Thursday, July 16, 2020

Le 14 Juillet Fete Nationale (Bastille Day)

My next post was to be about conversations I had with my friend Naomi Caryl Hirshhorn.  Since many of my readers may not be familiar with her I started reading her old blog and taking notes for my post.  She wrote her blog for over ten years and included many posts, so reading them kept me busy for quite a while.  But then we arrived at the 14 of July and a special post was necessary -:)  This year our 14 July National Day celebration had a reduced format with a parade closed to the public but broadcast on television.  Many Paris town halls sent notices to respect the novel coronavirus safety rules.

The Bastille Day parade down the Champs-Elysee was cancelled, a first since 1945.  It was replaced by a small ceremony at the Place de la Concorde, without vehicles, and with only 37 detachments.  It started by a tribute to former French President Charles de Gaulle.  The year 2020 is the triple anniversary of his birth 130 years ago, of his call to resist on 18 June 1940 and fight France's Nazi occupiers thus starting the French Resistance and of his death in 1970.  French President Macron said "Nous commémorons la figure du général de Gaulle, qui n’a cessé d’agir pour la souveraineté de la France. - / 'We commemorate General de Gaulle, who acted continuously to keep France's sovereignty."  In case you have not read it, I wrote a post in 2014 detailing General de Gaulle's actions during WW2 and the liberation of Paris, click here to read it.

The novel coronavirus outbreak being the primary focus, the second part of the ceremony was particularly addressed to the medical staff and soldiers mobilized during the COVID-19 crisis.  Emphasis was given to Operation "Resilience" that enabled the setting up of field hospitals and the transfer of patients.  President Macron called the ceremony "the symbol of the commitment of an entire nation and of our resilience."  He also said "Exceptionally, this year, our armies ... will cede the primary place to the women and men in hospital coats who fought the novel coronavirus and who remain "ramparts in the crisis."  Invited among all the guest were 1400 persons representing the essential French workers on the front line during the pandemic: health providers, caregivers, families of caregivers who died from the virus, teachers, cashiers, funeral officers, police, gendarmes, firefighters, mask making factory workers, test giver staff, etc. The event slogan was une nation "engagée, unie et solidaire" - "a nation "committed, united and supportive."  It was not open to the public, but broadcast on television.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

Four foreign countries were invited in gratitude: Germany, Austria, Luxembourg and Switzerland.  The French Minister of the Armed Forces said they "were invited to thank them solemnly for their help during the crisis."  "Due to saturation from hospitals in the Grand East region of France, French patients were able to be cared for thanks to their assistance."  The patients were evacuated from the eastern part of France via air, rail and boat to these countries.  (Most photos courtesy France 2 TV, Le Parisien, Nice-Matin, Internaute, Sortir Paris, RTF and from videos on my computer.)

The festivities started with a sustained aerial parade, opened by nine Alphajets of the Patrouille de France (French Patrol) with their famous tri-color smoke bombs.  About fifty aircraft (some with caregivers aboard) were in the air parade, including an A330 MRTT that had evacuated patients with COVID-19 and an A400M Atlas from the German Air Force that had transferred patients from Strasbourg to Ulm.  They were followed by 20 helicopters that had evacuated patients.  The mini land parade included troops from the Army Medical Corps (mobilized to open resuscitation medical structure under tent in Mulhouse) the 2nd Dragoons Regiment, specialized in radiological, biological and chemical threats - they provided disinfection of infrastructure and COVID-19 patient transport.  Also included were firefighters from Marseille and crew members of helicopters who conveyed medical equipment and reinforcement overseas.  Most everyone was observing social distancing.

Masks were worn.

At the end of the parade, caregivers in white coats joined the soldiers to the standing ovation and strong applause from all the attendees, while a huge blue-white-red flag was deployed to the sound of the French National Anthem, the Marseillaise.

Finally, the French air patrol made an exceptional second fly-over leaving behind a white trail in honor of health and essential workers.  For the 4th July here in the USA, Independence Day, I read that President Trump had hosted a "Salute to America" with a fly-over and bands.  But I did not watch it so I don't know if he mentioned and thanked healthcare and essential workers, do you know?

