Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bleu, blanc, rouge - la fête nationale in Grenoble!

This Monday, I celebrated La fête nationale, the July 4th of France. Contrary to popular American belief, this is not Bastille day here. Even though it takes place on the day the Bastille was stormed in the beginning of the original revolution of 1789, it also marks the day that the first Fête de la Fédération was held by the general assembly in 1790. This event marked a new order, the beginning of a Republican regime... and the holiday itself now stands to symbolize the values of the country of France and to commemorate the soldiers from all eras who have fought for this values. In particular, the fireworks this Monday were accompanied by somber music and accounts of the soldiers of the resistance during WWII. 

This is somewhat similar to 4th of July, with a military parade, fireworks, and food stands serving somewhat Western food. 

The parade began at 6:30PM (here it's 18:30, I get used to this everytime!) in front of the government building Verdun Prefecture; the ministry. A procession of marching bands, veterans, tanks, and the mayor followed. Cute little paper flags were given out to all. 

Place Victor Hugo
 After the parade, we headed off to search for the best places to watch the fireworks. The fireworks would be made from the tower in the middle of Parc Minstral, and conveniently there was some space available at the very top of the bleachers in an open stadium area with a concert stage. We were smart to get seated at around 7:40pm, almost 3 hours before the start of the fireworks: by about 8:30pm, there were no seats left on the highest stair.  Until the concert began at 9pm, Alexis '16 read Brian Green's Fabric of the Cosmos and I was left to read The Masterpieces of English Poetry because I forgot my books. =(  Thankfully, the festivities began soon!

The fireworks were accompanied by both music and the first-hand stories and accounts of the soldiers of the French resistance... The day was dedicated not just to the Revolution of 1789 but to the freedom of the people in general. Very mesmerizing.

I was a lot closer to the lights (and the smoke) than I was when I watched the same celebration in Paris, and it made a much greater impression this time around. :) I was also able to get my friends on the top of the bleachers with me even though some mean security guards would not let people exit and enter after a certain time for safety's sake. The key was to find somewhat of a nice guard who would let you pass when no one was looking. We were proud of this achievement!  (Yes, Europe is weird in this way...)

Our group, Alexis '16, Niwa, David '14 and Ellie '16 at the fireworks
Before the celebration, I went to the Musée Dauphinois (the museum of the Dauphin, or prince?) to see some exhibitions which I have missed last time, such as the amazing WWI anniversary memorial. It was truly touching to read the first-hand accounts of soldiers at the front, or the letters and journal entries of the veterans at home, and see some real relics, posters like this: 

'Day of the infantrymen' 
The view from the museum's garden

Of course there would be a ski exhibit in Grenoble! :)

Okay, I have really been behind on this blogging business. I still need to tell you about my trip to Geneva (and my stay across the French-Swiss border near CERN) as well as an awesome theater festival in Avignon... stay tuned for accounts of more fearless adventures in la France! :) 


  1. Sasha! You're having so many adventures and taking such good advantage of Europe :D I can't wait to hear about Geneva!

    1. Hey, Anna! Great to hear from you. You will be having your own European adventures soon enough! :D

      Also, I am three weeks behind on blogging as of now, but I will get there. :)

  2. Happy independence day! I'm so glad to hear that Europe is treating you well again this year :D

    By the way, the color in some of your photos in this post (and the dramatic clouds you're catching) are looking lovely. The French red and blue stands out across everything :)

    1. Thanks Kelly, I am glad you enjoyed the photos! :) And how is India treating YOU? Can't wait to hear all about your adventures! :D