July the 14th is Bastille Day in France, it is a national holiday to celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution a long time ago.* Our first summer in France and we were looking forward to the celebrations especially the fireworks, except there wasn’t any, not even a banger. This surprised us both and we looked into it as we felt more than a little cheated. There is a reason for the cheated feeling, the summer long festival started the first Saturday we were here, but being light weights and still knackered from the journey from Spain, we went to bed early. At around 11 that night a firework display started in the marina, not visible from the boat but with a little effort, like getting out of bed, dressing and walking a few metres we could have had as many oohs and aahs as we wanted BUT! We didn’t because we thought it was going to be a couple of minutes of loud explosions and that would be it. Every time there was a lull we thought that’s it, it’s all over, we wouldn’t have had time to get ready to see… And then they started up again. Twenty minutes this went on for, twenty minutes of thinking we should get up and see the fireworks and then a lull making us think it was all over again. So because of this we were looking forward to seeing the holiday fireworks display. Wrong! It turns out that St-Jean de Losne DOES NOT celebrate Bastille Day, apparently the only place in France that doesn’t!
Get ready, there’s a bit of history coming.
“In 1636, when Pontailler was decimated at the start of the thirty years’ war, 80,000 troops of the Holy Roman Empire arrived. Believing St-Jean to be the gateway to Burgundy and the city of Dijon, Général Gallas laid siege to it, expecting little resistance from the 400 citizens and the 150 soldiers. The town held out for a week, the situation was so desperate that plans were made to burn the houses and wreck the river bridge if the walls should be breached. Only just in time, reinforcements arrived from Auxonne. The attackers, having lost 800 men, retreated: against huge odds, St-Jean-de-Losne was saved.” **
This next bit may be urban myth but apparently the story goes on to say that the king came down and patted them all on the back and decreed that from that day on, St-Jean would never have to pay taxes again, YAY! Except, after the Revolution, what the king said was obviously moot much to the citizens chagrin and so they feel cheated because Bastille Day means they have to dig into their coffers and pay tax. No celebrations here then, some people can hold a grudge for an awfully long time 🙂
*Yes I know that I should Google the correct year but with sketchy internet and my loss of faith in what is true and what is BS online, I can’t be arsed.
** Taken (with a little messing about from yours truly) from Cruising French Waterways by Hugh McKnight.