How to Bastille Day

Yesterday was, of course, France’s national holiday, which Americans call “Bastille Day” and the French just call “le 14 juillet.”

Kind of scary that FB knows where I am and what I’m up to.

Last year I went big on Bastille Day morning: got out early and went to the parade. This year we kept it relaxed in the morning, but I still wanted to see the flyover, which is my favorite part of the day. We got over to the Louvre (the courtyard is a great place to see the planes) with about 5 minutes to spare before the first planes flew over with their bleu-blanc-rouge smoke trails. Hooray!

Did I take a picture? Never you mind. We did get these goofy shots of ourselves with the glass pyramid.

We stayed a while longer to watch some more planes go by, then made our way to Les Halles, the Pompidou Center, and the Niki de St. Phalle fountain–which Dr. Kirk says is properly called the Stravinsky fountain. Live and learn! A lot more shops and restaurants were open than usual so we checked out some stores; Daniel got some sunglasses and I bought a dress and a pair of jeans. It doesn’t sound like much but with a sandwich at Pomme de Pain and some sitting around and general flânerie, we had a nice, relaxed afternoon and then went back to our room for some dinner and a disco nap.

That night I finally got to do something I have wanted to do for years: we went to a bal de pompiers. It’s a tradition for fire stations (casernes de pompiers) to host public dances on Bastille Day–and sometimes the night before and the night after as well. I had never been to one because I’m always in Paris alone, and I didn’t want to go alone.* Of course, this year I have Daniel and he LOVES a party, so off we went to the Caserne de Port-Royal in the 13th. It proved to be an excellent choice. Fun dance music, a good atmosphere, and the caserne itself was cool to see: 4-story buildings surrounding an open courtyard which was the dance floor. The pompiers had hired a good DJ with an extensive light show and built several bars with different names/themes around the dance floor–it was cute and just much more elaborate than I expected. There was also a food truck selling sausages and fries (or some such).

Banner outside the fire station

The dance floor and bar setup inside the caserne–
before it got so crowded that you could barely move around.

Daniel was pretty taken with these glowing tables.

Delirious/sweaty dancefloor selfie.

Shortly before we left–dance floor was getting packed. 

Finally, I just need to say this for the record: French firefighters are astonishingly attractive. I don’t know how they do it. Is there an audition? They all look ready for the cover of a fitness magazine.

Yep, that’s me surrounded by the 13th Arrondissement’s finest.

All the firefighters we talked to were very polite and friendly, which was nice. Daniel and I both noticed that it was a very welcoming atmosphere. We danced for close to 2 hours without very many breaks, and left around 11:15 when the dance floor was getting so packed that it was impossible to move. People were obviously having a great time and although there may have been some drunken shenanigans and bad behavior later in the night, we had an excellent experience. A+ work, 3eme Companie de Caserne Port-Royal. (call me!)

And so to bed after watching the fireworks show on live stream from France 2. I have yet to decide whether it’s worth going to the Champ de Mars to see the fireworks in person. Last night seemed perfect: go dancing early and don’t stay too long, see fireworks on television, get to bed before 4 a.m.

Tomorrow: Italy! I don’t think I will take my computer so expect radio silence till we get back Sunday afternoon. It will be my first time in Italy and I am so excited!

*N.B. I believe that Paris is a safe city, and during the day I go places alone all the time. But to go dancing alone at night on the night of a holiday when everyone is out and lots of people are drinking has never seemed like a smart idea to me. YMMV.

4 thoughts on “How to Bastille Day

  1. I can't believe Daniel accepted to take a pic of you with the pompiers who are indeed quite an attractive bunch! I've never been to a bal des pompiers and now, after sharing your post with my Daniel, I am forbidden to ever attend 🙂

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