Bastille Day 2012
While enjoying photos of the Bastille Day parade in Paris with the overhead jets and their tricolore exhausts, my thoughts were not only of France but also our links with the country. This was prompted by my visit, in the lead up to France's national day, to the Napoleon exhibition in Melbourne. France's interest in us extends back to our very origins (post native inhabitation).
Did you know Louis XVI sent explorers to our land and WA was claimed as French at one point? Even when he was imprisoned awaiting his beheading, Louis asked after La Perouse who he had dispatched earlier to explore our land and surrounds (La Perouse never returned). Makes you wonder if the Revolution wasn't occupying the thoughts of the French at the time if more focus might not have been placed on making Australia 'Terre Francaise'?
Napoleon after the demise of the royalty continued the exploration of our southern continent by sending more explorers to our shores. One of their main tasks was to bring back flora and fauna for Josephine's gardens at their Malmaison residence near Paris. When Napoleon was later exiled he spent much of his time reading explorers' expedition notes of their trips to Australia.
At the Brisbane French festival this year on Bastille Day, local French people were in their element. Setting up French Desire's stall in the morning, all that could be heard around us was the French speaking their native tongue. Not that I was following much of their conversations after the 'bonjour, ca va' initial greetings, but they seemed genuinely happy on their national day, and why not, what a fantastic place to be celebrating. They were all very excited to be sharing their culture not only with each other but also with the thousands of Aussies who came through during the day. People seem to have an ever growing desire for things French - there were a variety of French lovers from frequent travellers to France to those who had never been but were desperate to go, all sharing the common love of French culture, food, language, art etc.
This year the range of French exhibitors and entertainment seemed to grow with the expanding public thirst for things French. The festival did not disappoint either with over 100 stalls, plenty of French food/drink and entertainment including:
- La Belle Alliance Napoleonic 3rd brigade re-enactment group firing off guns and cannons across the Brisbane river;
- Sylvie Boisel, French entertainer from Sydney, singing many French songs including one of my favourites Edith Piaf's No Regrets and leading the audience in rounds of Frere Jacques
- can can dancers, French street performers and gypsy groups
- a blue, white and red light up Brisbane ferris wheel
- French fashion parades and a best dressed competition (and there were certainly a lot of people there looking very French!).
To quote one of the festival's Facebook followers ' what a great day...should do it every weekend'. I wouldn't mind having a French festival every week, would be like France in summer.
PS: More photos of Brisbane's French festival at: