Bastille Day, July 14th, la Fete Nationale…whatever you may call it, anyone in France will agree that it is the most entertaining holiday of the year. And this summer, Bliss Travels and our clients were lucky enough to celebrate with the French in St Remy de Provence during our July Provence trip!
Each region of France celebrates things differently. In Paris, there are Fireman’s Balls, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, and a huge military parade, amongst many other things. Provence has a different take on the holiday, especially in St Remy.
Festivities begin the night before, with a unique tradition. The main square is suddenly sectioned off by a large gate, though the bars are far enough apart that people can squeeze through fairly easily. Everyone–from toddlers to grandfathers–gathers behind the gates, expectant and excited. Some of the bolder young men and boys strut into the unprotected center of the square as a van pulls up to each end of the gates. The van doors open suddenly and, one by one, enormous bulls (or taureaux) burst out into the square, only to be quickly corralled by experts on horseback. They guide the bull to the other end of the square, loading them onto the other van. Meanwhile, the boys in the center chase after the bull, trying to pull its tail and wrestle it to the ground.
Finally, all the bulls are brought to the same van. A brass band plays enthusiastically, the boys in the middle are shooed back to safety behind the gates, and the expectations of the crowd are nearly palpable. All are watching the huge van doors.
Suddenly, they are flung open and the entire herd of bulls comes racing through the town square. The cowboys on horseback chase after them, trying to keep them in line, as the crowd laughs and cheers and sings along to band’s galloping tunes. This carries on late into the night, as it has for decades. Everyone will be sleeping in late for Bastille Day!
The next morning, as promised, is a lazy one. Bliss Travels guests spent most of it wandering around the local Roman ruins, shopping, or relaxing at the pool. When night fell, we had dinner in a private wine cellar, toasting to Bastille Day and good company! The perfect weather of twilight encouraged us to take our desserts of fresh fruits and chocolat fondant (and wine glasses, of course) outside to be serenaded by a jazz band playing on the corner.
Properly satiated, we meandered over to the town square to watch the fireworks with the locals. Afterwards, a large band playing everything from American Top 40 hits, to disco-era medleys, to timeless French classics kept St Remy grooving late into the night. Their Bastille Day song–complete with dancing Marie Antoinettes!–was a huge hit, and the perfect way to end the evening.
Though Bastille Day in Paris is incredible, we almost prefer the quirky and completely unique celebrations in the South of France. Bulls, bands, fireworks, and good food–what better way to celebrate? Come to Provence with Bliss next year to see it all for yourself!