le 14 juillet
This morning when I woke up, it sounded like rain outside. Which was odd, because of the harsh sun streaking through the creases in my beloved light-blocking curtains, it seemed strange that there would be precipitation. And sure enough, when I stumbled over and yanked opened the curtain, the sky was crystalline bleu with just a few wisps of clouds lingering around the Eiffel Tower. There was not a drop of rain was in sight.
There was, however, a steady stream of French National Guardsmen, dressed in their finest, strutting down the boulevard, en route to the parade on the Champs-Élysées. The sleek, polished horses they were riding were making that pitter-patter sound on the pavement. For today is Bastille Day.
No one here calls it that, it’s only us anglophones.
They say, “Le quatorze juillet”, or “The fourteenth of July.” Just like we Americans rarely say “Independence Day”, or for that matter, no one ever says “Frisco” except tourists.
(Which I always tell people is like calling Manhattan, “The Big Apple” to New Yorkers—you’re kind of a big dork if you do.)
But today is the big day, the Fête Nationale, which is the day that the French celebrate their storming of the Bastille prison to assert their independence, which happened in 1789. It’s a grand day of national pride and aside from the parade and pageantry, it also launches summer vacation season and there’s a relaxed feeling that has instantly permeated Paris.
The French get a certain amount of flack for taking advantage of their leisure time, but I’ve actually taken a cue from them and start winding down myself. Being a high-strung American, it’s a very pleasant shift for me. Marion Cunningham once said, “Everyone’s always telling me they’re so busy. Well, I’d like to know what the hell everyone’s so busy doing?”
So today I’m joining them, and hitting the streets and parks, engaging in non-stop picnicking and partying. And not doing much else. The weather is gorgeous and I’ve already made a few dozen cookies: Chocolate-Coconut Macarons and Salted Peanut Cookies, which I’m testing for a future project so I have a few hundred to pass around, and, naturally, a couple of batches of ice cream; Gianduja Stracciatella and good ol’ Vanilla Ice Cream.
Then tonight, I’m heading to the Seine to watch the fireworks for a barbecue on my friend’s boat. Of course, there’ll be Champagne and rosé, plus lots of good things to eat, the sky should remain clear, they’ve cleaned up the horse poo, and the mood festive. What’s not to like?
So if you’re not in France, well, Happy Bastille Day to you.
And if you are here—Bonne fête à tous!