We’ve been talking about stormy weather here in Burgundy but, this week, we celebrate the storming of the Bastille, an event of legendary proportions in the pantheon of French politics.
Most of the world calls it Bastille Day but in France it is ‘La Fete de la Federation’ and July 14th is the equivalent here of July 4th in the USA. We guess July must be a good month for independence!
Of course the Americans were fighting the English for freedom back in 1776 whilst, in 1789 the French were fighting the French – bien sur France is just full of conundrums. But this was class warfare, the proletariat fighting against the injustices imposed upon them by Louis 16th. King Louis was pretty inept and nondescript as a ruler and was perhaps better known as the husband of renowned beauty, spendthrift and bake-sale fan Marie-Antoinette.
History tends to portray the Bastille as being a prison full of political insurgents who were freed by a disparate mob of desperate Parisian citizens. Actually at the time there were only 7 prisoners, none political, and the real reason for the attack was to secure gunpowder and weapons. But hey, in the words of Leonard Cohen ‘First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin’.
Following the successful attack and the abolition of feudalism the era of the guillotine was ushered in; Louis and his wife were beheaded and the rest, as they say, is history. The fact is, that anybody who has seen Les Miserables (and if you haven’t, why not?) knows, they didn’t get to all live happily ever after – the Parisians were in revolt again in 1832.
So where are we now? France is still in all sorts of political turmoil, partly due to the principles of Liberté, Egalité and Fratérnité. But for us it’s that equality, freedom of speech and sense of ‘Frenchness’ that makes it such a great place to live and visit. For sure in most democratic societies everybody has a right to have their say via the ballot box – but in France you really do get the sense that every man and woman has an equal chance to have their voice not only heard, but listened to.
For all its conundrums we think France is a fabulous country with a society founded on exemplary philosophical principles. If you know us you’ll know we’ll drink to most things – but on July 14th this is one nationalistic ‘Frat’ party where we’ll be raising our glass high.
No recipe this week – Bastille Day is for Champagne!