TOURTOUR, France — Rockets' red glare, bursting in air, lit up faces of awe-struck kids waving candles in paper bags on sticks. Parents stashed wine bottles to ooh and ahh at lights cascading down the old church tower. Fireworks here, up close and personal, are spectacular.
Afterward, this hilltop Provence village drank and danced late into the night. Visitors retrieved cars parked every which way under roadside sycamores, without a glance from the few indulgent cops. The next day, every TV blared the parade in Paris.
The jets, wingtips almost touching, trailed blue, white, red low over the Champs-Elysées. As always, the Foreign Legion Pioneers stole the show: bearded bruisers in buffalo-hide aprons gripping axes, not guns. Since 1831, they have cleared the way for commandos quelling mayhem in far-flung corners of empire.
Emmanuel Macron stood as tall as a short guy can in an open jeep, flanked by the Garde Republicaine in gleaming silver helmets on horses. His honored guest was Angela Merkel, leader of Germany, which invaded France twice in the last century.
Last year's invitee, an American president who wanted his own show of military might at home, missed the point. Troops and tanks are just the backdrop to a family affair that fetes what Charles de Gaulle called une certaine idée de la France.
That certain idea seems secure on Bastille Day, with its echoes of Victor Hugo: “France, France, without you the world would be alone.” But the country so many of us outsiders love and hate with equal passion is fast morphing into something else.Read More