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16
Jul

La Fête Nationale 2012

ON SATURDAY, THE CROWDS gathered, the rain held off and the Champs Elysées was decked out for La Fête Nationale and the annual defilé, the parade to mark 14th July, the French National Day.

Picture from Wikipedia

While the defilé comprising most branches of the French military and civilian services were parading on the ground, overhead, sixty-six aircraft from the Armée de l’Air, led by the French aerobatic display team, la Patrouille de France, flew directly over my apartment and down the Champs Elysées in perfect formation.  From my balcony it seemed that I could almost reach up and touch them. I couldn’t of course, but I was perfectly placed to record their sounds, the sounds that on this day each year become some of the sounds that define Paris.

The Aircraft:

Some ninety minutes later, it was the turn of thirty-two helicopters from the Armée de l’Air, the Armée de Terre, the Gendarmerie Nationale and the Securite Civile, the French Civil Defence Agency.

The Helicopters:

After the morning parade and fly-pasts in the Champs Elysées, culminating with the now customary parachutists landing with pin-point accuracy in front of the Président de la République, members of the government, diplomats and invited guests, the afternoon was taken over with operation  “Les Parisiens et les franciliens accueillent leurs soldats”.

Many of those who took part in the morning’s defilé scattered to various locations in Paris taking their equipment with them.  This was a chance for members of the public to meet the French armed forces and to learn at first hand what they do. It was also a wonderful opportunity to crawl all over very expensive things one would never get the chance to even get close to normally.

I spent the afternoon at the Esplanade of Les Invalides. Some of the helicopters that took part in the morning’s fly-past were now parked here along with some other vehicles.

Of course, I was interested in what was on show but I was also working, hunting for sounds and I wasn’t disappointed.

I found these two men from le Bagad Lann-Bihoué, the very popular French Navy musical ensemble who specialise in playing  distinctive Bretonne and Celtic music.

Music from La Bagad Lann-Bihoué:

And from the Navy to the Army … and representatives from Le Choeur de l’Armée Francaise, the French Army Choir.

The 14th July has become a fixed point in my calendar. I’m not French but I have learned to enjoy La Fête Nationale and all its sights and sounds.

And finally …

Although the defilé in the Champs Elysées is carried out with meticulous precision things don’t always go to plan. This year, the parachutist’s display at the end of the parade was more spectacular than ever. All of them landed inch perfect and bang on target but unfortunately, one of them was injured on landing and, unable to walk, he had to be carried off to one side. These things happen and François Holland, Président de la République, was quick to walk over to have a word with him. C’est la vie!