It’s winter and it’s fresh on Wellington Harbour. Everybody is working and nobody enjoys the summer heat, that’s for sure! – And yet, we’re on the 14th of July. I cannot believe that’s French National Day, nor that I’m celebrating it!
It’s well known that when you’re an expat, you’re feeling either free from anything related to your country, or on the contrary, you quite like the feeling of being blown away by homesickness and nostalgia. I was so sure to be part of the first category of people before arriving here.
From New Zealand with love
I was born in Marseille. That’s is to say, I’m literally a “Marseillaise”, same name as the title of our famous national anthem. A kind of national pride should be written in my genes! But I must confess that I was happy to be abroad and to break free from my gloomy old nation; France, where people like complaining, and where taking the Parisian subway or trying to find a spot on a beach in the French Riviera, belong to the worst experiences in your life. More than that, I was more ready than ever to adopt a new culture. I knew nothing about New Zealand, but I was going to love it!
That’s what I did, but strangely enough, even if I had tried my best, I couldn’t have left my homeland behind! Almost I soon as I landed in Auckland, I saw an ad for the French Film Festival. I met the director Sarah Reese and web manager Kailey Carruthers for an interview in a very smart Café in Newmarket, and what I discovered amazed me. Not only do Kiwi people love France, but French cinema fascinate them. It embodies the crème de la crème of the Romantic, and the chic par excellence.
I went to the Rialto cinema to see it with my own eyes. Indeed, the auditorium was packed and people were drinking wine while watching the big screen. Unbelievable! As if they were more French that we are (it’s not allowed to drink wine in movie theatres in France). I must say that I felt good and even a little proud of my country!
Then, as I was travelling around New Zealand, in Wellington, I crossed path with many other French people, although I was almost avoiding them. Eventually, some of them became very close friends. Even the English-Speakers I met, wanted to know more about my country. An American friend of mine found himself with an accordion in his hands in Wellington, singing French songs! Kiwi people often greet me with “bonjour” when they understand I’m French. I could give you plenty of examples…
Finally, I realised that you can break free while loving your country!
So, Happy Bastille Day everyone!
You probably know, that on this particular day, we celebrate the storming of the Bastille by the French Revolutionary troops (the Bastille prison was the symbol of the French Monarchy). The well known beheading of our King and Queen followed this major event, and France became the land of Freedom, Egality and Brotherhood, a proud Nation based of human rights. But still, it took us some time to acknowledge that men and women were equal in rights! Did you know that French women were given the right to vote in 1944 only, while New Zealand gave them in 1893?! Interesting.Anyway, while I’m writing, the Patrouille de France (the French Acrobatic Patrol) has taken off from Normandy to arrive right on time for the military Parade on the Avenue des Champs Elysées. The fighter pilots must be demonstrating their aerobatic skills, performing loops and roll, spinning in the sky, flying so fast they could break the sound barrier!
Paris sings its triumph under the arch. In the rest of the country, everybody is celebrating holiday, sun and summertime! At midnight, the Eiffel Tower will be glittering and starry, fireworks will burst into the skies of every French city.
The Alliance Française celebrated it in its own way last Saturday night, organising a fancy-dress ball in Wellington! King Louis the XVIth would turn in its grave if he only knew!
All this makes me think of a refreshing movie on the subject: Marie-Antoinette directed by Sophia Coppola, starring Kirsten Dunst as the Queen. It’s not French, but it’s a good costume-drama, interesting & funny. A nice way of entertaining yourself while discovering a bit more about Bastille day!
PS: You know we’re expert in guillotine, but don’t be afraid, we won’t hurt your queen!