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Bastille Day in Carcassonne 2014

Bastille Day in Carcassonne 2014

Experience an evening of spectacular fireworks display at the Citadel of Carcassonne.

On 14th July 2014 the city of Carcassonne hosts the biggest firework display in France when around 100,000 Euros light the night sky over the medieval Cité. The French don’t call it Bastille Day but simply "Quatorze Juillet".

Citadel of Carcassonne The Citadel of Carcassonne in France

The history

The day commemorates the storming of the Bastille in Paris on 14 July, 1789. This momentous event triggered the French Revolution making it dear to Gallic hearts. It’s a popular spectacle at Carcassonne, attracting spectators from many kilometres away.

France does spectacles, well, spectacularly.

This one's by the firework masters Lacroix Ruggieri. They'll be lighting the blue touch paper at venues across France but Carcassonne is the main event.

As the town fills with euphoric locals, they're joined by a large part of Montpellier, Toulouse and even Catalans who’ve commuted in from nearby Spain. Parking becomes an interesting experience and the best spots for taking pictures will be full by early afternoon.

First where not to be - the autoroute. Whilst the A61 offers uncluttered vistas of the Cité, it also offers excellent views of the gendarmes who’ll be there to make sure that you’re not a traffic hazard.

The adjacent service area, called la Belvedere de la Cité, will be closed for the evening. It only holds a tenth of the people who would like to park in it.

A beginner's guide to the pyrotechnic event of the year...

The high-flying parts of the display can be seen from anywhere that you can glimpse the Cité. However some more subtle effects only peek above the battlements so you need to be where you can see the entire walls to enjoy these.

For the best vista of the whole show, it has to be the bridge across the river Aude or on the adjacent riverbank. Le Pont Neuf joins the Medieval Cité to the modern town. From there you'll have a clear view of the entire length of Cité wall.

Any really serious photographers will be there from 14:00 staking out a space for their tripods. They'll jealously guard their spot until 22:30 when the first rockets take to the sky.

If you're planning to shoot a Hollywood blockbuster then you'll have to do the same. However ordinary mortals with families may prefer to arrive in the early afternoon, abandon the car while there’s still parking to be had, then relax on foot.

There are worse ways to spend the afternoon and early evening than touring the Citè or taking in the shops in the modern town along the pedestrianised rue Georges Clemenceau. Everywhere cafés and restaurants beckon.

Now, where to park?

There are a number of car parks on the inner ring which surrounds the town centre...

West side - Boulevard Varsovie
West side - Boulevard Varsovie, Carcassonne

South side - Boulevard Barbès
South side - Boulevard Barbès, Carcassonne

East side - Square Gambetta
East side - Square Gambetta, Carcassonne

North side - Square André Chenier
North side - Square André Chenier, Carcassonne

A little further out of town there's the main tourist car park at the Cité itself.

The Cité visitors car-park
Cité car-park, Carcassonne

Alternatively, excellent views of the Cité can had from the peripherique south of Carcassonne. Many locals enjoy a grandstand view from the vineyards between the main hospital and the Lycée Agricole. Please take care when parking, you won't be alone.

The whole thing's done with military precision - computer-controlled, of course. At 22:25, the street lights are extinguished to provide a clear night sky background, and at 22:30 it's showtime.

This is a real French experience to be savoured rather than hurried. You'll be sharing it with many local people. Enjoy the relaxed party atmosphere and you'll be talking about this long after the holiday's over.

A selection of links to Pure France holiday rental homes in the Carcassonne area is included below. So if you're too late for this year, be sure to book early for 2015!

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