6 Ways to mark Fête Nationale 2018

Fête Nationale, often referred by as Bastille Day, is recognised on 14 July each year in commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in Paris in 1789.

Throughout France and its territories, people gather on this day for parties, parades and feasting in the ultimate display of patriotism.  The televised coverage of the traditional défilé in Paris and along the Champs-Élysées is particularly impressive involving military tanks, cavalry, aircraft fly overs by the Patrouille de France, jets and helicopters and the customary appearance from the French President.

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The annual Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Élysées avenue near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris on July 14, 2018. (photo: AFP PHOTO / Ludovic MARIN)

As well, there are public events hosted across the country including balls and fireworks displays.  Here are 6 ways you can ring in Fête Nationale this year:

1. Watch the national day parades

The main event is hosted in Paris from morning with televised coverage on all major French TV stations and news channels.  Expect military formations, speeches and La Marseillaise!

2. Follow the Tour de France 2018 coverage

Whether you’re a cyclist or not, the Tour de France is one of the world’s most viewed sports races.  Fête Nationale coincides with Stage Eight of the tour from Dreux to Amiens – you can follow Stage Eight coverage here:  Tour de France route

Follow stage 8 of the Tour de France on Bastille Day 2018 (photo: AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

3. Drink French wine and Champagne

I’m not going to argue with this as there are so many fantastic French wines and of course, Champagne!

For a glass of inspiration, head to:

About France : Introduction to the wines of France

Decanters August 2018 guide with 93 rosés tasted beyond Provence, whites from Languedoc and Crémants

The Yacht Cru Wine Guide : France (Rough Regions Guide)

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Champagne for Fête Nationale (photo: Pulsd)

Of course, if adults are having a glass of something alcoholic you can keep the kids happy by whipping up fun drinks such as this non-alcoholic sangria!

4. Splurge on French-themed patisseries

French patisseries love a national holiday to showcase their skills and you’ll find every patisserie will display macarons, cakes, tarts and eclairs in the window decorated with icing, sprinkles or bon bons in the tricolore.

Sweet treats for Fête Nationale (photo: Pinterest)

5. Join in on a game of boules

Every town in France has a boules pitch and if you’ve ever wanted to learn the game, today is the day!  Usually, there are park benches beside boules pitches so even if you feel unsure you can always sit and watch the locals play.

Boules in St Tropez anyone? (photo: Dandy Magazine)

6. Attend the memorial service in Nice

Two years ago on this day, Nice was affected by a cowardly attack on a night where people were in good spirits attending the fireworks display.  Sadly, 86 people lost their lives including a number of children and almost 500 people were injured.

I did not write a blog post at that time as I felt incredible sadness for the victims and their families.  In the days following, I was asked to do a radio interview and my aim was to speak about the city they love and live in and focus on the Nice I know.

Tourists have kept coming to Nice.

Daily life has continued as the city moves on with remembrance and resilience.

Nice will always be a place that mixes not divides cultures.  You will find those blue chairs on the Prom, munch on some hot socca and enjoy a cold glass of rosé.

Two years have passed, but flying into Nice Côte d’Azur Airport and seeing that turquoise sea still moves people to call it home.  There are wonderful museums, beautiful buildings, interesting markets and pretty shops selling the best olive oil, fragrant soaps, hand made chocolates and vintage postcards.

Thank you to the city of Nice for remembering the people with a memorial service today.  There will be a free concert from 9.15pm by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Nice and at 10.34pm, 86 balloons will be released at Jardin Albert 1er with 86 light beams into the sky from the Promenade des Anglais.  You can find out the details below for the journée d’hommage:

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Fête Nationale 2018 in Nice (image: VilledeNice)

NOTE: I have had many requests for information about the summer fireworks displays on the French Riviera.  I love fireworks, however out of personal choice I won’t be publishing a public guide for the regional fireworks dates as I would like to continue showing solidarity to the families of the Nice attack.

I shall leave you to recognise Fête Nationale in your own way – beach picnics, parades or simply enjoying the sunshine or a meal with family and friends.  A year ago, I shared this video – filmed and edited by Fabien Ecochard; it still holds a poignantly beautiful capture of life in Nice:

Bonne Fête!  

 

 

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One year on from Nice

One year ago today, I was at Fondation Lenval, the Children’s Hospital in Nice, with my youngest son who was admitted for observation (and possible surgery).  We had been in the kids ward for a few days when my sister phoned me from abroad on 14 July and asked if we were OK.

I told her we were at Lenval and the phone went silent; she had just seen the breaking news of the attack on the Promenade des Anglais – an event that was completely unrelated to our own hospital stay but happened merely 150 metres from where we currently were.

