July 14th is a day of national celebration in France- la fête nationale! Fireworks, parades, parties- it's a big deal. Why the 14th? To commemorate the Storming of the Bastille (which is why maybe you've heard of "Bastille Day", however here in France it is simply "la fête nationale" or "le quatorze juillet"- July 14). La Bastille was the former main jail of Paris. During the French Revolution, it was taken by the revolutionary troops on July 14 1789 and became the symbol of the people’s revolution. In Paris, the day is celebrated with a huge military parade on the Champs Elysées and by nightfall nearly a million people gather for a concert and fireworks near the Eiffel Tower.
Being a national holiday, many businesses close so lots of Parisians choose to take a long weekend and escape the madness- which is exactly what I did this year...and, well, last year too. This year I went South to the Ardèche region with my boyfriend to celebrate a friend's birthday and spend a few sunny days enjoying pool-side barbecues and kayaking the Ardèche river.
Ardèche is a beautiful area in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of south-central France. With a few stops along the way, it would take our caravan of friends about 6-7 hours to arrive by car from Paris. So I packed my fav sunhat, SPF50, and new bikini (and all the insecurities that came along with it-more on that later) and off we went!