Bastille Day in Essoyes 2020

July 15, 2020 at 9:14 am 1 comment

Sam and Morgane au stade d’Essoyes. Photo by Felix Hoffmann.

Yesterday was a huge national holiday in France, probably the biggest. It is referred to by Americans as Bastille Day, but the French do not call it that, not at all. (And if they did–just a little tip about that eternally tricky French pronunciation–they would say “Bas-tee,” not “Bas-teel” 🙂 )

In France this holiday is called “la fête nationale” or, more commonly, le quatorze juillet. This year, as usual it started on the evening of the 13th of July. The festivities begin in many communities, including in Essoyes, on that evening, with a procession of children carrying flambeaux, in commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in 1789; followed by fireworks. Then, usually, the fireworks are followed by les bals, celebratory dances open to the public, often held in the fire stations, that go on well into the wee hours of the morning.

This year was a bit different. A few days before le quatorze we were informed that there would be fireworks in Essoyes, but that following instructions passed down from the préfecture, there would be no procession of the flambeaux this year; and no balls. Also, the wreath-laying ceremony on the morning of the 14th would be attended only by the mayor and the members of the conseil municipale. Unlike in most years, the carnival that normally fills up the whole village square was reduced to just a couple of rides for little kids. And everyone attending any of the public events was reminded that wearing masks, observing les gestes barrieres, and keeping social distancing was obligatoire.

The pompiers were just warming up here. My camera was not able to adequately capture the spectacle, so I just watched.

The fireworks were fantastic! You don’t believe me? Well you weren’t there, and my photos aren’t very good. So you will just have to trust me when I say that the mayor and the conseil municipal must have decided that this year that the people of Essoyes really needed and deserved a spectacular show to celebrate having gotten through a rough few months–with very likely more challenging months ahead. And so, they pulled out all the stops, and presented a show that ended with a finale that brought whistles, applause, and murmurs of “pas mal” (the highest French praise), and at least a momentary sense of general elation. Merci, alors, messieurs et mesdames du conseil municipal…ca faisait du bien…

My sons were both with me this year, and a few of their friends also, so we were able to enjoy a beautiful summer weekend together. We had a lot to celebrate: graduations from grad school, new jobs, reuniting with old friends after being quarantined, meeting some of their friends, and of course the blessing–not to be underestimated–of having gotten through the first wave of the pandemic in good health.

The festivities began in our home on Saturday evening, when my son and his friends arrived from Paris. Their friend Morgane was also in town for the weekend, and she came with several of her friends for a very American dinner of barbecued hamburgers and potato salad. When they asked us how to eat the hamburgers and we said “However you want…” and demonstrated picking them up with our hands, there was a lot of giggling and murmuring about how different this approach is than the French approach to eating which involves “so many rules!”

Of course as always in France every special event, not to mention every day, much of French life revolves around the enjoyment of good food. For le quatorze I ordered a tarte aux framboises from our local patissier to serve with our celebratory champagne. My friend Rosanna had also brought two delicious macarons aux framboises: these macarons were in a cake form, which caused me to express surprise that they were macarons at all. “I thought macarons were just those little colored hamburger things you get in the patisserie...” I said, and now it was time for our French friends to laugh at me. 🙂

For a while we were chased inside by rain, but it had passed soon enough and we spent the rest of the afternoon outside enjoying a beautiful, sunny afternoon. The weather changes quickly, and often, here!

Also, last week before the weekend celebrations, as promised I took my son Sam to dinner at the excellent restaurant in our local hotel, to thank him for the wonderful way he helped me during two months of confinement. He did all the shopping for me, which involved trekking with a shopping caddy made for a little old lady (he is a tall young man) a round trip of about 4 kilometers several times a week to our local grocery store; he wiped down everything that came into the house before we touched it; he cooked, he mowed the lawn, and he helped me in so many other ways too. One meal is not enough to repay him, but it was a start. And so we had a lovely meal together, and the pleasure of the experience lasted into the next day with lovely memories of it, and a general feeling of well-being.

So now it is on to the rest of summer. The colza and wheat have been harvested. The vendange will be early this year, probably beginning the last week in August. The holiday weekend was sunny and warm, but last night there was a much-needed rain, and hopefully more will come soon.

Keep wearing those masks, everyone, and follow the rules (they are meant to benefit all of us), stay safe, stay well. And stay tuned for more, coming soon…


Janet Hulstrand
 is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She is the author of Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You, and is currently working on her next book, a literary memoir entitled “
A Long Way from Iowa.”

Entry filed under: About Essoyes. Tags: , , .

Déconfinement, Paris-style Merci, M. le Maire d’Essoyes

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