Bastille Day Memorable Moments
Another Bastille Day has come and gone, but not without being heavily punctuated by memorable moments. French President Emmanuel Macron’s invitation to Donald Trump to attend the Bastille Day festivities, and in particular, the annual Military Parade along the Champs-Elysées, certainly stirred up a lot emotion among Americans and the French.
Members of Democrats Abroad upset about his presence here organized an anti-Trump demonstration at Place des Etats Unis (16th arrondissement) on the eve of “Quatorze Juillet.” The showing was about a couple hundred people and the location, while symbolic, unfortunately wasn’t where it would be greatly noticed. In addition, the Préfecture de Police restricted the group from marching, so in spite of my suggestions to ignore that and march anyway (my rebellious nature spoke out), the organizers refused to disobey their orders. There were speeches and songs and signs held high.
MSNBC interviewed me, asking why I was there and why the group was showing their resistance. My answer: “I am an immigrant. Most of these Americans here, are immigrants, too. We don’t agree with his immigration policies, among the others. But in truth, Mr. Trump has greatly benefitted France, because since he was elected, many Americans are moving here and many French living in the U.S. are moving back home.” Whether they used the footage or not, I am not aware, but it felt good to say these things on camera.
May daughter, Erica, and I headed home for a brief repose, then ventured out again to see how the “Bal Populaire à la Mairie du 3ème” was going. On the “parvis” in front of the Mairie, were hundreds of people dancing energetically and enthusiastically to a live band while bags of confetti were being thrown from the windows of the Mairie down onto the crowd, who was happily throwing up the tiny bits of paper to rain down on everyone. There were old and young alike moving to the music. One tiny white-haired lady wearing shoes for “pied sensibles” (delicate feet, what we might call “old lady shoes”) was dancing up a storm all by herself, next to which was a couple Jitterbugging at such a high speed that it wore me out just watching. By midnight, the little flecks of paper were to be found in every nook and cranny of our hair and clothing. We had to shake off like wet dogs before entering the apartment and of course, remnants were to be found in the oddest of places long after.
We stayed up late Thursday night, then slept late Friday morning, but at 10 a.m. turned on the TV to watch the annual Military Parade along the Champs-Elysées. Donald Trump and American military were the guests of honor. While watching on TV, I could hear the sound of the jets overhead and tried to catch a glimpse of them outside my window, but failed to see them.
All during the ceremonies, Macron and Trump never stopped patting each other on the backs and shaking hands. The press, American, French and European, was seriously critical of Mr. Trump’s behavior all during his visit. At one point while visiting the Hôtel des Invalides, where Napoleon Bonaparte and others are buried, the U.S. President told Macron’s wife, Brigitte, “You’re in such good shape,” then turned to her husband who was standing beside him, and repeated: “She’s in such good physical shape.” This has gotten all sorts of criticism in the press as a sexist and crude remark. Was he surprised she was so well preserved “for her age?” I wonder. See it for yourself on YouTube.com.
Then, as the French army marching band medleyed “Daft Punk” at the end of the parade, Donald Trump looked uninterested as they performed “Get Lucky” and some of the group’s other hits. Meanwhile, the French president smiled as did other dignitaries who also clapped and danced along. Was he in a world of his own at that moment? See it for yourself on Youtube.com.
For an interesting take on the recent events, Gail Collins of the New York Times offered up this Op Ed: “Couldn’t We Just Trade Presidents?“
Sorry, Gail. Macron is a keeper. We’re not lending him out.
About 5 p.m. on the 14th we grabbed our bag of picnic goodies and a big spread, and headed for Ecole Militaire — one of the security checkpoints to enter the Champ de Mars for the annual fireworks. They didn’t open the floodgates until about 6:30 p.m., but once they did, the bags were thoroughly checked and we were each patted down for hidden arms. They confiscated the wine we had badly disguised in a juice bottle after the guard opened and smelled it, then they removed the tops from any bottles that had previously been opened, which created a bit of a mess when they spilled during the trek to our preferred spot on the field.
It’s best to be just south of center for the best view. Years of attendance have taught me this. Those who think that going early to get a good spot is a bore, is wrong. The earlier you get there, the better the spot and it’s impossible to be bored. Just watching the Champ fill to capacity (about 400,000 attended this year) while the sun goes down on the Eiffel Tower is enough to keep one’s avid interest. I couldn’t even understand all those on the grass who were busy reading while all this was happening. Meanwhile, we were eating picnic fare, talking, taking photos and playing Gin Rummy. The weather was Perfect with a capital P — partly cloudy and a tad cool.
The concert by the Orchestre National de France in advance of the fireworks was exceptional — performances included a variety of the finest opera singers, a young women’s choir and a violinist solo. And the price of admission was just the privilege of the security check.
As the sun goes down, the tower becomes even more present and more beautiful. At 11 p.m. the program began. The creative and technical ability by the engineers to orchestrate the music, the lighting of the tower and the fireworks is mind boggling. Set to different music selections from all over the world in honor of the Olympic Games of 2024, for which the city of Paris is fighting to win the bid, the pyrotechnics on the Eiffel Tower rivals the best in the world. It’s the most amazing eye candy one can ever imagine and the entire field of 400,000 people, oohed and aahed and clapped until the end.
This year, the finale wasn’t so obvious as it usually is, and the entire field stood in wait hoping for another round of fireworks, only to discover minutes later that it was sadly over and time to say so-long. Leaving the field is always a bit chaotic, but it manages to flow out and everyone heads to home by virtue of the Métro or other means of transportation.
One thing for sure. No matter how much trouble you go to, it’s worth it. It’s magical. It’s like nothing you could ever dream of and one of those things you simply must do before you die. Fortunately, I’ve done it about 20 times…and never with regret.
Another Bastille Day has come and gone, but not without being heavily punctuated by memorable moments.
A la prochaine…
Adrian Leeds Group
P.S. Don’t forget to set your DVR for another episode of House Hunters International. Re-airing of “Perturbed in Paris,” August 10. Details available on our House Hunters International page