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How a Small French Village Celebrates Bastille Day

Where: Roanne, France
July 16, 2012 at 3:16 PM | by | Comments (0)

Bonjour! We're spending a couple of weeks hanging out in a gorgeous French village in the hills of the Côte Roannaise, an hour or so west of Lyon, near the town of Roanne.

And—surprise!—it was Bastille Day last week, the French version of July 4th or [insert your home country's national day here], which is officially called La Fête Nationale.

Did you know that Bastille Day doesn't actually commemorate the storming of the Bastille? No, really. It's a commemoration of the commemoration of the storming of the Bastille, a year after the Bastille done got stormed in 1789.

The only storming on Bastille Day this year was a couple of spots of rain during the day. Bastille Day itself fell on a Saturday this year, and nothing says vive la révolution like a giant village-wide flea market. Cars disappeared from the village square, to be replaced by all kinds of little tables with all kinds of assorted bibelots—that's French for "tchotchkes."

We hadn't realized before we got here, but the interesting bit of the celebrations started the evening before, with the local marching band and a parade of torches (well, paper lanterns-onna-stick) leading a procession from the village hall down to the recreation grounds.

(Weird ex-marching band geek observation: there's a whole lot more reed woodwind in a French marching band than there is in bands from the US or UK.)

After a small child nearly set himself on fire (the paper lantern-onna-stick turned out to be an unwise combination of fire and combustible container) it was time for the French national anthem—in French, l'hymne nationalLa Marseillaise.

Reassuringly, there was a lot of the mumbling of some of the less familiar sections, and not just by us.

Next: feux d'artifices time! Le ooh, aah...and the rain held off until just before the fireworks finished, and everyone scarpered back up into town.

Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

[Photos: John Walton/Jaunted]

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