Fréjus, France

Fréjus, France
Aqueduc Romain

Friday, May 8, 2009

VE Day



EDIT: Here is an english transcript of Sarkozy's speech we heard that day. Quite moving.

Irie's piano teacher works for the Mayor of Frejus (who is also a French Senator - they are allowed dual roles here), and she informed us at her last lesson that she had reserved 3 tickets for us to go see President Sarkozy give his VE Day speech in St. Maxime. We were delighted and jumped at the chance! Victory in Europe Day is a national holiday in France as it was the day Germany signed an unconditional surrender ending WWII in Europe. While most Americans are taught in school about the storming of Normandy, France (on June 6, 1944), they are less aware that we also invaded France from the Mediterranean in the south. The Allies invaded on beaches that are in neighboring communities of Frejus, near Dramont/Agay to the east, and St. Maxime and St. Tropez to the west. This invasion, Operation Dragoon which took place on August 15, 1944, helped push the Germans out of France and to eventual defeat.

Today we left our apt. at 7:20 am, as we had to walk to Frejus centreville to catch an 8 am bus full of Frejusians who, like us, had invitations to this event. St. Maxime is less than 30 minutes along the coast, and we were dropped off at 8:30 with a lunch and told we would be picked up by the same bus at 2:30. The event was extremely well organized with various groups being put in various, pre-arranged spaces. The event was taking place directly on Le Nartelle beach where one of the Allied landings took place. There were rows of chairs for special guests, mostly veterans and their families, and behind them, rectangular corrals. We were there so early that we walked right to the front railing of our corral and stayed there for the next 4+ hours. We had a remarkable view as the crowd filled, the band played patriotic songs, the various military outfits marched into place, and volunteers handed out free water, cookies and madelines, and collected our trash. Like most of our experiences in France it was very civilized and orderly...and in this case, gratuit.

Two days ago, while on the beach in Frejus, we had seen large military ships heading west and knew they were moving in for this event.


Today, they could be seen out at sea, standing guard and ready to display France's naval power. Sarkozy entered right on time, reviewed the troops lining the beach, shook hands with vets, and walked directly in front of us on his way to the podium. He gave a short, but poignant speech about war, how it is to be avoided, but sometimes cannot be, and thanked the allies for helping France save their country. Lisa said she got about 95% of it and that it was very Camus-like. After his speech he was helicoptered out to the big aircraft carrier where he, with all of us, watched a display of naval and air force maneuvers. It was a dramatic day, one we felt honored to be a part of, as well as being unofficial representatives of the U.S. A couple different cameramen focused in on Irie standing at the barrier with us, and after the event Lisa was interviewed by a major news source en française. Here's the video of our day. Thanks Elizabet for the tickets!!

8 comments:

William said...

You are really a lucky dog. Another great experience for you and your family.

For History buffs like us this is great.

Dad

Ken said...

VE Day should have more significance in the states. While D-Day was a massive undertaking, the overall victory meant much more. Perhaps it was because the war was on European soil and we were so removed from it that the importance is muted?

It must have been really cool to be that close to Sarkozy. I can't imagine that we'd ever be able to get that close to Obama.

We are in full swing of soccer season here and things are wildly busy. I think we get a break in August............

Rick said...

Though there was plenty of security with police, secret service, and military presence, we were amazed there were no metal detectors, no bullet-proof screens to protect the president and only a cursory search of our backpack and no search of my purse. They did collect our names and address when we picked up the tickets and verified such when we got on the bus. Maybe on a related note, our friends have expressed their shock at the shootings in the US and how easy it seems to get guns. Not easy here. So maybe that has something to do with the security methods.
On another note, I was chatting with a woman in our group and she mentioned Obama would be at the Normandy festivities in June this year, and we would have a better chance of seeing him there than in the US! True! We're going to start working on that, but I think it's a long shot....
Lisa

William said...

Hey, I was within 30 - 40 feet of Obama during the campaign rally in Grand Rapids. Lots of security. They even emptied the arena at 1pm and then re-scanned all office employees for re-entry. All emps and everyone went thru metal detecters, plus had plenty of police and dogs, and of course both uniformed and plain clothes secret service.

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a wonderful experience!!!! I can't wait for yet more details. Awaiting your arrival...happy anniversary!!!! Here's to many more! Love to Irie, Lisa and you Rick!

Rick said...

Thanks Athena. Just got back from a couple hours of "alone" beach time. Going out to dinner tonight.

Note: I just added a link to the post that is a transcript of Sarkozy's speech, for those interested in what he had to say.

William said...

Quite the speech, must have been great being there and hearing this
Dad

Anonymous said...

I LOVE YOU ALL!!!!!

Ahena