In France, they don’t call their national day ‘Bastille Day’ like the rest of the English speaking world. For that reason, I was starting to look like a bit of a plonker, when having asked a third consecutive person in broken French, “if any celebrations were planned for Bastille Day today”, the same words continually retorted back – “Quoi est Bastille Day?”
“These people don’t even know their own national holiday!” I grumbled in exasperation, as I felt the crevasse in my foreign language knowledge growing wider by the minute. I’d already tried to say it slower, louder, deeper, higher. I’d even pursed my lips and elongated the ‘ile’ of Bastille to Basteeeeleeeerrr, but the exertion of breathing out for so long only made me dizzy in the 35 degree heat.
By this time, I was only moments away from reaching the point of stepping into personal spaces and yelling “Bastille Day, Bastille Day, Bastille Day,” when my ears pricked up to the sound of familiarity. – The English language. Cavalry had arrived.
“Excuse me, do you know if there’s a party to celebrate Bastille Day this year, or has it been shut down and forgotten about due to the recession?” I asked.
And that’s when I found out that the French don’t call it ‘Bastille Day’. Because the French are far too modest and yet self assured for that. They’ve got enough on their minds, like sitting outside coffee shops and mingling with others around a Cathedral square, than to waste time naming their national day. Over here, Bastille day, is simply called ‘Le quatorze juillet’ – the fourteenth of July, or more formally La Fete Nationale.
And for that reason (and a few others), I was already beginning to love their relaxed and laid back approach, in this, our fifth country visited.
Later in the evening, after waiting for the climax to the celebrations, and after the street lights had been extinguished. After the drum and bass music began pumping out from massive street corner speakers, and just as the first of many booming fireworks lit up the night sky for la grande finale to a tremendous day, the lady next to me fainted….
By all accounts it was a fantastic pyrotechnical display, and one I would have loved to have seen. But I had to content myself hearing it described by Rachel and the kids, as they each recalled the spectacle during our stroll home along the canal.
By comparison, my recollection of events involved huddling down on the pavement amongst thousands scanning through an English – French dictionary looking for words like epilepsy, diabetes and chest pain, while taking the pulse of a madame or a mademoiselle who had possibly had too much wine or sun or both. Then again she might have just been another tourist trying to discuss “Bastille Day” under crowded and hot summer conditions with a monsieur who ne comprend pas..