The national day of France, Bastille Day is celebrated annually every 14th of July and gives visitors a chance to soak up some local culture. Also known as "La Fête Nationale", this special day commemorates the famous storming of the Bastille which took place on the 14 of July in 1789.
Historical reconstruction showing the moat below the walls of Paris (l), the Bastille and the Porte Saint-Antoine (r) in 1420
The events that preceded this historic event date back to when France was ruled by a monarch, specifically King Louis XVI. Unhappy with the widening gap between the rich aristocracy and the majority of the population who were poor, French citizens started to band together in what was to be the first seeds of dissent that was to become the French Revolution.
Used by the ruling class, the Bastille was part fortress and part prison which held "political prisoners" who were in most cases those who openly opposed the aristocrat rulers. Already unhappy with the way their representatives were being treated and fearful of military retaliation to their actions, an angry group of citizens stormed the Bastille in the hopes of capturing a stock of ammunition that lay inside. This successful act of rebellion took place on July 14th, 1789 and the events that followed saw the then king, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette retreating to Versailles.
Remaining stones of the Bastille are still visible now on Boulevard Henri IV, Paris. The translation of the text on the plaque is : "Vestiges of the foundations of the Bastille Liberty tower discovered in 1899 and carried to this place.
Officially named as the French national holiday in 1880, Bastille Day is a symbol of the birth of the French Republic and is a proudly celebrated festival. Present day celebrations include the famous Bastille Day Military Parade along the Champs-Elysees avenue where various military regiments march pass the country's president. The parade also showcases the military's motorized and armoured vehicles as well as having a fly pass by the aerobatic team of the French Air Force.
Apart from the military parade, Bastille Day is also marked by a variety of colourful festivals, musical shows, dances and breathtaking fireworks displays as people the country over come together to celebrate and share in the festivities.
Fireworks on Eiffel Tower as seen from the Montparnasse Tower, July 14, 2011
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Images: Feodor Josef Hubert Hoffbauer (1839-1922) - Original in the Musée Carnavalet, Paris; this version from http://www.art-prints-on-demand.com/a/hoffbauer-1/parisbastille.html, no copyright claimed; FLLL - Own work; Yann Caradec from Paris, France (Fireworks on Eiffel Tower) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons