the past in Toronto if I wanted to attend a parade I would go to the assembly area and there I was able to take close ups
of those participating and whatever floats or other items for the parade. I did this with parades like the Santa Claus Parade,
the Gay Parade, Carabana to name but a few. I was determined to go to the assembly are of the Bastille Day parade. This required
me getting up at 7 a.m. in the morning and getting over to the Arc de Tromphe for it was there that the parade marched down
the Champs Elysees to the Place Concorde.
took a cab to within a half-mile and walked the rest of the way on foot. However the best laid plans of mice and men sometimes
don’t work out. The staging area was at the Arc de Tromphe and many streets radiated from there. On each of these streets
units were assembled. However moving between the various streets was restricted so I got only two or three streets. I took
as many pictures as I could and sat down and had a coffee.
tempo and crowds began to increase and by about 9 a.m. the street was filled with people headed for the Champs Elysees. Along
the route the evening before the authorities had organized pens to sectionalize people away from the curb and as a crowd control
precaution. They took barrier gates and made a square at the curb and repeated up and down the Champs Elysees. This kept people
at a distance from the curb and actually allowed better viewing. Behind them they made a square with barrier gates that would
hold about 100 people. The police were very dictatorial about any movement once you had been corralled. Confession. I don’t
do crowds. What to do? The hell with a view behind somebody, I had a sense of the occasion I retreated to my hotel to watch
is a military parade. The only other one that has the same effort is across Red Square on May Day. The parade starts and ends
with the Paris Fire Department. They and the police in France are under the military. Each of the various elements of the
arm forces has several units marching in the parade. The army would have artillery, marines, tanks, foot soldiers and the
like. All units wore their Sunday best dress uniforms. These are usually uniforms that were worn in the 18th and
19th century. A lot of swords, two cornered hats, epaulets on the shoulder kind of idea. Each marching unit was
12 men across and 12 deep. No one smiles in the parade. The military is serious business. They march in lock step down the
view from Place Concorde where the reviewing stand and the President are up the Champs Elysees is spectacular. The Champs
Elysees slopes down from the Arc de Tromphe to Place Concorde. A giant flag hangs under the arch of the Arc de Tromphe and
the street was painted in parallel colours of red white and blue. At certain areas more elaborate paintings are on the street
surface as well. The view with a dozen units marching in lock step down the avenue is spectacular.
addition to the armed forces every military school in France has a unit that marches in the parade. Young Turks lead by some
older man decorated with medals. Vehicles and tanks also fill in the parade. The most spectacular part is the Calvary consisting
of some 124 horses and men. They are all plumed up and breast plated with tussles on their ornate helmets. You could see how
in the past this herd of Calvary would strike fear into the hearts of men. Unlike a parade in Toronto where the street cleaners
follow the horses to clear up the following units tough it out and march stoically through. I am told in England during the
Queen’s Birthday celebration the horses of the Horse Guard don’t do a dump on the parade ground. They seemed to
be trained or not fed before the assembly.
band played martial music by the reviewing stand but at many points they would stop playing and the soldiers in the passing
unit would sing their units fighting song. The most impressive unit was the Foreign Legion. All these men had full beards,
a leather apron and an axe over their shoulder. The legionnaires hat and heavy boots with puttees wrapped around their ankles.
They don’t march like the other units they do a slow strut and arrogant slow strut. Most men’s chest have a billboard
of medals. These guys look like they can fight and have been fighting. They of course sang their warring song. I would like
to hear what a translation of their song was.
is a question for you. What are the following words to this song from?
children of the Fatherland,
day of glory has arrived!
us of tyranny
bloody banner is raised (repeat)
you hear, in the countryside,
roar of those ferocious soldiers?
coming right into your arms
cut the throats of your sons and women!
march let’s march!
a tainted blood
if I sang it in French you would recognize it. It begins with “Allons enfants de la Patrie…If you haven’t
guessed by now I would be surprised, it is the La Marseillaise. This was originally the marching song of volunteers from Marseille
during the French Revolution. A song much like the unit songs being sung during the parade. Oh Canada our home and native
land sounds less blood curtling then the La Marseillaise.
took the salute standing from the reviewing stand with a straight face for the entire parade. As each unit passed they lowered
their flags and swords in salute to the President and then split in two one group going left and other left. Any vehicles
in the parade had the occupants save the driver place their hands so they were visible. I imagine this is a precaution against
assassination of the President. Everything was in perfect order. The sky then thundered with a jet formation-passing overhead
leaving a vapour trail of red, white and blue. Shortly thereafter fleets of helicopters flew by in salute. I am surprise they
didn’t have warships on the Seine to add to the affair.
of this I watched on the television in my hotel room. I took pictures of the screen so you get the idea of the parade. That
evening launched from the Tracadero opposite the Eiffel Tower was a giant fireworks display. People lined the Seine and its
bridges, on the Champs de Mars, in Parks, from rooftops anywhere they could gain a view.
a thought. The most powerful military country in the world doesn’t parade its armed forces in fact it has a parade of
flowers or huge balloons. The only time I recall troops marching in NYC was at the end of WWII.
the end of this military parade if asked for my impression it would be what Sutherland said in the movie The Dirty Dozen.
He was asked to impersonate a general and inspect some troops. He did so and then turned to the commanding General and said,
“they’re pretty but can they fight”?
That afternoon Elizabeth and I
took in the Museum dOrsay my favourite of all the Paris Museums. In the 70’s they converted a grand old train station
into a museum. The likes of Gauguin, Van Gough, Degas and others hang there. Elizabeth was very impressed and joined in my
appreciation of this fine museum.