We planned our trip to France so that we can be in Paris during the most important French national holiday. La Fête Nationale, Bastille Day, or Le quatorze juillet, is celebrated on the 14th of July and commemorates storming of the Bastille (the key event at the beginning of the French Revolution) that took place on 14th July 1789. On 14th July 1790, the Fête de la Fédération was held to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France and today’s Bastille Day is the continuation of that celebration.
Our experience of the Bastille Day did not begin so well, since we were late to the military parade that takes place on Avenue des Champs-Elysées due to traffic havoc that this holiday causes in the Parisian public transport system. Regardless of our tardiness, we managed to see a part of the parade (displaying military vehicles of the French army) and experience the festive atmosphere on the avenue. We also got the chance to have our photos taken with friendly and polite soldiers who stoically endured the plethora of excited tourists that wanted to be photographed in their presence.
However, for a girl who is not interested in the military stuff, the most intriguing aspect of the parade was the chance to observe and enjoy the excitement of one of the most fascinating streets in the world. For me, Champs-Elysées always was the glamorous embodiment of the French lifestyle. The avenue has amazing energy, with its astonishing architecture, views of famous monuments wherever your eye can see, and so many people hurrying, shopping or having a drink in one of the cafés. And when you find yourself in the middle of that energy on the most important national holiday, and the avenue is filled with cheering people and huge French flags, the feeling becomes even stronger.
After the morning parade ended, we took a stroll down the avenue, towards the Rond Point Champs-Elysees Marcel Dassault and the FDR metro station. We then wandered across most exclusive Parisian streets: Avenue Matignon, Rue du Faubourg St-Honore, Avenue Franklin D Roosevelt… These streets ‘’smell’’ of money, and are filled with exclusive hotels and adorable galleries displaying artworks by some of the most famous world artists.
After escaping the crowds on the Champs-Elysees, we decided to spend the rest of the day in a more tranquil area of Paris, so we went to Jardin de Luxembourg.
The park was originally owned by the duke of Luxembourg, hence its name. In 1612, the park was purchased by Marie de’Medici: in order to make the Italian born Marie feel closer to home, the park was inspired by the Boboli gardens in Florence and became the first garden in France that follower the stylistic rules of the Italian Baroque.
In the period between 1615 and 1627 the Palais du Luxembourg was constructed for Marie by the architect Salomon de Brosse. Unfortunately, the queen did not get the chance to enjoy her palace since she was banished by Cardinal Richelieu in 1625, before the completion of the building.
The pond in the middle of the Jardin is known as the Grand Bassin, and is the buzzing centre of the park filled with children and tourists who rent small boats and sail them across the pond with giant sticks (one must be quite careful when approaching the pond, since the sticks are flying everywhere due to general excitement).
Jardin du Luxembourg was much loved and often visited by the famous Parisian residents, such as Baudelaire, Lamartine, Verlaine, Victor Hugo, Balzac, Hemingway, Sartre,… And when you spend some time there you understand why. In my four visits to Paris, this was my first visit to this park, and it really was love at first sight. The park is absolutely beautiful, with its magnificent palace, flowers of all shapes, sizes and colors, fountains, palms and garden statues. It is a perfect place to take a break from the city buzz, soak up the sun, rest and watch the people passing by. Wherever you turn, the views are quite spectacular, and you can’t help constantly clicking with your camera trying to capture them.
After the walk around the park and a drink in one of the garden cafes with iconic green chairs, we were ready to continue with our exploration of the city and preparations for the spectacular fireworks that were to take place that night.