It’s la Fête nationale today!

In the English speaking world it’s called Bastille Day but here it’s known simply as le 14 juillet. The French national holiday commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, a pivotal moment in the French Revolution. What began as an angry mob of anti-monarchists looking for ammunition against royal authoritarianism turned into an enduring symbol of that revolution and today’s national celebration of the French tripartite motto liberté, égalité et fraternité. Celebrations, including firework displays, are typically held throughout France and it heralds the start of the month-long French holidays.

President Macron will be hosting the oldest and largest regular military parade – much envied by Trump who was present last year –  this morning on the Champs Elysees in Paris which is always worth watching, if only on the television. I assume my invite for this year’s celebrations got lost in the post!


Holiday photos: day 12

Vive la Revolution! We celebrated Bastille Day in Bayonne, a city we’d only previously visited. The weekend changed all of that as we happily pottered around the Old Town, the cathedral, the market and along the banks of the Adour and Neve rivers. As usual I was snapping away at all the buildings.

It had rained the night before and the day was warm and muggy which necessitated quite a bit of refuelling as we ambled along the cobbled streets of the Old Town. We were now in the Basque country so there were bars, cafes and restaurants a plenty. I was tempted by some octopus which I begrudgingly shared with my beloved. Don’t you just hate it when someone says they’re not hungry and then proceeds to eat your lunch?

Late afternoon we tottered back to the hotel to put our feet up and enjoy the complimentary aperos and nibbles, followed by the magnificent televised concert and firework dusplay from Paris. On the hotel terrace we enjoyed the local, and more modest than Paris, firework display though our thoughts were with the victims of the terrorist attack in Nice two years ago.  Vive la France!

Summer celebrations

My recent regime of hill climbing is proving more difficult than anticipated. With the exception of Col de Vence and L’Ara – two climbs with which I’m most familiar – my three consecutive ascents of other hills are proving to be more slow, slower and slowest. The exact reverse of what I’m supposed to achieve. I am of course persisting but may well have to seek advice from my cycling coach once he returns from his cycling trip from Verbier to St Tropez. Yes, he’s put together a challenging ride for a small group of American clients, staying in 5-star luxury en-route. These types of trips appear to be very popular with north Americans so he’s hoping it might lead to further business.

It’s Saturday, so we’re riding with one of the teenagers and our friends who have a tandem – never fancied giving that a go. In theory, the teenager can’t ride during the week unless accompanied by his older brother. However, we do know that he’s been out most days, generally on his own. We’re perpetuating the myth, to prevent his mother from worrying, by taking him out with us at the week ends. We’ve broken the “news” to his Dad whom we chatted to on Skype yesterday, en route back home after successfully racing on the Asian circuit. I do hope, despite his hectic race schedule, that he’s going to be home for his younger son’s first bike race.

This week the temperature has really ratcheted up a notch, indeed it’s been almost sultry. I like to get up and out on the bike early to profit from the slightly cooler air and find myself choosing, wherever possible, shaded routes. I still haven’t resolved the hot feet problem but I do find improved hydration and circulation by wearing compression socks helps. I should add that the socks are only worn indoors.  The last two days, it’s gotten quite windy in the afternoons. However, it’s not been a cooling sea breeze, no it’s been a hot Saharan wind. We don’t have air conditioning, I open the windows front and back and the flow of air keeps the place cool. Yesterday, the wind was blowing dust and debris onto my recently washed and cleaned floors, so I shut the windows which unfortunately made the flat feel like a sauna.

Yesterday evening, Bastille Day celebrations kicked off down on the specially closed-to-traffic sea front, animated at regular intervals by live bands and DJs playing different types of music. The whole place was teeming ensuring a bumper evening for the local restaurants though equally a large number brought their own and had a picnic on the beach. As usual, there was a splendid firework display. These types of festivities will continue all week end long up and down the coast. While sound carries a long way on still summer evenings we’re just far enough away not to hear anything.

This week end is the traditional start of the French summer holidays meaning we can look forward to a bumper crop of free entertainment. When I say “free” I mean there’s no charge for entry. As local taxpayers we do indeed pay for the entertainment, but it’s a small price to pay in order to maintain the coast’s biggest source of income – tourism. According to the local newspaper, we’re heading for a bumper season with bookings well up on previous years. I suspect that on account of the global recession, northern Europeans are staying somewhere closer to home, the French are staying home and we’re attracting even more visitors from eastern Europe and Asia.