On July 14th 1789, unprecedented tumult shook Paris. The Bastille, which at the time was King Louis XVI's State prison, was taken by storm and destroyed by thousands of rioters. To the sound of drums and cannonballs, this event would happen to be one of the defining moments of the French Revolution. Almost a century later in 1880, July 14th officially became a national holiday. Ever since then in Paris, ceremonies include a gigantic parade on the Champs- Élysées, in the presence of the highest State officials. A breathtaking fireworks display also takes place, set from the Eiffel Tower. And you can also count on numerous village dances and concerts organised in various locations around the city.
As a national holiday, it is also celebrated elsewhere than in the City of Lights. Everywhere around France, this weekend allows for festivities left, right and centre, as well as pyrotechnic extravaganzas. Here are 5 destinations that will keep the capital and its solemn manifestations at bay from your memory. Follow the guide!
Bordeaux: the other military parade
If you feel that a military parade is necessary during the celebrations of the 14th of July, then head over to the Aquitaine region, and especially to the place des Quinconces in Bordeaux, where tradition has it each year to gather all troops with pomp. The ceremony starts at 6 p.m. with squadrons positioning followed by investitures and the parade itself, taking place by foot, land vehicles and airplanes. The Pau parachute regiment will then proceed to a jump and land on the square. Finally, the proceedings end with an aubade sung by the parachute and air power regiments in front of the official rostrum. As for the remainder, let's say you won't have much time to rest during the weekend, with pyrotechnics set from the Garonne River and firemen's balls – at the Ornano and Benauge stations. Use this opportunity to visit the Cité du Vin and have dinner in one of the restaurants of the famous “Rue Gourmande”.
Place des Quinconces
La Rue Gourmande
Rue Porte de la Monnaie
Cap d'Agde: fireworks capital
Fireworks displays on Bastille Day are grandiose in Paris, true, but it's also the case elsewhere in France. For many years now, the Cap d'Agde, famous seaside resort of the Hérault department, has been organising not one but five gigantic fireworks displays, for the tourists and holiday-makers alike between July 10-14, starting at 11 p.m. On the eve of national holiday, the Cap d'Agde harbour quivers under floods of shimmering colours and banging deflagrations. On July 10th, the show takes place by the Mail de Rochelongue, on the 11th at the Village Naturiste, on the 12th facing Château Laurens and on the 13th by the mouth of the Hérault River. If you're craving for tranquillity, climb up the Mont Saint-Loup. Kids usually love that walk and you'll enjoy an unbeatable vantage point to gaze at the Cap d'Agde fireworks... even further away onto the surrounding towns on the eve of the 14th.
34300 Le Cap d'Agde
Lyon: 9th arrondissement Guinguettes
For Bastille Day, and as part of the Tout L'Monde Dehors (Ev'rybody Outside) Festival – held every day during the summer season with more than 300 various cultural and festive events in 90 different places – you are most welcome to the Guinguettes of the 9th arrondissement. Popular and music-based, the festival attracts young and old alike during this national holiday, for everyone to enjoy a lovely bucolic break in the Roquette Park. The programme is varied and many animations are dedicated to children. You can also find relaxing areas and a lot of fooding... With their easy-going and retro atmosphere, Guinguettes have that little something that fills you with joy. Add a stroll though the old part of Lyon and its mythical Traboules, Cathedral and Basilica, and stop at one of the various Bouchons for a few quenelles and cervelles de canut (cheese dips) and you have the recipe for a perfect weekend.
9th arrondissement Guinguettes
Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica
8 Place de Fourvière
Cordes-sur-Ciel: travelling back to the time of falconers
About 50 miles from Toulouse, go on vacation to Cordes-sur-Ciel and immerse yourself in pre-revolutionary times… and even further back. Created in 1971 to celebrate the city's 750th anniversary, the Fêtes Médiévales du Grand Fauconnier (“Great Falconer's Medieval Festival”) revive the Middle-Ages year after year. During two days on July 14-15, shows take turns to the sounds of horses' hooves on the cobblestones, tambourines, bagpipes and lutes. Daytime and nighttime parades (lit up with torches for the latter), comedy playlets, concerts, dances and fire shows, as well as games and children animations make up most of the programme. For accommodation, and beside many hotels and B&Bs, the Festival also sets up a medieval lifestyle camp!
Fêtes du Grand Fauconnier
Carhaix: the Vieilles Charrues Festival celebrates freedom
About an hour away from Brest, you'll find your way up to Carhaix-Plouguer, Finistère, and more precisely to the Kerampuilh site on July 13-16. If the audience doesn't go as far as singing French revolutionary anthems, it is nevertheless music rebellious in nature that blows over the “Prairie”. Each year for four days, more than 200,000 music lovers lay down their hats – and their tents – in the heart of the Monts d'Arrée mountainous part of Brittany. Since 1992, the Vieilles Charrues – most mythical festival in the West of France – has welcomed prestigious artists like Miossec, Claude Nougaro, James Brown, the Blues Brothers, Massive Attack, Patti Smith and The Cure. For this year's edition, expect Jean-Michel Jarre, Kery James, Phoenix, Vianney, Wax Tailor and Paolo Conte, among many other popular names. They'll perform on the three stages of the festival and celebrate Bastille Day in their own way.
Les Vieilles Charrues
Site de Kerampuilh