Vive la France: how to celebrate the 14th of July

Move over 4th, it’s all about the 14th here in France. Bastille day (La Fête Nationale ou simplement le quatorze juillet)  is the pivotal moment in history when the french citizens had enough with the tyrannical rule of the monarchy. So they decided to stick it to the man, Louis XVI to be exact, and take things into their own hands, thus starting the French Revolution, by storming the Bastille prison in Paris (the symbol of the unjust rule of the King). Now every year, the French celebrate with lots of fun activities!

This past 14 juillet has been my third here in France (except last year I was living near Geneva, so basically everything was pretty Swiss oriented and we didn’t really do much). Bastille day, as us anglophones learned to call it, is a great way to party some type of “independence” and my 4th of July celebrations are non-existant in France :’( . But seeing as I’m living in France, I guess I should fully assimilate into the local culture and go all out!

So how do they celebrate the 14th you may ask. Well a lot of ways actually! The biggest party is in Paris, and it is one you don’t wanna miss (SO MUCH FUN). They start the day off with a military parade: air show, soldiers marching and singing, and the president usually makes a cameo at the parade (at the parade in Paris). Then there are more than usually always fireworks (head down towards le champ du mars, can’t get much more stunning with the iconic Eiffel tower with a backdrop of fireworks!) But I think my favorite part of all of it is le bal de pompiers: the Firemen’s Ball. Intriguing, what is this ball you speak of… This very traditional celebration involves dancing, firemen, and drinks. Go on….. Well so, apparently, some select firehouses open their doors to the public, sell drinks, and sometimes hire a dj/band for live music. All for the public. And it ends at the wee hours of the morning (4 a.m. par example) So if you were to choose to do one thing for the 14th, I would highly recommend going to un bal de pompier. I’ve been to two and they have been some of my best memories from here in France! But to find out more information and what is going on, check out the city’s official website for an itinerary of what is offered to the public! 

This year, my friends and I headed over to the Caserne d’Ornano for some late night dancing until 4 a.m.! It was raining but the weather sure didn’t deter us from dancing the night away! 

Until next year 14th! 

How to fête le vin: Bordeaux edition

Living abroad in France has it’s perks: the pastries, the culture, the food, etc. Living abroad in Bordeaux has even more perks: the wine (which is the most important perk of all I’d say.) For those of you who know me, wine has never really been my thing. But living in wine capital of the world really changes a person. I’ve never drank so much wine in my entire life and actually enjoyed it. So much so that I have now decided to follow a Masters in Marketing/Management of Wine and Spirits here in Bordeaux (talk about a changed person!) I’d like to consider myself a blossoming flower in the world of wine, but sadly I’m just a seed that has just been planted and is still growing. Everyone has to start somewhere right?

Anyway, now that I’m going to try to avoid becoming one of those pretentious wine snobs, I want to share my experiences with everyone else who enjoys a good glass, or just a glass. And one of my major experiences that I would like to tell you about is how amazing Bordeaux is during the summer (specifically June. Everything is better in June, it is when I came into the world, so can’t get much better than that can it?). Not only has Bordeaux finally shed it’s winter coat and everything becoming more lively, it also hosts a wine festival, Bordeaux fête le vin, every two years. For all those non french speakers out there, it basically means Bordeaux celebrates it’s wine. And let me tell you there is a whollllllleeeeeee lot to celebrate, and rightly so.

So, back to the important stuff. When I first heard of the festival my initial thought was: hells yeah I’m gonna celebrate you wine! Where do I sign up and what do I do? Well, good news everybody, it is really easy! If you know you are going to be in Bordeaux during the festival, you can stop into the Tourist information center and ask for a handy-dandy “pass dégustation” or you can buy them online (save a couple euros and buy them early: 15 instead of 20!) So here is the breakdown of your tasting pass, you get: 

  • A wine tasting glass
  • A glass holder (like a little necklace pocket for you glass, trop classe!)
  • 13 tasting tickets
  • One day pass for the tram and public transportation
  • And many other tickets valable for prizes, games, cours de dégustation, and many other nifty things! 

And how do you enjoy these?? Find your way down to the river and start tasting! But what I wish I had known beforehand was how, when, and where I could use specific tickets! But don’t you worry, Beth explains it all right? So here is what you should do to fully enjoy the festival…

  1. Take a look at the layout of the festival, there are different areas of wine: there is Vins d’Aquitaine, Côtes de Bordeaux, Medoc et Graves, Bordeaux Blancs, Bordeaux, St. Émillion-Pomerol-Fronsac, and other different tents like Millésime and Mouton Cadet.
  2. Take a look at your dégustation passes. There should be one for each pavilion as well as a couple that are redeemable at multiple places, for example: Mouton Cadet, Bordeaux, Millésime. (It is all listed on the right side of the booklet). The ones for multiple places you can pick and choose where you want to get your wine from (how nice of them!).
  3. Check out the website for the entire “programme” on all the workshops, wine tasting courses, and other fun stuff that is going on down there (www.bordeaux-wine-festival.com) to see if there is something specific that peaks your interest. 
  4. Once you kind of know what you are doing and what you want to see, on attaque! My suggestion is to start at one of the extremities and work your way to the other side, makes handling the crowd and your tickets a bit easier. 

Beware, it is a four day festival, and even I still didn’t use all my tickets at the end of four days. If you are in a rush and can’t enjoy Bordeaux for four whole days, don’t worry, you can go through your tickets in a day or two (just don’t go driving afterwards!). But this festival is definitely something you need to sit and enjoy (especially if you are a wine fanatic!) and there is nothing to rush! The festival opens at 11 and closes at 11:45. The best times to go are in the early afternoon to avoid the crowd and enjoy some fo the other fun booths the festival has to offer. If you are looking for a good atmosphere and lots of wine lovers, head down towards 18:30 and you will see the whole city coming together for a glass of wine! 

En plus! Do you think they would only have the wine? Non, non, non! There is so much more! There is also a music festival (but get your tickets early!), a light show every night at 11 p.m. at Place de la Bourse (which is absolutely amazing (I’ll post a video as a little teaser, gotta come to see the whole thing yourself!), as well as a different firework display every night at 11:45 p.m. 

In sum, it was so nice of Bordeaux to put this on for my birthday (June 26th) and I couldn’t have thought of a better way to spend it. It is a pretty amazing festival and definitely worth coming to. Bordeaux is the bomb anyway, but this gives you more reason to come. Hope to see you around at the next one in 2016! 

- Pass dégustation

- Racks on racks on racks

- By day

- By night

Peanut Butter Dilemma

So my host kids really like peanut butter. I’ve stockpiled jars of JIF over here. This afternoon, I felt like having a pb&j and when the 6 y.o. saw the jar, she got super excited. She kept saying, yes, yes, I want that on my toast. Is it selfish of me to not give her any? I mean, I wasn’t offering it. It’s not like I come across JIF everyday over here people! 

Rain comes from the sea…

According to Calliane, the rain comes from the sea. And a king controls the water. And when he isn’t happy, he tells the water to go to the clouds and for the rain to fall. Apparently. Seems about right? 

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