France celebrate World Cup win: The story from the streets of Paris
PARIS, France -- Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe's goals against Croatia in last Sunday's 4-2 win in the World Cup final prompted massive public ecstasy as people flooded the streets all over France to celebrate Les Bleus' second trophy. Not only Paris, but Marseille and Lyon were awash with bleu, blanc et rouge on Sunday evening.
Those scenes were repeated in the capital on Monday as Didier Deschamps and his men triumphantly returned home from Russia to celebrate with their people before a date with president Emmanuel Macron.
Two hours before the squad was due to arrive by bus, as I made my way from Invalides to the foot of les Champs-Elysees in sweltering heat, masses of people were already flocking to Paris' most iconic avenue. I realised how arduous the task of making my way up the crowd would be.
Next to le Grand Palais, I came across 27-year-old Alberic, who told me the scenes were "Incredible!"
"I was less than 10 years old when France last won the World Cup," he said. "But I still remember everything about it -- it is crazy to see these sorts of scenes around the Champs again."
There was a festival atmosphere as I started my ascent. It was like being at Rock en Seine, the only difference being that the headline act this time was the French national team and not Johnny Hallyday (a French icon, though he never actually played at the festival).
Pockets of people were sitting on the floor, benches and pretty much any flat surface imaginable, while others were standing and craning to get a better view.
Those not fortunate enough to benefit from the views from offices and apartments lining the street took their pursuit so far that they climbed trees, scaffolding on nearby buildings, newspaper kiosks and the canapes of closed shops lining the street -- much to the displeasure of security staff watching the buildings.
It was a mixture of old and young, with some children on parents' shoulders as flags swirled, Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" (the anthem of France's 1998 success) and Queen's "We Are the Champions" dominating the senses.
Georges, a 52-year-old Parisian, was there with his family and was also present 20 years ago to celebrate the 1998 success.
"I was in my early 30s when this last happened and plenty has changed since then," he said. "I was not sure if I would see scenes like this again for the football team. Since then, though, we have had Euro 2000 and now this.
"It truly is a victory for all of France. Look around us, there are old and young people, as well as many different origins: this is the France that we know and love."
Settling for a position midway up the route, it was a long wait as the sun beat down and some people had to seek the shade to avoid heatstroke -- others seemed happy to burn in the sun as they waited for a glimpse of their heroes.
To pass the time, many sang the names of the players -- Benjamin Pavard and N'Golo Kante have become firm favourites among Les Bleus' supporters -- while others danced and encouraged me to join their conga lines.
There was plenty of jumping while klaxons blared, flares were set off and others simply banged together the kitchen utensils they'd brought with them to generate as much noise as possible when the bus drove past.
"We are so, so proud!" 31-year-old Alexandre told me. "The players did great, Didier [Deschamps] and his staff too.
"We were not too sure what to expect after a slow start to the World Cup, but we were always confident we could win it and create scenes like these."
While the wait was long, the event itself was over very quickly: the bus passed l'Arc de Triomphe de l'Etoile at speed on its way towards Palais de l'Elysee, while l'Armee de l'Air francaise (French air force) passed twice overhead to add to the spectacle. The flares set off in the crowd as the vehicle came past obscured the view, so plenty charged after it as it passed in an effort to snap a photograph of the moment.
Once out of sight, the crowds made their way past l'Arc de Triomphe and into the bright Parisian evening: many (myself included) headed for a celebratory drink on a terrasse.
With metro stations shut all around les Champs-Elysees, people without cars, scooters, motorcycles or bicycles were forced to walk a good distance before finding any public transport. Cars and scooters passed with horns blaring, drivers and passengers waving tricolore flags, chanting "Allez les Bleus" ["Come on the Blues!"] and "On est champions du monde!" ["We are world champions!"]
"It's great to see everybody out on the streets and so happy these past few days," said 28-year-old Kim of the scenes. "There have been tough times in France over the past few years, not only Paris, so celebrating something so positive is a very welcome change."
Pogba's wish that France would "explode" with joy was granted on Monday, and the feel-good factor surrounding the national team is well and truly back. As Mbappe put it after the World Cup final on Sunday: "We were aware that we were in a role to help the French people forget about their problems."
For that, the French public are grateful, and nobody will forget this party in a hurry.