Yesterday was Bastille Day or, in French, le quatorze juillet. Each year, Paris celebrates the national fête with a parade on the Champs-Élysées and a spectacular nighttime fireworks display. The events are supposed to signify the French Revolution and the birth of la République Française.
Instead, for most Parisiens, they signify the beginning of les vacances, the long summer vacation period that kicks off on July 15 and runs until the end of August. For the past couple of weeks, I have overheard many locals gushing about their upcoming holidays. Wednesday evening at the department store BHV, I saw a cashier glance at his watch, grin, close his register and turn to his colleague to express his joy in two words: "Les vacances!" That was all he said and all he needed to say. His co-worker understood him completely and responded with a smile of her own.
Yesterday I, too, celebrated Bastille Day and the beginning of French summer vacation. Not because I'm going anywhere — I will stay in Paris through August — but because half of the city's residents are departing, which means no traffic jams (except on the highways leading out of l'escargot), no crowded métro platforms and a reduction in the number of crottes de chiens on the sidewalks, as 50% of les Parigots are departing and taking their dogs with them.
Those of us that remain can now breathe easier, walk more freely and enjoy an almost village-esque atmosphere in the city. And that is something to aimer.