For the past couple of years I have been fortunate enough to be in France for 14 July. This year, I’ll be at home – so I’ll have to content myself with raising a glass to mark Bastille Day.
Each year, celebrations take place across France to honour the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789. The prison had come to symbolise the fickle power wielded by king Louis XVI. Its capture by rebels marked the beginning of the French revolution and helped to bring the monarchy to an end.
It led to the setting up of France’s first republic three years later and the day was designated a national holiday almost 90 years later, in 1880.
Today, a military parade along the Champs-Élysées will begin the celebrations and later, fireworks will be set off around the Eiffel Tower.
I was in Paris last July and in Lot-et-Garonne the year before for le quatorze juilliet. The contrast between the two couldn’t have been greater. Paris was in full sunshine, while it was raining in Castillonnès. Plus, in the capital, the locals went about their business as usual, whereas village life came to a standstill in Lot-et-Garonne. The villagers all headed for the central square, where they raised a toast to France.
Today, from my home in England, I’ll join them – in spirit at least.