Sunday, 16 July 2017
Although the lower end of the Champs Elysées is lined with grandstands, presumably for the great and good, the sans culottes are able to stand at the upper ends, where the various military units taking part get into formation and wait their turn to march off.
And there is, of course much waiting, and (given the times we're in) a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere (though intending spectators have to run the gauntlet of security searches a good way back from the parade, before they're allowed to get near it, and the metro stations directly on the route are all closed).
Eventually, the general in charge drives down inspecting the troops (not much he can do if they're not up to scratch at this point, though), then the Garde Républicaine escorts the President down at a trot to his position at the end of the parade on Place de la Concorde. President Macron got the biggest cheer from the crowd near me, though for some reason they also seemed particularly keen on the prison officers' contingent, and of course the firemen bringing up the rear.
I had been warned that if you were in a position to see anything at all of the parade, you would be under the trees and therefore unable to see the planes which, unlike our Trooping the Colour, lead off the parade as such. Thereafter there's something of a stop-start for the different contingents as they catch each other up, and while various additional ceremonials take place at the Presidental saluting base. Don't tell the general, but during one of the lengthier pauses, one of the tank commanders got out his camera and starting photographing the crowd.
Once we'd all managed to disperse (not much in the way of police control to open up ways to keep people moving), it was surprisingly easy to find a bar nearby that wasn't inundated with people, so I managed to catch the tail end of the official TV coverage, which showed some interesting power play between Macron and President Trump. At the end of the ceremonies, the general in charge came up to be formally greeted by his President (of course), with Trump hovering somewhat awkwardly a few paces in the background. Macron's greeting became an extended and lively conversation, with the hovering Trump looking more and more like the cousin who can't not be asked to be bridesmaid; eventually Macron went back towards his seat and the general, somewhat hesitantly, likewise turned to leave. Only after a few steps did Macron turn back, and wave the general forward again, in a "Go on then, you might as well" sort of way, to introduce him to Trump (who to his credit did everything congratulatory you would expect). No doubt about who was in charge in that exchange.