Travel Picks: Top 10 Bastille Day celebrations

Fri Jul 13, 2012 5:31pm IST

San Francisco, July 13 (Reuters) - Sing a rousing rendition of
the Marseillaise, twirl a sparkler or head out to see the
parades and fireworks for France's national day of celebration
on Saturday. Francophiles around the world can find a place to
join in the revelry with online travel adviser Hotwire.com's
(www.hotwire.com) list of the top 10 destinations to celebrate
Bastille Day. Reuters has not endorsed this list:    
    
1.  Paris
    Welcome to the center of the universe for Bastille Day
celebrations. Expect parties, special programming and general
merry-making in cafes, parks, clubs and discos all over the
city. Even the fire houses open their doors for balls where they
serve food, drink and live music to a largely local crowd in
exchange for small donations. On the morning of July 14, the
French President presides over the military parade down the
Champs Elysees that draws huge crowds and an aircraft flyover.
Get there a few hours early if you want a spot close to the
action, or hit Restaurant Georges on the rooftop of the Centre
Pompidou, Montmarte or Belleville for the view. Later on, catch
the fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower.
2.  London, UK
    Just a few weeks before playing host to the Olympics, London
will throw a Bastille Day celebration second only to the one in
Paris, and while festivities take place all over the city, the
main event is the Garden Party at Battersea Park, complete with
live Caberet performances, face-painting and games for the whole
family. Burough Market will celebrate with an abundance of
French wine, Absinthe and Champagne tastings and French food
samplings. The Bankside will also be filled with street
entertainment, performance art, theatrical performances, outdoor
eating, drinking, dancing and singing and an exciting fireworks
finale.
3.  New Orleans, Louisiana
    With its French Creole roots, New Orleans may be the best
place in the United States to celebrate Bastille Day. This
eclectic city is known for its culture, delicious food and great
jazz, but most of all the Big Easy knows how to throw a great
party and Bastille Day is no exception. The week-long
celebration kicks-off with a traditional French Mass at St. Luis
Cathedral followed by fireworks on the river, poetry readings,
live music and French food. For Bastille Day, locals pay homage
to their French heritage with a wreath-laying ceremony at the
Joan of Arc Statue on Decatur Street, a French poodle contest in
Dutch alley, block parties and a French market. The weekend
closes with the traditional Waiters and Bartenders Race and
cooking demonstrations.
4.  Liege, Belgium
    For a less crowded Bastille Day option, visitors should
consider Liège. Liège is the biggest and the most important
metropolis of Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium. But
even with its French roots, Liege has only celebrated Bastille
Day since WWI when the city was recognized by France's Legion
d'Honneur for its heroic efforts by resisting the Germans in the
Battle of Liege. Today, Liege has one of the largest French
Bastille Day celebrations (it's even bigger than its own Belgian
National Day celebration) in the world. Travelers can enjoy an
array of festivities including military parades, concerts and a
firework show outside the Place Des Congres (Congress Hall).
Festivities continue well into the night with live DJs and
dancing.
5.  Budapest, Hungary
    To celebrate Bastille Day in Eastern Europe, Budapest is the
place to be. Described as one of the most beautiful cities in
Europe, its temperate climate and rich culture attract tourists
from all over the world. For Bastille Day, the French Institute
holds an annual two-day celebration along the banks of the
Danube River and in nearby streets. The streets boast music,
dancing and a local market filled with French cheeses, wine and
local Hungarian specialties. At night, locals and visitors enjoy
fireworks and a street party on the river banks. After the
festivities, travelers can jump across the river to one of seven
islands or take advantage of attractions like neo-gothic
Parliament, Castle Hill and Andrássy Avenue.
6.  Franschhoek, South Africa
    For a gourmet Bastille Day, visit Franschhoek wine valley.
Franschhoek literally means the "French Corner," named by French
settlers in the 17th century. Although a long way from France,
the city's French heritage comes alive on Bastille Day with the
Franschhoek Bastille Day Festival Food and Wine Marquee hosted
by the Franschhoek Wine Valley, where award-winning local and
French wineries  offer tastings. The festivities also include
the running boules competition, Franschhoek minstrel parade,
barrel-rolling contests, craft fairs and live music.
7.  Montreal, Quebec
    With Montreal being the third-largest French-speaking city
in the world, it's no surprise that their Bastille Day
celebration is a big one. Originally called Ville-Marie, or
"City of Mary," Montreal is home to rich nightlife with many
restaurants and bars - almost all of which will be celebrating
Bastille Day - studding its cobblestone streets. Partiers revel
in costumer at the Old Port, the Bastille Day Wine Crawl
Montreal puts a French twist on the traditional bar crawl and
the city lights up with parades, festivals and fun for people of
all ages.
8.  French Polynesia
    Looking for somewhere tropical with a French twist? As a
member of the French Republic (pays d'outre-mer), French
Polynesia is made up of several groups of Polynesian islands,
the most famous island being Tahiti. The islanders have made
Bastille Day their own, however, using it to celebrate their own
unique culture through events like Heiva, an inter-island
contest of singing, dancing, drumming, and traditional acts of
manhood such as banana carrying, coconut-opening, out-rigger
canoeing and spearing over the backdrop of crystal-blue waters,
beaches and sunshine.
9.  St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
    While St. Thomas is technically part of the U.S. Virgin
Islands, its large French population gathers together for
several days of Bastille Day festivities. The celebration begins
with dancing at local bars and live performances from bands from
the French community. The highpoint of the celebrations is the
Kingfish Tournament, a fundraiser for local schools which is
held on a Sunday. Fishermen cast their lines early in the
morning and must return to the beach by noon to enter their
catches into the contest. The participant who catches the
largest kingfish is awarded prize money.
10. Cayenne, French Guiana
    Even some of the most remote destinations celebrate Bastille
Day. Cayenne (French pronunciation: [kajn]) is the capital of
French Guiana, an overseas region of France that enjoys the same
customs, currency and holidays as its namesake.  The city stands
on a former island at the mouth of the Cayenne River on the
Atlantic coast and Bastille Day activities are much the same
here as they are in Europe, with rousing renditions of Le
Marseillaise, libations, civic events, parades and fireworks. 

 (Editing by Paul Casciato)
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