Let your inner Frenchman out, and celebrate Bastille Day

2006 Bastille Day Street Fair

2006 Bastille Day Street Fair

On July 14, 1789, a crowd of Parisians stormed the French prison called the Bastille, unleashing waves of bloodshed and, eventually, liberté, egalité and fraternité. Considered the beginning of the French Revolution and the end of the monarchy, Bastille Day is celebrated in France with parades, fireworks and the start of summer vacations. So, if one Independence Day just wasn’t enough, ex-pats and Francophiles can also celebrate the other red, white and blue this weekend.If you didn’t already plan a trip to Paris, there are still lots of ways for New Yorkers to embrace their inner Frenchmen. Sure, you could just sit on the couch and watch the Tour de France on TV all weekend, but why not visit the Statue of Liberty instead? It was a gift from the French, after all. Later, have a picnic with French cheeses, French wine, French bread, pâté, crepes, and any of your other favorite French treats. Or how about a “French Kiss?” Rent the DVD, starring Kevin Kline and Meg Ryan (or have even more fun trying one of your own).

Friday and Saturday, enjoy an authentic French restaurant experience at Les Halles (15 John Street, between Broadway and Nassau, 212-285-8585), which features a special menu between July 4 and July 14, and finishes off its ten day Liberty Festival with the annual NY Waiters’ Races on Saturday afternoon. Restaurant wait-staff from all over the city will speed-walk a race course – because a good waiter doesn’t run – in front of the downtown restaurant, while balancing a tray with a bottle and a wine glass on one hand (A Children’s Race and Chefs’ Race are also scheduled).

Also on Saturday, Brooklyn’s own growing French Quarter is transformed into a street fair on Smith Street, near Bergen Street, with food, fun and an intense pétanque tournament, Southern France’s popular street game that is similar to Italian bocce. A bed of sand was brought to South Brooklyn just for the party.

At night, come back to Manhattan to dance the night away at the Bastille Day Ball at Spotlight Live (1604 Broadway, between 48th and 49th Streets, 212-262-1111). The event starts at 8:30pm, with food, dancing and live music, and lasts until the wee hours. Regular tickets are $30 and VIP tickets are $100. Proper attire is required.

2006 Bastille Day Rally

2006 Bastille Day Rally

The celebration continues on Sunday, July 15, when the Greater New York Citroen & Velosolex Touring Club welcomes people who appreciate all things French – but specifically French cars and motorbikes – to join them at noon at Riverside Drive South and 122nd Street for the 8th Annual Bastille Day Rally Around New York City. The event is free to join, and all French vehicles are welcome.

For non-motor heads, the 2007 Bastille Day Street Fair invites everyone to be French for a day (between Fifth Avenue and Lexington Avenue on 60th Street, from noon to 6pm). Over 15,000 Francophiles are expected at this “Street Fair with French Flair,” which closes the weekend with pétanque, French cancan dances, soccer games with the New York Red Bulls, French food, live music and more.

So, put on your best beret, memorize the words to the French national anthem “La Marseillaise,” and be French for a day!

This article was published in the July 13-15, 2007 weekend issue of amNewYork.