In the mood for Bastille Day?

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Reviewed on 07/13/2011 | No Reviews

My Concierge Told Me

How and where the Parisians celebrate 14th of July

Tomorrow is the 14th of July, Bastille Day, and you may wonder how, where and when the Parisians celebrate. The answer might seem somehow surprising: they’ve already start today. No kidding. Prepare your dancing shoes for tonight.

Photo: AFP, Jean-Philippe Ksiazek

The most festive and authentic way to celebrate the 14th of July actually is the famous firemen’s ball – and some of them are already taking place already tonight. It’s a funny tradition: firemen actually started to organise little parties for their families at the fire station to celebrate Bastille Day, but in the 1930s – think Hemingway, Fitzgerald and “Midnight in Paris” – the people of the neighbourhood started to join them.

A tradition was born and to this today every Parisian fire stations throws its own ball. Strangers are welcome to celebrate, dance and drink with the Parisians. Usually it’s free, but you are expected to make a small contribution.

Trails of the glorious past - Photo: AFP, Bertrand Langlois

The fireman’s ball

This year is a special occasion because the Brigade des Sapeurs-Pompiers de Paris is celebrating its bicentenary. You’d better not miss the party: plus parisien tu meurs – you can hardly imagine anything more Parisian. Here is a list of all the fireman’s balls and a map:

Show a map with the firemen’s balls:  Bals des pompiers à Paris
You probably get the point, why the Parisians are celebrating the 14th of July on 13th. Well, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it? The 14th is the holiday and they do what they call “la grasse matinée”, a lie in. I can quite understand.

The military parade

But for those of you who will not be dancing until four in the morning, you can attend the military parade on Champs-Elysees the next day. It is somehow the official highpoint of the national holiday ceremonies. It starts at about 10 am when the President of the French Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy, arrives at the top of the Champs-Elysées.

Since 2011 is the year of overseas French territories, the parade will highlight the regiments of Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique and so on. It’s quite an experience to see what’s left of the French military power. It’s not an Empire anymore; not in the least, but the symbolism somehow still works. And a lot of French feel quite proud when aircrafts are cruising over their heads leaving bleu-blanc-rouge traces in the Parisian skies.

A terrace overlooking the Trocadéro

At the end of the day, there will be a huge concert on the Champs de Mars, just around the Eiffel Tower, which will close with the annual and much-awaited fireworks. At 11 pm it will be time for an explosion of colour in the Parisian night sky. The show lasts about half an hour. The theme this year is ‘From Broadway to Paris! – The world of great musical’. The best way to view the display is from Champs de Mars. But in case you know somebody with a terrace overlooking the Trocadéro, than grab a bottle of Champagne and visit your friend. He will probably  not be alone that night. Otherwise, rent the Suite Panoramique of the Shangri-La hotel: it comes with a 100 square-metre terrace overlooking the city. Enjoy!

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