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My French Life: Bastille Day celebrations

Antique shop at Montreui-sur-Mer The Good Life France

So tomorrow it is Bastille Day and I, along with the whole of France will be celebrating!

This means, lots of good food, wine, perhaps a glass of champagne, a few French fancies, fireworks, bonhomie and for me the icing on the cake – the annual Bastille Day Brocante at Montreuil-sur-Mer!

Let me elaborate!

Good food – I won’t be cooking! (I am still learning though I have moved on and there is less chance I will burn the house down these days).

A few French fancies, I have an idea for this one – macarons!  I’m going to make some for the first time and I am putting blue food colouring in half the mix and red food colouring in the other half and sticking them with a white cream, that should look suitably French and festive and fancy!

Fireworks and bonhomie. Almost every town, village and city in France will be letting off fireworks at night to celebrate the end of Bastille Day and in homage to the battles that took place that fateful day that changed the nation (see our feature on the history of Bastille Day for more on this). As I’m in Montreuil-sur-Mer, this will mean fireworks off the ramparts of the magnificent walled fortress and if it’s not pouring with rain, it will be spectacular.

Lunch time courtyard at the Relais de France, Montreuil, The Good Life France

The best bit: the Bastille Day antiques market in Montreuil. I can’t tell you how good and how much fun this is. First off it’s a gorgeous town set high on a hill with walls all the way round. You can actually walk the whole way round and the views are stunning. You can see for miles, forest, fields and tiny little villages nestling in tranquil surroundings. Inside the town are cobbled streets and magnificent old buildings set around a number of squares. This is the town that Victor Hugo visited in 1837 and loved so much that he based the town in Les Miserables on Montreuil-sur-Mer. He also took inspiration from the some of the people he met here and they became characters in the book. There are lots of restaurants ranging from Michelin starred to intimate informal dining rooms that look like someone’s front room. There are bars and hotels, boutiques and interior design shops – this is a very appealing little town and it draws tourists from far and wide.

On Bastille Day the whole town becomes pedestrianized so that the stalls can be set up and there are hundreds of them selling all manner of items. There are professional dealers and local residents who empty out their attics and you can spend as much or as little as you like but you will always find something here to fall in love with and cherish! I’ve seen two hundred year old desks and armoires and four hundred year old vases but it’s not all specialist. You can pick up French hats, miliataria, vintage clothing, galvanised metal tubs and architectural salvage, iron work, kitchenalia, books, paintings,well, there’s just so much I can’t name it all but I’m sure you get the picture.

If it’s too late for you to join me this year but put it in your diary for next year – if you’re able to get to this fair (it’s less than an hour from Calais/a little over an hour from Dunkirk) and you like brocantes – the French bric-a-brac markets, this might be one for you to try too!

A bientot

Janine

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