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The BBC's Jon Sopel
"The chequered table cloth is 450 miles long"
 real 28k

Friday, 14 July, 2000, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Giant picnic for Bastille Day
Picnic in the open despite the rain
France has been celebrating Bastille Day with its longest-ever lunch - a 1,000km (625 mile) picnic extending the length of the country.

The party followed the French Meridian line all the way from Dunkerque in the north to Prats-de-Mollo on the Spanish border.

The event was dubbed "the incredible picnic," although the weather was far from incredible, with unseasonably cold and rainy conditions over much of the country.

People were asked to bring their own baguettes and wine and share them, in keeping with the revolutionary tradition of fraternity.

The organisers tried, where possible, to run a straight line of tables from north to south. Millions of people turned up for the event.


Market stalls, cheese-tasting and ox barbecues were laid on in various places along the route of the 650km (450-mile) red-and-white checkered table cloth.

"We gave every city or village the length of tablecloth they wanted, Paris got 12km, while Tyrol only wanted 450 metres," said the picnic's organiser - the Director of the Millennium organisation, Pierre Cavreuil.

Planes over the Arc de Triomphe
This year the military display had a pan-European theme
It is one of the main events in France's millennium celebrations.

The French have already planted 10,000 trees along the route, which runs through more than 300 villages, towns and cities.

Other attractions included hot air ballooning, human chess and a relay race starting simultaneously from both ends of the line.

In Paris, where the weather remained fine, 13,000 mayors lunched in the Luxembourg gardens.

One woman sitting on her own at a picnic table told the BBC she had brought a big quantity of food because she wanted to share it "in the spirit of the picnic".

"There may be tourists, with just a sandwich. I can offer them mixed salad, cheese, 10 slices of ham, cherries and wine."

President Jacques Chirac
Chirac: Boosting the EU's military role
France also staged its traditional military parade in Paris to mark Bastille Day, a commemoration of the 1789 revolution which toppled the monarchy.

But this year, President Jacques Chirac decided that the fly-past and parade should have a strong European theme, to mark France's newly assumed six-month presidency of the European Union.

European contingents

British Jaguar and German Tornado jets roared over Paris, following a formation of French Alphajets which released a smoke trail of red, white and blue.

Contingents of German, Belgian, Spanish and Luxembourg troops joined the French parade.

President Chirac has stressed his aim of pushing forward with plans to give the EU a greater defence and foreign policy role, including the formation of a 60,000-troop rapid reaction force to keep the peace in European trouble spots.

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02 Jul 99 | World
Bastille key found
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