Friday, July 15, 2011

Gateway to the Pyrenees

Today's stage 13 of the Tour de France took place in the heart of the Pyrenees. It started in the beautiful town of Pau (Po), birthplace of King Henry IV and of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshall of France in the Army of Napoleon and later King of Sweden and Norway. Pau is majestically situated in a plateau overlooking the Gave de Pau and benefits from a mild climate in which plants grow abundantly, in fact in the 19th century English well to-do travelers made Pau a resort destination and built here the first golf course on the continent. Pau has been on the Tour de France circuit 63 times making it one of its most popular stages.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bon 14 Juillet!

Bastille Day is the French equivalent of Independence Day. It is traditionally celebrated with a large military parade down the Champs Elysees; evening streets dancing often organized by the firehouses in towns and villages all around France and splashy fireworks. There is no special food traditions on this special day unlike America where hot dogs, corn on the cobb and apple pie figure in many Independence Day celebrations. Here is a list of essential French words to help you in the celebration:

  • 14 Juillet ( Bastille Day)

  • Fete Nationale (National Holiday)

  • Feux D'artifice (Fireworks)

  • Firemen ball (Bal des Pompiers)

  • Hymne National (National Anthem)

  • Bleu, blanc, rouge (blue, white, red)

  • Defile (parade)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Storming of the Bastille

This year is the 222 year anniversary celebration of France's national Holiday- Bastille Day. In 1789 a mob of Parisians stormed a medieval fortress-jail in the middle of the city in search of gunpowder and that was the beginning of the French Revolution. This prison was however more a symbol of the absolute power of the Royalty than the awful prison it was made out to be. At the time of the storming it was nearly empty housing only seven old men, four forgers, two mentally ill residents and a gambling aristocrat. The fortress was destroyed bit by bit on July 15 and its stones carted away and sold as souvenirs and for building material. In fact, Paris Pont de la Concorde was built with stones from the Bastille. Le Marquis de Lafayette sent one of the keys of the Bastille to General Washington and today it is now on exhibit at the museum in Mont Vernon. Today you can view a bit of remains of the Bastille in the Metro Station Bastille (line 5).