Vive la France !

As France celebrates its national holiday today, known in English as Bastille Day, I am sharing some of my photos I've taken over the years in what the natives often refer to as "la République."  As a French teacher, I've had an interest in all things French for many years.  There are still many parts of France that are still on my list to visit, but in this post you will see photos of Paris and the surrounding areas as well as the regions of Brittany, Normandy, the Loire Valley and the overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon.

I took this photo in the lovely town of Chartres in the region that used to be known as Centre.  I wasn't a professional photographer back then, but since I shot on film, my photos from that trip have stood the test of time better than the low quality photos from the early days of digital cameras.  I got my old negatives scanned professionally by ScanCafe a few years back, and I was very impressed by the quality.

I loved the town of Saint-Malo in Brittany when I visited in 2004.  Unfortunately, I haven't been back since.

I took this photo of the Fort National in Saint-Malo.

Another location that is at the top of my list to revisit is Mont-Saint-Michel Abbey, which sits pretty much on the border of Brittany and Normandy.  It is actually surrounded by quicksand.

I took this photo of the Wall for Peace when I visited Paris in 2006.

I captured this photo of a pétanque match underway in Paris in 2012.  I can't think of a pastime more quintessentially French than pétanque, which some may describe as the French version of bocce ball.

The Château de Chambord is my favorite of all the châteaux in the Loire Valley, simply because I think it's the most beautiful.

Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting the French overseas collectivity of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, located 16 miles off the coast of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador (the above photo was taken on the sparsely inhabited Île aux Marins).  If you're thinking the residents of an overseas collectivity over 2300 miles away from mainland France would probably not really identify as being French, think again.  These folks are proud French citizens.  As someone who speaks French, I can assert that the French spoken in Saint Pierre and Miquelon sounds like the French spoken in Northern France and not like the French spoken in the Canadian province of Québec, despite mainland France being roughly three times the distance away.  Quebeckers will tell you, they know they are in a different country when they get to Saint Pierre because the French sounds so different.

When I was in Saint Pierre and Miquelon, they were just getting ready to celebrate Bastille Day, as evidenced by the above flyer advertising the day's activities.

Above, "Le p'tit gravier" ferry arrives in Saint Pierre to take visitors to Île aux Marins.  Note the French flag.

On Île aux Marins you will find this house with the Latin phrase "Fluctuat nec mergitur" ("She is tossed by the waves but does not sink") painted on it, which is the motto of the city of Paris.

A French flag waves at the cemetery at Île aux Marins.

The cemetery on Île aux Marins honors soldiers from Saint Pierre and Miquelon who fought and died for France in war.

Further evidence that Saint Pierre is a bit of France in North America:  Pétanque is a favorite pastime of the locals.

Decorations adorned Square Joffre in anticipation of the fête nationale.

On Île aux Marins a French flag can be seen waving in the distance.

I took this photo of Île aux Marins from the ferry the night I arrived in Saint Pierre.

Back in mainland France, I took this photo of a quintessentially (I seem to be using that word a lot today) French baguette sandwich when I visited Paris in 2012.

In 2012 I had the opportunity to visit the home and gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet, where I took the above photo.

While waiting for a taxi in the rain in the Parisian neighborhood of Montmartre in 2012, I snapped this photo, which has since become one of my all time favorites.

A post about Bastille day wouldn't be complete without a photo taken at Place de la Bastille in Paris.  I took the above photo in 2012.

I love photographing Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris from afar, as I did in this 2009 photo which I took from the Eiffel Tower.

Père Lachaise Cemetery looks so small in this photo I took from the Eiffel Tower in 2009.

This is one of my favorite photos of the Eiffel Tower, which I took from a park bench in 2009.

I took this photo of the Louvre Museum in 2009.

This photo of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe illustrates how busy Paris' streets can get.

I had the opportunity to visit the D-Day beaches and American Cemetery in Normandy on two occasions.  I took the above photo during my 2009 trip.  Click here to see more of my photos of Normandy.

I recently stumbled upon this photo of Notre Dame that I took in 2009 from a bateau mouche cruise on the Seine and gave it a fresh edit.  It's a bit painful to look at these days, knowing it doesn't look quite like that anymore after the devastating fire it suffered last year.  Unfortunately the whole spire has to be rebuilt and I'm sure it will look just as wonderful when it's completed, but of course it's not the same as having the original.

I painstakingly removed all the tourists from this photo I took of the Palace of Versailles in 2009 to make it appear as if I were all alone on the estate when I took the photo.

The Hall of Mirrors is inarguably the most impressive room in the palace.

Now if you visit the Palace of Versailles and don't make it to the Queen's Hamlet, part of the gardens, you're missing the best part, in my opinion.  That's not to undermine the beauty and grandeur of the palace, but there's just something about strolling the grounds of the Petit Trianon and listening to the birds chirping and the various farm animals making their noises that just feels like traveling back in time.  The Queen's Hamlet was built for Marie Antoinette to entertain her friends.

I just love snails, which is convenient since they are a spécialité in France.  Although they are not technically shellfish, I think they have a similar taste and consistency, so if you like clams or mussels, you'll probably like snails.

How do you take an artistic photo of the Mona Lisa?  I have photos that I've taken from a closer distance, but they're not terribly interesting.  In this photo that I took in 2012, I've captured what the scene typically looks like around the Mona Lisa.

When I visited Paris in 2006, I dropped my cheap Kodak EasyShare camera and it broke.  I stopped in the closest souvenir shop and bought a cheap disposable film camera.  Of course the quality was subpar (but my Kodak EasyShare wasn't exactly pumping out high quality photos either), but the look is one that is often replicated today in mobile apps.  I just love the above photo of a man feeding birds by the bank of the Seine river because it seems so quintessentially French to me.

To see more of my photos of France and my other travels, be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook.

All photos in this post © Samantha Decker and may not be reused without permission.

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