Following the scaled-back Bastille Day ceremony French President Macron gave a long televised interview.  He announced a "massive" recovery plan which would reach €100 billion ($114 billion,) on top of more than €460 billion spent so far to limit the economic damage of a costly two-month lockdown.  His government has agreed to give pay raises worth €8 billion ($9 billion) to health workers, as he hailed their role in fighting the pandemic.  I watched part of the interview on French TV, but it was long.  He also said: "On peut critiquer. Moi, je suis pour le débat.  La haine, le discours radical, la brutalité, je crois que ça ne fait pas partie de la vie démocratique et que ça affaiblit plutôt une démocratie." - "We can criticize, I am all for the debate.  Hatred, radical discourse, brutality, I believe are not part of a democratic life and they rather weaken a democracy."  President Macron also ordered that mask wearing be mandatory next week for everyone in indoor spaces such as offices and stores, as it is now for outdoor places, to avoid a rebound in COVID-19 cases - a €135 ($155) fine may be imposed for non-indoor mask wearers as it is now for non-outdoor mask wearers.

A while back President Macron invited Dr. Christian Chenay to a dinner party at the Elysee Palace in Paris.  Dr. Chenay at 99 years of age (born June 21, 1921) is the oldest practicing physician in France.  Christian Chenay continues with his consultations, twice a week in his office (with no prior appointments) or at a Christian mission, and by visiting nursing homes.  He says "If we stop, we decline very quickly.  I'm better off being a doctor than playing bingo or sudoku with 60 year old age groups and becoming an idiot."  Though he has only a fax machine and a computer on his working desk with no high technical surgery equipment, Doctor Christian Chenay says he updates himself with Online Journals.  After his wife died in 2002 he remarried in 2012, at 91, with Suzanne, a 70 years old Vietnamese Buddhist.  His commitment to serving others for so many years was praised by President Macron who said "The example you give is truly inspiring."

The Concert of Paris was given at 9 pm on July 14th at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.  The program included international artists, such as soprano Fatma Said from Egypt.  Korean maestro Eun Sun Kim conducted the National Orchestra of France and the Radio France Choir in a medley of music:  Edith Piaf Hymne to love, music by Verdi, Berlioz, Tchaikovski, West Side Story of Leonard Bernstein, Beethoven's Egmont Ouverture, Gounod, Charlie Chaplin's City Memory, Lalo, Catalini, La Boheme of Charles Aznavour, Serrano, Ravel and Mozart's Concerto #23.  It ended with La Marseillaise sang by Angelique Kidjo, from the Republic of Benin (West Africa) who was born there on July 14, 1960.  She is a 4-time Grammy Award singer, songwriter and is also an activist.

After the concert came the traditional fireworks offered by the City of Paris.  This year the theme was "le symbole de la résilience de notre capitale et de notre Nation et un hommage à tous les héros du quotidien qui ont œuvré pendant la durée de l’épidémie.  " - "the symbol of the resilience of our capital and our nation and a tribute to all the everyday heroes who labored during the pandemic."   As usual the fireworks were fired from the Champs-de-Mars.  However, since it was not safe to have a large crowd in attendance, the public was invited to watch the show from adjacent streets, windows, balconies or on television and internet.  Some spectators did watch from the banks of the river Seine and from the hills of Montmartre.  Most large cities had cancelled their fire works such as Marseille, Lyon, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Nice, Bordeaux and more.

Even from a distance the fireworks on the Eiffel Tower in Paris had been breathtaking.

Still, this had been an unusual 14 July National Day, indeed.


Elephant's Child said...

Thank you. It is always a treat to see another post from you.
Your posts are invariably well researched, beautifully interested and thought provoking.
I didn't see it, but would be surprised if President Trump thanked the essential care workers. It seems out of character somehow.
Stay well, stay safe.

Susan Heather said...

Good to see you back. That was most interesting. My brother lives in France and has for over 40 years but posts about happenings in the U.K. rather than France. I had not seen any of this on our news here in New Zealand either. Good to see masks worn. They are not worn here but if things change I am sure they will be.

Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Vagabonde,
Happy belated Bastille Day to you.
Last year we were more involved as we went to Hilton Head Island to the Yves Delorme outlet for their special Bastille Day Sale.
We also went on a biking trip... great dinner together so we did celebrate!
Let's hope that soon things will no longer be overshadowed by the COVID excuses... that's how they keep us all in their grip. So sad that so many businesses will perish because of all these politics.

DJan said...

