Sunday, 17 July 2011

Fête Nationale at Binic

It was my first 14th July, Fête Nationale in France and I was going back to Binic in Brittany with Jean-Claude to watch the fireworks over the water at the little port. Incredibly, the long weekend traffic was flowing smoothly with no problems as we made our way there, taking the toll routes which are generally safer roads to use.

The trip was uneventful and the countryside a little less interesting because many of the cereal crops have been harvested and the fields with their decapitated plants are now drying to a pale beige colour. Once in Brittany though, the field sizes were noticeably smaller and there were a lot more clumps of trees and bushes. There’s a lot more green there despite the drought scourging parts of the country.

The fireworks weren’t due to start until 11pm so we spent part of the afternoon and evening taking more photos of the port, visiting a little art gallery and scouting for a vantage spot for the evening’s brief entertainment. There was the sea-wall, lighthouse and entrance to the little Port which had been ordered by Colbert (Remember him? Dastardly minister who plotted with Louis XIV to get rid of the shining Fouquet). Colbert ordered a number of major public works and coastal fortifications in his time because France was incessantly at war in that era and Binic has profited from that.

It wasn’t very evident in the countryside that it was France’s National Day; it seemed to be business as usual with nothing special happening. It would be a different story if I had been in Paris, of course. The military services had been practising during the week to get the parade just right down the Champs Elysée.
After a late dinner, JC and I found a spot to stand overlooking the entrance to the port and waited until 11pm.

It seemed as if the whole of Binic and more besides was there. The town switched off the street lights and the crowd gave an “Ahhhhhhh!!!” Canned music began but I wondered why Cold Play was chosen to accompany the feux d’artifice as they whizzed and popped and banged and boomed. As fireworks shows go it wasn’t impressive or creative or particularly interesting and not choreographed to the music at all but I imagine it’s expensive for a town to have to provide this and the crowd clapped appreciatively at the end. I hope the silly youths on the beach didn’t suffer any lasting damage as they shot fireworks at each other. Stupidity knows no geographical bounds.

The crowd wound its way around the path up the cliffs, heading home. I stopped several times to look out over the Bay of St Brieuc at the other little towns twinkling away in the dark distance. Two of them clearly had fireworks displays going long after ours was finished. The atmosphere around France must have been rather thick for a short time that night with thousands of public events revolving around burning gunpowder. How odd that politics in England and its former colonies and politics in France have created such scenes of air pollution now.

Fireworks displays are less numerous in NZ than they once were. When I was a child everyone celebrated Guy Fawkes attempts to blow up the British Parliament (strange) by buying fireworks and letting them off at home as a family event. There weren’t public displays. Times changed. People became more irresponsible and there were deaths, too many fires, maimings of idiots and cruelty to animals occurring so opportunities to celebrate at home became legally limited. Now many families just don’t bother because it’s like lighting a match to your wallet. It’s expensive to buy fireworks and they seem less magical now than they did in the 1960s when I was a child. These days there are limited public displays which you must often pay to see and queue for forever. Many people probably spend their fireworks night in front of their computer. Once Laura was too old to warrant spending hard-earned money in setting things on fire and risking danger I did the computer thing too but here I was, in France, with good, mild weather having a change and enjoying it. It was nice to share it with someone; that can be said for any public event.

After our late night we had to be up fairly promptly to head northwest for a boat trip around the Seven Islands. I started downing the seasick pills.

Photos of Binic sea wall fortifications and lighthouse by day and night. The Fireworks


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