Today is the "national holiday" (Fete Nationale) in France, and as every year, there was a parade this morning down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This year we had the good luck of watching it from the 4th floor balcony of an office building right on the avenue, thanks to some of my wife's clients who have their offices there. What follows is the best of the photos that I, far from a professional, was able to get from our vantage point.
For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, the parade is always military in character, with marching soldiers, tanks, Humvees, jet planes, helicopters, and the grand finale--impressive to be sure--parachutistes who managed to land right in front of a beaming President Nicolas Sarkozy. I asked one of my wife's colleagues why the parade is so military when July 14, known to anglophones as "Bastille Day," actually marks the storming of the Bastille prison on July 14, 1789. Why not, I asked, include a little truck with the original of the Declaration of the Rights of Man? He didn't really know, although he thought that the holiday focused on patriotic tradition rather than revolutionary values. Another idea, I suggested less seriously, would be to allow First Lady Carla Bruni to organize a squad of super-models in between the military men. That got a laugh from everyone, because the French seem to be both proud of and embarrassed by a president head over heels in love with a model turned singer (and not that good a one, to be honest.)
One interesting aspect, at least to me: A couple of brigades of firemen were in the march, and they received the biggest applause from the crowd lined along the avenue when they passed. I would hate to think that the French are more appreciative of those who protect their individual houses than those who defend the entire country, but one never knows.
I am too novice a blogger (or Google's Blogger is too clumsy) to get the text aligned properly with the photographs, but watch out for the following: Police up on a roof watching for snipers (and ready to snipe themslves); the tiny figure of Sarkozy on the far side of the head of the Army in a jeep; the blue, white and red trails of jets as they pass overhead; and a couple of white United Nations vehicles stuck somewhat sadly between big green French tanks. Enjoy!