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French National Day: a whole day of festivities

July 6, 2011
Parisians are said to desert Paris during Summer time. A few exceptions to the rule are noteworthy: Parisians may be less numerous but those who stay  flock to Paris Plage, the arrival of the Tour de France and the National Parade on Champs Elysées.

Held every morning on July 14th (French National day or Bastille Day), the Parade takes place on the Champs Elysees and is one of the most popular events of the year. It commemorates the fête de la Fédération that was held on July 14th 1790, one year after the “storming of the Bastille”

It is the oldest military parade in the world and is a demonstration of the French military savoir-faire. As such, a very strict protocol is set up. The show starts at 10 am with troops parading all the way down the avenue from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde where officials (including the French President, the Prime Minister and various diplomatic guests) attend the show. It begins with walking infantries  (The French Republican Guard, cadets from the Polytechnique school, the Gendarmerie, the French Foreign Legion to name a few) followed by motorized troops. The high point of the parade comes when aerial forces fly over the avenue.

The parade is followed by a speech by the French President broadcasted live on TV and then a garden party in the Elysees gardens. Among the few people invited each year, you will find French personalities who have made the headlines in the previous months.

Those who were not invited can find consolation with a free concert starting at 5pm on the Champs de Mars beneath the Eiffel Tower. Finally, huge fireworks are set off at 10.30pm on the Trocadero terrace. This year’s theme is Broadway musicals. They can be seen from almost everywhere in Paris but the best places to admire them are the Pont d’Iena or the top of the Montmartre Hill.

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