Happy Bastille Day! Wait – what?

Bastille Day is one of the most celebrated days in France and is also called le quatorze juillet, the 14th of July. The day does commemorate the storming of the Bastille on that day in 1789, but has evolved into La fête nationale, The French National Day. So what do the French do on their national day? Do they wear their national colors, eat a lot of food, and celebrate loudly through the night? You bet they do!

This is what it's like to celebrate France's National Day, Le 14 Julliet in Paris.

Bastille Day in Paris

When I traveled to Paris last summer for Bastille Day, I had to google what the holiday even was. It ended up becoming one of the most memorable days of my life. The morning of the 14th I headed to Champs-Élysées for the military parade. This parade culminates in a huge airshow with stunts from aircraft over the last several decades. It is phenomenal!

You do not need to search for lunch because all of the national delicacies are paraded through the crowds and there are vendors along the main streets. The city was in such a pleasant, bubbly mood, my friends and I wandered around all afternoon watching street performers and shopping – there were huge sales at almost every store that was still open.

As the evening settled in, the streets grew thick with pedestrians. Restaurants were packed or closed. In Parisian fashion, we packed a picnic and headed to the grand park around the “Invalides.” (Please note you may not drink alcohol in public parks in Paris after 4pm.) There were thousands of people lying in the grass, eating, talking, reading and soaking up the last of the sun’s warmth. As dusk approached, people migrated to the Eiffel Tower. Some people had been waiting all day, but we arrived at sunset and still had a clear view. They have a lovely concert before the fireworks, but seating is limited. They project the entire performance along the Champ de Mars. We stood in anxious anticipation as over a million people packed into the park to watch the spectacular show.

I cannot even describe the glory of the fireworks display from the Eiffel Tower – it is pure art. It was a theatrical performance in a sense, as it was a beautifully choreographed tribute to the history of France, but in place of dancers there were fireworks. They leapt from every square centimeter of the frame in such precise patterns and designs that words will not suffice. The feeling of awe was carried on the breeze as the National Orchestra played through this hour long performance. I was so moved by the beauty and brilliance that I wept and cheered as if I had France running through my veins. I am still not sure I could recount the history of the storming of the Bastille, but I know le 14 juillet is now one of my favorite holidays. I will forever remember the warmth I felt on that day, not just for Paris, not just for France, but for all of humanity as we championed diversity and unity, history and progress, hurts and healing, and most of all, love.

This is what it's like to celebrate France's National Day, Le 14 Julliet in Paris.

Tips for celebrating Bastille Day in Paris

1) Water is safe to drink from the tap. Bottled water is expensive! At restaurants, you must specify you want water in a glass, not a bottle to avoid additional costs.

2) The metro is the best way to get around, but buses are quite manageable as well. After the fireworks, you might not be able to get on the metro. We had to walk 4 miles home, but so do millions of other people, literally.

3) Safety: Don’t overdo it on the booze – being drunk in public is frowned upon, you risk losing your belongings, and bathrooms are few and far between. Be aware of pick pockets, especially in the crowds.

4) Bathrooms are not common in public places, so plan your food stops accordingly. Stay properly hydrated, sipping water throughout the day, and it should not be a problem.

5) If you ever wanted to go shopping in Paris, do it today, as many shops have special sales on offer. My favorite place was the Galleries Lafayette, which fits for any budget from bargain to designer. There are restaurants on the top floors and even on the roof from where you can enjoy an amazing view over the city!

This is what it's like to celebrate France's National Day, Le 14 Julliet in Paris.

Are you in Paris today (lucky you) or have you celebrated Bastille Day there in the past? Tell us your story!

This is a guest post by Stephanie Grandstaff.

Stephanie is an avid traveler, writer, and photographer who tries to live life to the full every day! She loves meeting new people, traveling to different countries, and learning about cultures. Share in her adventures by following on social media @segrandstaff.