Bonne Fête Nationale! It’s otherwise known to Anglophones as Bastille Day, but the French don’t call it that. More often, it’s le 14-Juillet. And its origins are rather more complicated than simply commemorating the storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution.
You can read more about its history via the link at the bottom of this post.
Every year, a military parade takes place along the Champs-Elysées in Paris, attended by the President, his government and honorary guests. With war still raging in Ukraine, the parade has a distinct edge this year.
Towns and villages up and down the land hold commemoration ceremonies, during which they lay wreaths to honour those “mort pour la France”. The maire of each commune gives a speech lauding the republican virtues of liberté, égalité and fraternité and the spirit of freedom embodied by the Revolution. The speech invariably ends with the words, “Vive la Republique, vive la France!”
En bons citoyens, we had every intention of attending our village’s ceremony this morning, as we have done on many occasions in the past. As the thermometer soared, however, we decided it was a bridge too far. Standing in the hot sun, or even in the shade, for twenty minutes or so was just too unpleasant to contemplate. I feel sorry for the VIPs who had to turn up in full regalia.
I have distinct memories of the blistering summer of 2003, when we attended the funeral of the maire of another commune, whom we had known. The church was packed, so it was standing room only. Outside. And one small tree for shade. We stood for over an hour while the service was relayed through loudspeakers, with sweat trickling down our legs.
Fun and fireworks
After the official 14-Juillet business come the informal celebrations: vide-greniers (jumble sales), funfairs, dances and fireworks. For the past couple of years, these have been in abeyance because of Covid. They are now making a comeback, but the number of firework displays is very limited because of the fire hazard this time.
La Préfète (government representative) of our département has banned the sale of fireworks to private individuals from 13th July and throughout this holiday weekend. This is no doubt a very good thing. With only 2 mm of rain so far this month, the undergrowth is tinder dry. A stray spark could have serious consequences.
Here are some photos of previous 14th July displays in our village, which were rather spectacular.
As you will have gathered, we are now experiencing a period of extremely hot weather, which looks like continuing for a fortnight or so. The forecast is for temperatures of up to 41 C (106 F) over the weekend. Going outside is like walking into a furnace.
Our département is currently on an orange heatwave alert. It remains to be seen if our Préfète cancels outside events over the weekend, of which many are planned, as she did during similar weather in June. This would be unpopular, since it’s one of the biggest holiday weekends of the year, but the dangers of over-exposure to sun and heat shouldn’t be ignored.
People are, of course, making comparisons with 2003. However, the heatwave then started in early June and continued until the end of August, so it’s unlikely that this canicule will be so extensive. Here’s hoping, anyway.
In other news
Last week, we had an absolutely fascinating private tour of l’Abbaye de Beaulieu, about which I wrote last time. Formerly a Cistercian monastery, it’s now an important centre of modern and contemporary art. The curator/administrator conducted the tour, which lasted for 1 ½ hours, and we learned a great deal more about the abbey’s previous owners and their collection of art.
Here are some more pix of highlights from the collection.
And a piece of heartening news, for us at least.
We have been watching while almost everyone around us gets fibre optic cable and thus blink-of-an-eye internet speeds, in theory anyway. Every time I consulted the map of its roll-out, our house was marked “inéligible”. They have installed cable in our lane, but it has not been ready to install chez nous.
From 25th July, we become eligible, finally. However, there’s still a procedure to go through, plus the installation itself, before we actually get it. At least there is light on the horizon.
When we first moved here, we had a modem connection, which went at a snail’s pace and then wouldn’t load increasingly sophisticated websites. We moved to a satellite connection via a dish, since we couldn’t get ADSL (high speed internet). This was expensive, and there was a limited download quota. ADSL arrived, so we moved to a Livebox, but the prehistoric phone lines can only transmit data so fast.
Hopefully we can now join the fibre optic party. But I’m not holding my breath.
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