I was sort of disappointed that I missed my annual 4th of July rituals with all of my friends: eating hot dogs, hanging out at the Liberty Festival, watching the fireworks at night. It’s one of those really fun holidays that I remember liking since I was very young. In Paris, a few people said “Happy 4th of July!” because they knew I was American, but I didn’t really get the same feeling.

However, 10 days after our national holiday is the French national holiday, Bastille Day. This celebration commemorates the storming of the Bastille fortress on July 14, 1789, symbolizing the end of the French monarchy and the beginning of a modern republic.

Most of the morning celebration takes place on the Champs Élysées, a very large boulevard on which rests the Arc de Triomphe. Along the Champs Élysées there are tons and tons of boutiques and high end fashion stores like Louis Vuitton, Lacosse, Coco Chanel, etc. Everything seemed so chic, and the price tags told me that it all really was.

One of the trademarks of Bastille Day is its grand military parade down all of the major boulevards. It is complete with tanks, soldiers, and fire trucks. Overhead flew fighter jets and choppers. Despite the fact that, to a foreigner, it seemed to be a huge waste of fuel, I completely understand how important this day and this parade are for French people even to this day. It’s all about pride.

In the evening was a grandiose display of fireworks which I saw from the crowded steps of Sacred Heart Church on Montmartre. You really have to be careful even just roaming the streets on the night of Bastille Day. Rowdy French boys often set off firecrackers in the middle of the streets and then run for their lives laughing as everyone screams in terror. I suppose it’s only harmless fun for them, but it can be dangerous if you aren’t paying attention!

My time in Paris was flying by at this point, and leaving for home became more and more of an unfortunate reality. I missed my friends and family, and even my American culture, but Paris was offering me so much life experience, and I felt that I could use even just a few more weeks to perfect the skills that I had been improving. I knew my departure date was approaching, so I decided that I would really have to take in as much language and culture as I possibly could for those next days.

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