It's always such a treat to see a post from you. This was all new information for me, since none of the local news covered what France did for Bastille Day. I didn't watch the occasion at Mount Rushmore but in the clips I saw, nothing was mentioned about the sacrifice of our essential workers. He played down the virus and said it is totally harmless in 99% of cases. He is a sick man. I am reading Mary Trump's book right now. I hope you will stay safe and keep writing your marvelous posts! :-)

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

It looked like a beautiful celebration.

Our heroes wear different uniforms today and the world owes so much to our front line workers who give up everything to fight this war on Covid.

Jeanie said...

As always, a fascinating and well researched and written (and illustrated!) historical post! But I am so eager for news of Naomi. I have tried to reach her more than once with no reply. I recently was given a copy of her Spoon River CD and to be able to hear her. I hope you post it soon. And if you know if I can still reach her -- I've worried about her often as we have the same lung illness -- please let me know.

David said...

Hi Vagabone, Looks like a great celebration even if it was reduced in size and scope due to the coronavirus. I did see a number of people in the photos that weren't socially distanced and weren't wearing masks. Nevertheless, France's Covid-19 numbers and the economy are headed in the right direction. Lack of cohesive leadership here has been and is the issue. I'll have to check the stamps in my French collection to see if I have the ones shown. Stay Safe and Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Marja said...

How great the healthcare workers got honoured like that. All my respect to them. Also great that they got a pay raise. The concert looks great and the fireworks on the Eiffel tower is absolutely stunning. The last time I was in Paris they had a light show on the Eiffel tower which I enjoyed.

Kitchen Riffs said...

Fun post -- really great read. I love to watch the Tour de France, and of course each Bastille Day French riders try to win that day's stage -- such a neat tradition. I'm missing Le Tour this year, and although at one time they hoped to ride it in September, I really doubt if they'll be able to. :-(

Mae Travels said...

Your details about the French celebration are fascinating! I only knew of a few of the events and their participants and honorees. Clearly, the French care much more about the safety and prosperity of people there than our government does. I'm so glad you posted this: I only posted my memories of past 14th of July events.

As the death toll here rises, people seem to increasingly avoid grasping the severity of what we have done -- surely you are being ironic when you ask if Trump "thanked" anyone.

be well... mae at

Vicki Lane said...

An inspiring post. France seems to be dealing with this pandemic quite well. I weep for the US.

Kay G. said...

Vive la France!

DUTA said...

Your post is a splendid account of the 14 of july festivities in Paris!
The focus, naturally, this year, was on the Covid-19 and the efforts made by countries and workers to fight against it.

The french president, Macron, is young and so very handsome! To be honest, I don't expect politicians to be more than that. I have low expectations of them. Let's hope president Macron is indeed one of great quality.

Ginnie said...

Man alive, Vagabonde! If this is what it's like during a pandemic, I can't imagine what it would be like during a "normal" time!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Thank you for sharing these beautiful details of a beautiful event. How lovely to thank the efforts of de Gaulle during the war as well as all the many people who helped the French people during the pandemic. I did not view the American festivities; everything right now has been highly politicized and I find I must stay away from much of that.

Glenda Beall said...

So good to read another wonderful post, Vagabond. I am so impressed with France's celebration and honoring the essential workers in the country. In our country, these are the people who are sacrificing most. Soon, it will be teachers who are sacrificing as many are feeling like they will be "canon fodder" as one teacher said.
I learn so much from your blog and I am a life-long learner who loves your posts.

Marie-Anne said...

Thank you, dear Vagabonde, for this festive post on our 14 Juillet!
Vive la France! Celebrations were indeed so different this year, I watched part of them on the TV.
Thank you also for your kind comment on my blog. I am happy you liked the bag I made for my daughter. As for the masks you would like to sew, you have better be careful and not go out shopping for fabric. Instead, you could recycle some fabric from an old shirt or T-shirt.
Comme tu aimes les vieilles photos, je t'en envoie une par mail, de la réception du 14 juillet à Athè y a 66 ans!
C'est une photo que j'ai publiée sur ma page Facebook.

Brona said...

Thank you for sharing an event so close to your heart.
In Australian Bastille Day barely rates a mention, so it was lovely to see all your images and read about the details that don't make the quick mention on our evening news.

And a big thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. The Parisian is a magnificent read if you get the chance. It sounds like you will find many points of personal connection.

Stevenson Q said...

