Every year on July 14, France celebrates Bastille Day – or La Fête nationale. It is a day which commemorates the storming of Bastille on July 14, 1789 during the French Revolution. I happened to be in Paris with my parents during this national celebration.
This is my second time in Paris. My first trip was five years ago during a French study tour with my university. Now I have finally returned to one of the most romantic cities in all of Europe, and I got to experience with my parents who got to see this stunning city for the first time.
The downside to visiting Paris during Bastille Day is that almost everything is closed, but there are plenty of alternative activities that a visitor can do. All the museums were closed, but at least the courtyards in the Louvre were open. Several cafes and restaurants were open to relax and enjoy a tasty meal. The place we – and a lot of other tourists – spent the most of the afternoon was at Sacre-Coeur. We climbed all 300 steps to the top of the cathedral and into the dome. From the very top I could see part of the holiday parade and hear the marching band below. The best part, by far, was the panoramic view below.
Eventually we made our way to the bridge near the Eiffel Tower and waited about two hours until the firework show began. It felt like the 4th of July back in the United States, trying to stake out the best view of the fireworks. As annoying as it was to wait and wait, I just had to look in front of me and remind myself that I am staring straight at the Eiffel Tower. This is not something I see everyday or should take for granted. When the firework show began, I was at the edge of the bridge with no one in front of me with a clear view of the fireworks shooting out of the Eiffel Tower.
I have always enjoyed a good firework show, and it felt very much like any show I would see back in the states for our Independence Day. However, there is a clear difference – we were in Paris and the Eiffel Tower was central to the show itself. This is France’s day to celebrate, and I am here to celebrate with them. This is not to make up for any loss I might have felt when July the 4th came and went while I was in Europe. Instead, I chose to reflect on how France has impacted the rest of the world and why Bastille Day is a holiday to celebrate even if you are not French.
Seeing Lady Liberty on the bridge behind me is one such reminder, at least for other Americans. The Statue of Liberty in New York is such an iconic figure that we tend to forget that it was a present from France. Thinking back on our Independence Day, Americans should remember an important Frenchman who greatly impacted the Revolutionary War in America – Marquis de Lafayette. What country came to America’s aid during that war? France!
Throughout the years, France and French culture is important around the world. Many book, movies, and music are inspired by this incredible culture. The language is spoken in several countries around the world and visiting Paris is most people’s bucket list. Bastille Day is a day for France to celebrate, and as a visitor, I am honored to witness this dazzling celebration of unity.