On the morning of 14 July 1789, a group of revolutionaries broke into the medieval prison in Paris known as the Bastille. At the time the prison held only seven old men – four forgers, two lunatics and a “deviant” aristocrat!
But the Revolutionaries were not there for a breakout, they were there to steal the 13,000kg of gunpowder.
Invading the prison was a symbolic move by French citizens that they’d had enough of Louis XVI’s indulgent monarchy. The French Revolution was under way. That day is now the national holiday for France. Officially it is named la Fête Nationale but the people of France call it le Quatorze Juillet – the 14th of July. It is known around the world as Bastille Day. Annual celebrations in Paris begin with a huge military parade down the Champs Elysees. Being the height of summer, families often enjoy a picnic or a feast at home. The day ends with fireworks at the Eiffel Tower at 11pm.
Bastille Day is celebrated in all parts of France and many other countries. The festivities resonate with Independence Day in the USA and 50 cities celebrate the French equivalent. In London, there are several locations around the city that proudly hoist the “Tricolor”, the French flag. Australia’s interest has been steadily growing and now those who sport a beret on the 14th of July are not restricted to the French communities.
Australia maintains a strong diplomatic relationship with France. More than 45,000 Australian soldiers who lost their lives during the two World Wars we were allied with France. That’s the highest number of losses than for any other country. The French connection has stayed strong with 31 Alliances Françaises scattered throughout Australia. The first was set up a surprisingly long time ago in Melbourne in 1890.
More than 80 million world travellers visit France each year. According to Atout France, a tourism development agency, 1,076,900 of them are Australians. Like other discerning travellers, we go for the culture and the gastronomy. And that is exactly what keeps me returning to France at every opportunity, then share those experiences with others who have discovered, or yearn to discover the joys of France.