BASTILLE DAY AMIDST THE STORM
As a host of Canadian sites from Niagara Falls to Montreal’s Ferris Wheel came alight in the bleu, blanc et rouge of France yesterday (July 14), the European nation celebrated Bastille Day in modest fashion, though still better than last year when national holiday events were curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, thousands of troops marched in a Paris parade, warplanes roared overhead, and traditional parties took place around the country, though some towns scaled down fireworks gatherings, and the number of onlookers at the parade in the capital was limited. Each person attending had to show a special pass proving they had been fully vaccinated, had recently recovered from the virus, or had had a negative virus test. Similar restrictions were in place for those watching an elaborate firework show at the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday evening.
Nevertheless, spectators converged on Paris from around France, glad to be able to see the parade in person even if frustrated with the restrictions and long lines for virus security checks.
“It’s nice to be able to get out a little bit and finally get some fresh air and think that all the people are here, and that we are getting back to normal a little bit,” said Gaelle Henry from Normandy.
Masks were ubiquitous among spectators, and de rigueur for the dignitaries watching the parade under a red-white-and-blue awning emulating the French flag.
The clatter of hundreds of horseshoes accompanied military music as uniformed guards on horseback escorted President Emmanuel Macron. Some cheers rose up from civilian onlookers as Macron rode past restaurants, luxury boutiques, and movie theatres that had been shuttered for much of the past year and a half.
Organizers of this year’s parade dubbed it an “optimistic Bastille Day” aimed at “winning the future” and “celebrating a France standing together behind the tricolour (French flag) to emerge from the pandemic.”
Leading the parade were members of a European force fighting extremists in Mali, while among others honoured at the parade were military medics who have shuttled vaccines to France’s overseas territories, treated virus patients, or otherwise helped fight the pandemic.
Mirage and Rafale fighter jets thundered past in formation and, just before the ceremony, a soldier proposed to his girlfriend in a picturesque moment on the backdrop of the Arc de Triomphe, earning a round of hearty applause.
Meanwhile, in Canada, half a dozen national sites honoured France’s national day, which marks the storming of the Bastille prison in eastern Paris on July 14, 1789 – commemorated as the birth of the French Revolution.
They included Niagara Falls, Toronto’s CN Tower, Montreal’s Ferris Wheel, legislatures in Halifax and Fredericton, and the French Embassy in Ottawa.
“The illumination of these monuments, and particularly Niagara Falls, illustrates the place of France in Canada,” said French ambassador to Canada, Kareen Rispal. “Even though many French and Canadians have been deprived of it in recent months due to travel restrictions, we are happy to welcome them back to France in the last few weeks”
Sophie Lagoutte, Consul General of France, added, “The illumination of the Montreal Ferris Wheel, where so many French people reside, is particularly significant for us. It is a luminous symbol of the strong and ever-renewed friendship that exists between Quebec and France.”
First published at Travel Industry Today