Bastille Day 2009

Take a good look at this image below:

Antique firemen

What do you see? Let me explain what’s happening. The 14th of July is Bastille Day in France, except it’s only the non-French who call it that. The French call it Fête Nationale, and it normally involves fireworks after dark and some form of entertainment before darkness. Also, the celebrations shown above actually happened on 13th July. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but it seemed appropriate, given that lots of workers were given a four-day weekend. So here we have some locals and some tourists in a little village called Chinaillon, which is just up the road (and part of) le Grand Bornand ski resort, neighbouring La Clusaz. The firemen are dressed in their old outfits and they’re using an old pump to show how firemen used to put out fires. As you can see from the photo, the firemen are actually more intent on spraying the crowd with water, and although they did so countless times, the crowd always replied with a thrill and a cheer. After watching the fire ‘fighters’ and some traditional dancing—including a local dance that showed good men (who knelt to their partners) and bad men (who turned their backs on their partners) to show that people, good and bad, can come together to dance—I headed back towards La Clusaz, and stopped in St. Jean de Sixt to watch some fireworks with some more friends.

Not satisfied with ending the night with a bang, the locals put on a ‘bal’ which traditionally, would have been a ball, but on today’s standards, it was two blokes playing instruments and singing songs such as Macarena and I Will Survive. The advantage of speaking English meant that I knew all the lyrics to these songs, while a French friend asked me about the lyrics to YMCA:

French friend: “What’s that bit say?”

Me: “Young man…”

French friend: “Oh, I’ve always sung ‘Yoplait’.”

Now, who would have thought a dairy product would ever make it into a Village People song? However, she had the last laugh when a song called le Madison came on. Supposedly an American line dancing-style dance, it’s certainly something that never caught on in Australia or the UK while I was there. While my French friend busted the moves at all the right times, the English-speaking crew were left bumping into people and turning in the wrong direction.

Of course, this all happened on Monday night, which meant we did it all over again last night in Annecy—a town that celebrated on the public holiday rather than the night before. Two nights of entertainment for one public holiday. You’ve gotta love the French!


I'm a technical author, journalist and writer from Australia who has been living in Europe since 2000 and exploring the world from there. My passions are writing, snow sports and travel.

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2 comments on “Bastille Day 2009
  1. Vanessa says:

    Awesome! Next time, I’m singing Yoplait and doing it with a French accent. Just to amuse myself…

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About me

Wendy Hollands writer in Annecy, France

I'm an experienced technical writer based in the French Alps. I enjoy learning French language nuances, winter sports and travel. Drop by, my other site.

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