May is a month of public holidays in France, and the eighth is the day the country celebrates the 1945 armistice ending the Second World War in Europe.
Traditionally the president leads the commemoration, and on Tuesday Nicolas Sarkozy invited his successor, François Hollande, to join him on the Champs Elysees.
In just seven days time the job will be Hollande’s alone. On May 15 the formal handover takes place, and Hollande will be expected to name his prime minister. The day after he flies to Berlin to meet Angela Merkel in what will be a key meeting.
While many of the public attending came to see their new president, others had come to say goodbye.
“This is democracy, and reconciliation, putting everything behind us and forgetting; that’s France,” said one bystander.
“I’d never been to a May 8 ceremony, but I came especially this year for François Hollande,” said another.
“This is May 8, so naturally we came, but it’s also a last chance to see our president doing his job, and to honour him for the last time,” said some of his young supporters.
Sarkozy’s swansong will be limited, barring events, to mostly ceremonial duties and ensuring a smooth handover in his final week. After that his UMP party enters the campaign for parliamentary elections, for which Sarkozy’s services are unlikely to be solicited.