Currently crushing on… liberté!

eiffel tower

Fireworks in Paris – Photo by Flickr user

It’s that time of the year when streets in France turn into blue, white and red, the champagne flows, military forces parade on the Champs Élysées, the café waiters race with their loaded trays,  and people go dancing at firemen’s balls before watching the fireworks. And flags are on full display. It is as patriotic as France can get.  Le 14 juillet, also known anywhere in the Anglo-Saxon world as Bastille Day, is for sure the ultimate French celebration.

Growing up, I never really cared about it. A holiday in the middle of my two-month summer vacation did not make much of a difference. But now that I’m far from my country, thinking about it makes me sort of nostalgic and longing for some French spirit.

tarte aux pommes

A French classic: the tarte aux pommes (apple tart)

If you want to indulge in French lifestyle and catch a glimpse of this holiday, there is a good chance that something is organized not far from where you live. Major cities will have some kind of event. In Seattle, there will be a Bastille Bash in Madison Valley, a day early, on the 13th, and a pétanque tournament on the 14th. Personally, since I’m always looking for an excuse for a soirée, I’ll be throwing a “down with tyranny party”, a commemoration of both the 4th and the 14th of July, to celebrate the glorious liberation of our respective homelands from oppressive and unjust rule. If there is one thing that France and the United States have in common, it’s their revolutionary spirit!

If you feel like celebrating too, here are some ideas:

We’ll be drinking the Liberté cocktail, a mixture of gin and lillet.

There is no specific food tradition associated with the 14 juillet, but here are 10 French classic recipes that will take you to Paris.

A video of the military procession — it is quite long…

No good 14 juillet without playing pétanque.

How to celebrate Bastille Day in Paris.

blue-white-red flowers

Blue, white, red flowers for Bastille Day

Have a great weekend and Vive la France!



currently crushing on… the french festival

A new take on the beret. Photo by Chris Blakeley.

A new take on the beret. Photo by Chris Blakeley.

Before the St. Patrick’s Day hangover wears off, let’s have a look at another cultural-slash-boozy (I hope) fest that will be celebrated at the Seattle Center on Sunday: the French Fest, designed as a celebration of French-speaking cultures.

For background, you should know that we French people are very proud of our language (among many other typically French things), and in order to remind everybody of its greatness (and fight evil English), we established the International Francophonie Day, celebrated every year on March 20. Around the world, events are organized to showcase the importance, dynamism and vitality of the French language. This celebration of French-speaking culture is a perfect opportunity to learn about this diverse community which gathers more than 890 million people over the five continents from Paris to Tahiti, via Dakar and… Seattle.

But enough facts and figures. What can you expect from this event? Honestly, I’m not sure. It’s the first time that it’s being organized. To date, we’ve had one yearly French celebration, the Bastille Day Festival sponsored by the French American Chamber of Commerce and the French Consulate. Apparently, French Education Northwest decided to transition away from it to create a more inclusive event.

I only attended the Bastille Day Festival once, last summer, and it was fine. Some of the bands were quite good, and the wine was definitely not bad, but there was clearly a lack of good food options, which is ironic considering France’s reputation in that field. Also, it was sort of very cliché — I’m looking at you, the colleague of Rick Steves whose condescending assertion that “French people aren’t as arrogant as they look” must have offended all the real French people around! — but so is St. Patrick’s, and I guess that’s what is generally appealing.

As it is supposed to be a celebration of the diversity of the French-speaking culture, you should be ready for less France-French and more global-French, from Tahitian dances to Cajun music, from the typical Parisian ham sandwich (jambon-beurre) and Belgian moules frites to Louisiana po’boys. There is no mention of a wine-tasting (-drinking!) area. I understand that this is supposed to be a “family-friendly event” with all sorts of fun activities and games for children, but who will be in charge of those children? The parents, who after an afternoon of “all sorts of fun activities” will only have one desire: to forget everything with a good glass of French wine. Just say’n…


Moules frites. Photo by Flickr user kiwifraiz.

And if you’re learning French, try to take the dictée, a dictation exercise that’s struck fear into the hearts of millions of French students over the years (including me).

Join the Francophone and Francophile community on March 24, 2013, from 11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. at Seattle Center’s Armory/Center House. More information available at

À très bientôt!