Hello vagabonde, I would like to thank you first for visiting my blog. It then led me to this beautiful blog of yours! I very much enjoyed reading about Bastille Day! It's such a beautiful and meaningful celebration and it's very nice of France to commemorate and show gratitude to its neighboring countries for their help in times of need. I love the photos you shared with us all. Macron is truly good looking and Dr. Chenay looks so adorable at 99 years old, I am so amazed by his dedication to his passion and field.

Have a great new week!

Buttercup said...

What a fabulous post. I've been in Paris for Bastille Day and I so enjoyed seeing Bastille Day 2020. I am remiss in doing a Bastille Day post, so many thanks for the reminder. Appreciate your visit to Buttercupland. I lived in Nashville, Hillsboro area, in the 1970s and don't get back to visit as often as I would like. Bonjour!

Powell River Books said...

So many things have been cancelled worldwide for the first time since World War II. We are in a war for sure and it has negatively affected almost every community. So sorry you couldn't get home to France. Hope your current location in the States will keep you healthy and safe. - Margy

vvb32 reads said...

Wow! amazing fireworks display. Enjoyed your post :-)

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

They celebrated the past *and* today’s real hero’s as well. How great! Glad to see many wearing masks. I know you would have loved to have been there. No travel for awhile for any of us I’m afraid.

Nadezda said...

Hello Vagabonde!
I'm late to tell you: Congratulations on Bastille Day!
It is a pity that this holiday was not as beautiful as usual.
I love your photos and the fireworks are really impressive.
Take care of yourself, dear!

Dewena said...

I wish I had been earlier to wish you Happy Bastille Day! I've enjoyed your description so much and the video of the fireworks was gorgeous. I'm reading a biography of David Bruce who was an ambassador to France and loved France so much. Dr. Chenay is such an inspirational man!

Rhodesia said...

It was great to hear from you once again and this is a fabulous post. It was very quiet around us though there were a few fireworks which we heard from home, there was no advertising that it was on this year, or not that we saw.

I am sorry to have just read, somewhat belatedly about your husband in 2018. My FIL has Alzheimer and is 99. He is very fit in the body but the head has lost it almost completely. My SIL has come over from Australia to care for him, she has now been with him for 3 years and she cannot carry on indefinitely. She has her own life to live and her own family but she wants him to have all of the best. We tried 6 weeks last Christmas to give her a break and neither of us has the right temperament to cope. She was a school teacher of difficult children and I think she treats him as she did them!

Thanks for your very kind comment on my blog it is much appreciated.

Take care and have a good week and stay safe. Diane

Joared said...

I enjoyed reading the particulars of France’s celebration and tribute to Covid-19 health care workers. Appreciate all the visuals you provide with your narrative.

judee said...

Thank you for this interesting and informative post. I enjoyed reading it. Happy Bastille Day.

Linda P said...

I have been concentrating on gardening and have not been watching television so much. It was interesting to get your description and photos of an important event for the French nation. It was fitting that workers on the front line fighting this terrible virus were thanked. We owe them our gratitude for all that they have done and continue to do. Our daughter who is in the medical profession is one of them so I know firsthand of her years of service and dedication and the challenging aspects that have arisen due to this deadly virus. I appreciate your blog posts and your kind comments left on my blog. Please take care of yourself. Best wishes.

Arti said...

What a moving post! Thank you for sharing all the photos and telling us about the French Nation standing together and honouring heroes during the Covid-19 Pandemic. Love the masks they're wearing! Your post as always is rich in information and historical context, and positive vibes. :) Bravo!

Ginnie said...

You sure know how to pack a post with fabulous information, Vagabonde. Everything you want to know about this year's "unusual" 14 July National Day! Well done.

Roderick Robinson said...

Bastille Day was very muted last week at Autignac (near Béziers) and we were without an interlink connection at the villa. Potential enlivenment occurred at about 10 pm when a neighbour, down below us, carelessly let loose a rocket which flew horizontally into next door's porch. We watched for metaphorical fireworks but these never arrived.

I used to have a postcard carrying de Gaulle's wartime address to occupied France. And remember particularly:

"La France a perdu une bataille! Mais la France n'a pas perdu la guerre."

When we had the house in Loire Atlantique I asked M. Nicolas, the local menuisier how Bastille Day would be celebrated in our village, Drefféac. He was characteristically terse: "Marseillaise played by the Fed (Fédération Interalliée Des Anciens Combattants), a boules tournament, a dance at the Salle Polyvalente."

From Autignac never a sound (apart from the rocket).

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