although France was not free continuously from that moment on, it was the values that these men were fighting for that remains symbolic for the people of France, even to this day. Truly a cause for celebration!

Bastille Day, or Fete National as it is known to the French is celebrated over two days. Traditionally, the fire stations in Paris open their doors to the public between 9pm on the 13th July and 4am on the 14th, for music and dancing, spilling out onto the streets for the public to enjoy. A list is published of those stations which will be open in the weeks leading up to the event in local papers and a small donations is usually collected on entry. All the money raised goes to the Paris Fire Brigade Association.

The Town Hall of Paris usually hosts an evening of dancing in the Bastille Square, the original site of the prison. Each year a theme is chosen, reflecting one of the many nationalities of which France has citizens today. In 2007, the theme was African Music and the square was alive with bongo drums and percussion instruments late into the night.

On the 14th at about 10: 30am a grand parade is held on the Champs Elyses from Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. People line the streets to watch the parade led by the president of France, followed by police cadets, infantry and motorised troops of the military. Military jets will accompany the parade from the air, streaming red, blue and white to represent the colours of the flag.

The parade lasts about 2 hours and is a great spectacle to enjoy, but if large crowds and marching bands is not your thing, a great alternative is a visit to the Lourve Museum, which is open free to the public on this day. It's an excellent chance to enjoy some of the worlds greatest art in the worlds most famous art museum.

Later in the afternoon, the Hippodrome de Longchamp is preparing for the only night of the year where horse racing is allowed after dark. The gates open at about 4pm and the races start by 5pm. The main race is held at 8pm followed by dancing long into the night. For children, pony rides, a barbecue and fair with rides is in full swing throughout the evening. A great option for families.

The most popular event of the day however is usually the fireworks display which takes place that evening. The main show is launched from from the Eiffle Tower but smaller displays are usually held around other parts of Paris, followed by more parties and clubs until the early hours of the morning.

Bastille day is the one day in the year where just about everyone in Paris is free from work and school, to celebrate the democratic foundation of their country, in a most spectacular way. Everyone should enjoy at least one Bastille day in Paris
About the Author
Gaizka Pujana is the co-owner of Barcelona Homes, S.L. which is a company
specialized in providing short term tenancy solutions in Seville and Barcelona through its
web pages Paris apartment rental
Paris holiday apartments
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