Bonne année celebrations in Paris: What a way to spend the first day of 2017!

JANUARY 3 — Minus 3 degrees was too cold to drag the kids to the midnight bash on the Champs-Élysée, and so the New Year’s Day parade seemed like the next best thing.

Our city of Paris certainly knows how to throw a good party, and despite the grey skies, Sunday afternoon’s was a fabulous example of exactly that.

For two solid hours, marching bands, entertainers and dancers representing almost all corners of the world — Bolivia to Africa, the US to India — strutted and flaunted their stuff along the avenue des Champs-Élysée connecting the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre.

Normally chocker with traffic, it’s not often you get to saunter down its shiny cobblestones and savour the sights.

My mum had sent me a text from Wales to warn us to be “extra vigilant” in Paris that afternoon. The possibility of another terrorist attack in the city of light is never far from the mind, particularly given the talk of temporary bomb-shelters erected along the avenue, and the wall of police-vans and security checks sealing the parade zone.

My heart skipped a beat when I first heard the sudden wailing of a siren. But fear melted quickly away when I realised it came from a mini fire engine equipped with a hose blasting the crowds with plumes of confetti. What fun!

My sons made a dash for the wagon whilst stationary, grabbed fistfuls of fallen paper ammunition, and a kaleidoscopic battle ensued—I’ll be finding brightly coloured hearts in the house for days to come.

It felt good to have some belly laughs in this uncertain Trump-Brexit-Batalan era we find ourselves in. Live for the moment

Hubby Tom and I were soon thrusting our hips to the beat of Portuguese drums and dancing a jig with the Indian bagpipers (we must have looked a right sight!).

My two previously VT-daughters (VT being family code for vile teenager) were caught giggling and happily snapping pics. of the parade, and the boys keenly darted and dodged legs to get prime-viewing space.

I’ve taken plenty of video footage and photos to give you a flavour of the zany parade, replete with exotic costumes, booming drums, the tallest NYPD officer in the world, Capoeira combat dancers, Brazilian Mardi Gras bikini-clad dancers and London cheerleaders.

Marching bands, entertainers and dancers representing almost all corners of the world — Bolivia to Africa, the US to India — strutted and flaunted their stuff along the avenue des Champs-Élysée connecting the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. — Picture by Helen Hickey
Marching bands, entertainers and dancers representing almost all corners of the world — Bolivia to Africa, the US to India — strutted and flaunted their stuff along the avenue des Champs-Élysée connecting the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. — Picture by Helen Hickey

It seems very sentimental and naïve to say, but it’s times like this, when you see so many cultures from so many different countries—evident both in the parade itself as well as the thousands of spectators—coming together, spontaneously, and having a jolly good time, that make you wonder how peace and harmony do not prevail? How can hate possibly exist? How on earth could the attacks in Berlin, Iraq and Istanbul have happened this festive season, or at all?

As I type this column, the smells of the snow-white Christmas stalls lining the far end of the Champs-Élysée rest with me: sweet freshly-fried churros, roasting chestnuts, and clove scented mulled wine. 

Neatly wrapped up with the smoothing image of two smiling police officers, one relaxing his hold on his rifle enough to sneak a photo of the merry proceedings.

Wishing 2017 could be one such joyful parade of life! Doesn’t harm to allow oneself to ooze with optimism one full day of the year, at the very least.

Bonne et joyeuse année à tous et bises xxx. Helen.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.