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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Les Aventures de Mme. Beaubien: Bastille Day -- July 14

There's nothing like the parades, picnics, fireworks, Sousa marches and BBQ that we experience on the Fourth of July, but the French celebration of Bastille Day on July 14 is quite different.

In LePuy, it was a pretty low-key day. Most stores were closed and traffic was quiet and at a minimum. People took the day as another opportunity for leisure on this long weekend. After all, the Tour de France would be coming soon and people were perhaps saving up their energy and excitement for that. In the evening, however, we were treated to a 30-minute fireworks display near Notre Dame, the church built on top of an ancient volcano that is topped off by a statue of the Blessed Mother. It was your typical fireworks show except that for me, this year, it was in France. 

The real action on this day was in Paris. This year was different in that newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron entertained newly-elected U.S. President Donald Trump in a show of unity between our nation and France. Macron's invitation to Trump also marked the 100th anniversary of America's entrance into World War I. 

The two-hour parade down the Champs-Élysées included thousands of French troops, 241 horses, 62 airplanes and 29 helicopters all marking the storming of the Bastille military prison in 1789, the turning point in the French Revolution. About 150 U.S. soldiers, airmen, sailors, and Marines (see photo above) dressed in the uniform of the time participated as American aircraft  maintained a flyover the parade route along with the "Patrouille de France" who typically let loose with a dramatic trail red, white and blue signifying the French flag.

As ceremonial as the day was supposed to be, most of the media focused on the leaders' handshakes and Trump's indiscreet and undiplomatic remark about what good shape Macron's wife was. Oh well, we've learned to expect such obsessive concerns on the little things when it comes to the relationship between Trump and the press. 

After the parade and talks, which amounted to five hours between Trump and Macron, the most time Trump has spent with a foreign leader thus far, the president and his wife, Melanie, took off for home and Macron and his wife made their way to Nice to participate in memorial ceremonies of the 86 lives lost last year there when a huge truck sped through a crowd celebrating France's Bastille Day. Fireworks displays there had been banned for this year, and the cannon traditionally fired for Bastille Day was silent. First-responder heroes were recognized with medals and the whole ceremony was somber, low-key and dignified out of respect for the victims of the tragedy. Quite a contrast to the celebratory nature of the day.

However, the evening celebration in Paris featured an impressive concert of classical music performed by the Orchestre National de France, the Choeur de Radio France and the Maîtrise de Radio France who accompanied several well-known international opera singersThe music mostly included arias from famous operas like PagliacciLa BohèmeDon Carlos as well as orchestral pieces like "The Gates of Kiev," "Boléro" and the theme from the film, Chariots of Fire. A large choir of children in white tops and black bottoms backed up by a large choir of adults in formal wear sang a couple pieces. In all, the music was breath-taking with a concluding rendition of a most beautiful national anthem, "La Marseillaise" as all on stage and in the 600,000+ audience sang together (see YouTube below).

Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé !
Contre nous de la tyrannie,
L'étendard sanglant est levé, (bis)
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats ?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes !
Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons !

Arise children of the fatherland
The day of glory has arrived
Against us tyranny's
Bloody standard is raised
Listen to the sound in the fields
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts

To arms citizens Form your battalions
March, march
Let impure blood
Water our furrows

The evening ended with a climatic 37-minute fireworks display (feu d'artifice) that interacted with the Eiffel Tower accompanied by jazzy recorded music that included "I Love Paris" by Frank Sinatra. C'etait magnifique

Sr. Line made three batches of popcorn--with butter--as our staff and the four sisters from New York munched on this treat and witnessed the evening's shows both on TV and outside our front door. It was truly an evening to remember.


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