Celebrations of France’s national day kicked off on Thursday with a military parade down the Champs-Elysées in Paris. All around the country, concerts, marches, fireworks and other events are marking the storming of the Bastille prison that set off the French Revolution.

"/> Celebrations of France’s national day kicked off on Thursday with a military parade down the Champs-Elysées in Paris. All around the country, concerts, marches, fireworks and other events are marking the storming of the Bastille prison that set off the French Revolution.

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France primed for Bastille Day celebrations

Celebrations of France’s national day kicked off on Thursday with a military parade down the Champs-Elysées in Paris. All around the country, concerts, marches, fireworks and other events are marking the storming of the Bastille prison that set off the French Revolution.

Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, 2006
Irene

The commemorations got off to a more sombre start than usual on Thursday morning in central Paris with the miltary parade down the Champs-Elysées overshadowed by the news on Wednesday that five French soldiers had been killed in Afghanistan.

Around 7,000 soldiers made their way down the avenue either on foot, horseback or in military vehicles in the 131st such parade to be held on July 14th.

The tens of thousands of people gathered this year were treated to an airshow and traditional dances by troops from France’s overseas departments and territories.

This evening in Paris, a highlight will be an free open-air ‘Concert for Equality’ organized by the group ‘SOS racisme’. The show starts at 6pm on the Champs de Mars near the Eiffel Tower. More than 25 artists have been invited to perform, including Yannick Noah, Grégoire, Nolween Leroy, Pascal Obispo, Kassav’, Abd Al Malik, Michel Delpech, Benabar, Raggasonic and others.

Earlier in the afternoon, also at the Champs de Mars, more than 60 associations and non-profit groups are setting up stands that the public can visit, take home information or get involved.

Fireworks shows, traditionally a big part of the festivities, will be held in cities, towns and villages all around France. The largest, likely to attract hundreds of thousands of spectators, will be held in the Trocadéro gardens beginning at 11pm and entitled ‘Musical comedies from Broadway to Paris.’ Those wanting to avoid the crowds can follow it on television (I télé) or on the internet.

Internet search giant Google has also got in on the party. Visitors to its French start page, google.fr, will see a special Doodle in place of the normal Google logo. It is a drawing of a city park during a celebration, festooned with blue, white and red lanterns and flags.

While Bastille Day, referred to simply as ’14 juillet’ in France, marks an actual historical event in 1789, it only became a national holiday in 1880. It commemorates the ‘fête de la Fédération’ of 1790 and is meant to mark the end of France’s absolute monarchy as well as the taking of the famous prison.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

Car, moped, public transport, or electric bicycle - which means of transport is the quickest way to get across Paris?

Revealed: The fastest way to get across Paris

One intrepid reporter for French daily Le Parisien decided to find out. 

The challenge was simple. Which mode of transport would get the journalist from the heart of Fontenay-sous-Bois in the eastern suburbs to the newspaper’s office on Boulevard de Grenelle, west Paris, fastest?

Over four separate journeys, each one in the middle of rush hour, the electric bicycle was quickest and easiest. More expensive than conventional bikes, electric bikes do come with a government subsidy.

The journey was described as ‘pleasant and touristy’ on a dry but chilly morning going via dedicated cycle lanes that meant the dogged journalist avoided having to weave in and out of traffic.

It took, in total, 47 minutes from start to finish at an average speed of 19km/h, on a trip described as “comfortable” but with a caveat for bad weather. The cost was a few centimes for charging up the bike.

In comparison, a car journey between the same points took 1 hour 27 minutes – a journey not helped by a broken-down vehicle. Even accounting for that, according to the reporter’s traffic app, the journey should – going via part of the capital’s southern ringroad – have taken about 1 hr 12.

Average speed in the car was 15km/h, and it cost about €2.85 in diesel – plus parking.

A “chaotic and stressful” moped trip took 1 hour 3 minutes, and cost €1.30 in unleaded petrol.

Public transport – the RER and Metro combined via RER A to Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile then Metro line 6 to the station Bir-Hakeim – took 50 minutes door to door, including a 10-minute walk and cost €2.80. The journey was described as “tiring”.

READ ALSO 6 ways to get around Paris without the Metro

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