Usually, my own family is watching Fête Nationale fireworks so my relief at knowing they were elsewhere at the fireworks in Juan les Pins was replaced with concern and sadness for those in Nice.

I had listened to the fireworks and fell asleep; within 30 minutes, a large squad of riot police was gathered outside our hospital room in the street below.  As a writer with connections to many global media contacts, it would have been easy for me to take photos and a video for a ‘Breaking News’ segment and have my 5-minutes of recognition with global media.  But, very quickly, I could tell that something serious had happened.

I turned on the TV and sat stunned as news reports updated the scene.  A nurse came into our room and began checking all the equipment we weren’t using; we shared a conversation and she simply said we had priority of care but she needed to be sure they could come to our room if needed to get extra equipment as they weren’t certain of the number of admissions yet.

My heart dropped as I looked at my own son sleeping, blissfully unaware of what was unfolding around him.

Our hospital room was many floors above the emergency arrivals entrance, and over the next few hours I felt immense sadness as I watched and listened to the stream of ambulances arriving at Lenval, knowing that each one had children inside.

As a parent, you have a strong sense of protection for your own children so to see emergency vehicles in great numbers and understand that someone else’s child is innocently injured and there is nothing you can do, it is a very cruel situation and heart-breaking.

I cried and hoped the children had their families with them. Sadly the truth was not so black-and-white, 44 patients arrived within 2 hours; 32 of those were children.

The next morning when my son had his scheduled X-rays, the waiting room was filled with injured children – broken limbs, head injuries and more.  I was shocked, angry and sad.  How could someone do something like this and target families out celebrating France’s largest national day?  I spoke with an 8-year old boy who was hit by the truck and flung with such force into a rubbish bin it broke both his legs and fractured his skull, he told me he was happy to be alive so he can go skateboarding again.

Later that day in the hospital playroom, there were young children in there who were non-communicative and numb; shocked into silence.  I wanted to give them all a big hug.

We checked out of Lenval the following day and as we left, a large number of media and TV crews were outside and presenting live feeds and coverage.   French media were very respectful; British media not so and some were effectively standing in the entrance ways to get interviews from people coming and going.  They were disrespectful and sadly showed the ugly face of media.

At the time we left Lenval, there were still 10 children who were being treated and had not been identified.   Lenval Hospital staff had worked tirelessly, doctors and nurses had arrived voluntarily from 14 July and psychologists were on hand to counsel families.

Even though we were not immediately involved, in the days after the attack I suffered from nightmares – I was trying to stop the truck in Nice and it turned out the guy just lost control rather than pre-meditated everything, I took the boys to summer fireworks and lost them in the crowd….

In the days following the attack in Nice, it would have been extremely easy for me to write a blog article about Nice to capitalise on all the internet traffic.   I noticed many articles on social media doing just that –  ‘Why Nice is still great’ and ‘Top 10 Reasons to Still Visit Nice’, but it seemed too raw to me and I felt a sense of guilt at being unharmed, a sense of sadness for the victims and their families and a sense of anger towards the attacker.

The attack in Nice injured almost 500 people and resulted in 86 deaths, including 10 children.

I will write a blog post in the future about why Nice is still great, but it won’t be today.   Today is for commemoration and solidarity for the victims and their families.

I will leave you with my personal Facebook status in the days afterwards when I was asked to do a radio interview and a beautiful video of Nice filmed and edited by Fabien Ecochard:

I feel immense sadness for these families and intense anger at the cruelty of this mans actions whether influenced by others or not.
Part of me doesn’t want to do this interview because I know they will ask me about the man and I think this evil bastard has had enough attention already. He was born on this planet like you and I – void of hatred and open to the joys of the world – yet somewhere in this 31-year old’s life he decided that harming innocent people was the best option.
But I feel a huge debt to these families who have lost loved ones and a city which is hurting.
I have the chance to speak about the Nice that they love and live in, a city that mixes not divides cultures, a place filled with amazing museums and little alleyways with kind people selling things that light up your senses such as homemade soap, fresh herbs and hand rolled pasta.
It’s the place to find a vintage postcard, a good glass of rosé and the best hot socca.
If you have ever sat on those blue chairs on the Prom and watched the world go by, you understand why Its ‘Nissa La Bella’. If you’ve ever had a Fenocchio ice cream on a hot day, you get it. If you’ve ever arrived at Nice Airport or walked up Castle Hill and seen that turquoise sea from above, you know the feeling.
It’s where memories should be created for a lifetime, not destroyed in an instant.
I shall share the Nice I know and hope I don’t cry!