Bastille Day is back somehow. France marked its national day on Wednesday with a parade of thousands of soldiers, thunderous overflights of warplanes and traditional festivals across the country, a year after the pandemic cut back the 2020 celebrations.
Two horses stumbled and disembarked during the parade on the Champs-Elysées, but overall the main event of the day went according to plan and looked very similar to Bastille Days in previous years. A soldier took the opportunity to ask for the hand of his girlfriend, who was kneeling in front of her on the cobbled street to kiss her hand.
Fear of the virus persisted, but the government decided to hold the show as part of its effort to return to pre-pandemic activity.
There were a small number of spectators, confined to a small part of the show. Each person had to show a certificate that they had been vaccinated, had recently recovered from the virus or had tested negative.
There will be similar restrictions for those attending a fireworks display at the Eiffel Tower at night. Spectators came to Paris from all over France, happy to attend the show in person, albeit somewhat angry at the restrictions and long queues at security checkpoints.
Masks were plentiful among the spectators and the viewpoint of the dignitaries who watched the show under a curtain of red, white and blue flag colors.
Soldiers walked without masks: the military command said they had all been vaccinated or had recently undergone a diagnostic test. The noise of hundreds of horse riders accompanied the military marches, as horse guards escorted President Emmanuel Macron, who received some applause from the people. But not everyone praises his handling of the pandemic.
Some cafe owners, hospital workers and parents are criticizing his decision to force all health workers to receive the vaccine and all people over the age of 12 to obtain an entry permit to be able to go to a restaurant. On the other hand, many doctors and scientists have called for stricter measures to contain the virus.
Organizers called it an “optimistic Bastille Day” in order to “win the future” and “celebrate a united France behind the tricolor coming out of the pandemic.” A few weeks ago, optimism prevailed in the country, but the national mood clouded with new infections caused by the delta type that forced new measures.
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