Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Bastille Day in Frenchtown, United States Virgin Islands

Bastille Day in Frenchtown
Vive la France! Right after we came back from the celebration in Frenchtown, I wrote this post. We visit Frenchtown in St. Thomas since we didn’t do last time we anchored in the island. Today, 14th of July, is a special day, the Bastille Day. The French National day commemorates the French revolution in 1789 and it’s well known as La Fête National (The National Celebration) or Le quatorze Juillet (the fourteenth of July). I studied French for seven years, even if I barely speak the language now but it’s still interesting for me.

In the morning we visited Frenchtown and had breakfast in the Frenchtown Deli. The coffee there is really good! Then we end up in the French Heritage Museum. A small museum but it’s full of history. The building itself served for several activities like fire station, school then museum for the French community in St. Thomas. We were lucky to have the chance of meeting one of the French descendents still living in St. Thomas who was the guide to our visit. Inside, the historic photos and antique items told us the story of this Frenchtown. Originally, the French people in St. Thomas were from Saint-Barthelemy, the island nearby in the Caribbean Sea. Then they gradually migrated to St. Thomas and the community became a French settlement later on. Like I mentioned in the post before that St. Thomas was under the rule of Denmark and then after 1917 became American. Everyone who lived on the island would become American citizen automatically, something very similar with the Macau case in the handover in 1999 where Chinese people would become Chinese citizens. We have a chance to exchange ideas on how to help promoting the culture, something we consider very valuable for the next generations. As the Macau Government emphasizes the promotion of the heritage and culture activities, we shared what was done in the former Portuguese territory with the heritage routes for the tourists visiting the Historic Center of Macau by walking. However, this kind of schemes is never easy without the support from the government like is done in Macau. The person who guided us shared that they get some subsidies from the Government for the French Heritage Museum but it’s not enough to promote it the way it should be done to attract the tourists visiting St. Thomas for Duty Free Shopping. I leave you here the website of the museum (www.frenchheritagemuseum.com), help supporting by visiting and share it so the next generations are aware of their cultural background.


In the evening of the same day we returned to the settlement to celebrate the Bastille Day. We visited St. Anne Chapel located on the hill of Frenchtown. It was hand build by the first French settlers in St. Thomas. The French decoration, people, descendents and atmo
sphere was attractive indeed. They had music, drinks and food for an all night long party. We didn’t stay until late because of little Maria Dee. There was French people walking on stilts and we enjoyed the music played by the local people. For them we were just tourists joining their local activity, but for us we felt a warm welcome from the community. Even a person we met during the day offered us to do some woodwork that we need for our stove and he offered to do it with mahogany when we were inquiring about a place where we could do it in town. What people call “An American paradise” is not only a Caribbean location, its everything!
playground in the village
Outside French Heritage Museum
Original seafront photo of the village
St. Anne Chapel
Frenchtown view
Music during the celebration 
Party night
Stilt walking 
Maria Dee first time seeing stilt walking 
Souvenir from the Party

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