I have always loved Frederick Forsyth’s book The Day of the Jackal , as well as the film of the same name starring Edward Fox, and I was much reminded of it when I was in Paris earlier in the week.
It was only rather belatedly that we realised that our visit would coincide with Bastille Day, and, of course, I wanted to see some of the celebrations. I had accepted that I wouldn’t see much of the morning’s procession, except perhaps the fly past up above, so I was pleasantly surprised to surface from the Metro at the Madeleine and see that police barriers were lining the road and that a small crowd was gathering behind them. Neither of us wanted to flex our French and find out what was happening, so we took our places alongside everyone else and then waited patiently.
Presently a group of soldiers singing a raucous battle song marched up, and they were followed by many more units of soldiers and firemen. Apparently, the Madeleine is the place where everyone disperses at the end of the parade, so, although we didn’t see any dignitaries, we had an extremely good view of almost everyone else.
And – yes, you’ve guessed – the spectacle was entirely free, as were the fireworks above the Eiffel Tower later in the evening.
So far as I’m aware, M. Hollande departed unscathed from the events, as did President de Gaulle in Frederick Forsyth’s book. And by the way, yes I know that in the book the climax was on Liberation Day, not Bastille Day, but, as I said at the beginning this week’s celebration was merely a reminder of a very good book!