le 14 juillet

french flag

This morning when I woke up, it sounded like rain outside. Which was odd, because of the harsh sun streaking through the creases in my beloved light-blocking curtains, it seemed strange that there would be precipitation. And sure enough, when I stumbled over and yanked opened the curtain, the sky was crystalline bleu with just a few wisps of clouds lingering around the Eiffel Tower. There was not a drop of rain was in sight.

There was, however, a steady stream of French National Guardsmen, dressed in their finest, strutting down the boulevard, en route to the parade on the Champs-Élysées. The sleek, polished horses they were riding were making that pitter-patter sound on the pavement. For today is Bastille Day.

No one here calls it that, it’s only us anglophones.

They say, “Le quatorze juillet”, or “The fourteenth of July.” Just like we Americans rarely say “Independence Day”, or for that matter, no one ever says “Frisco” except tourists.

(Which I always tell people is like calling Manhattan, “The Big Apple” to New Yorkers—you’re kind of a big dork if you do.)

But today is the big day, the Fête Nationale, which is the day that the French celebrate their storming of the Bastille prison to assert their independence, which happened in 1789. It’s a grand day of national pride and aside from the parade and pageantry, it also launches summer vacation season and there’s a relaxed feeling that has instantly permeated Paris.

The French get a certain amount of flack for taking advantage of their leisure time, but I’ve actually taken a cue from them and start winding down myself. Being a high-strung American, it’s a very pleasant shift for me. Marion Cunningham once said, “Everyone’s always telling me they’re so busy. Well, I’d like to know what the hell everyone’s so busy doing?”

So today I’m joining them, and hitting the streets and parks, engaging in non-stop picnicking and partying. And not doing much else. The weather is gorgeous and I’ve already made a few dozen cookies: Chocolate-Coconut Macarons and Salted Peanut Cookies, which I’m testing for a future project so I have a few hundred to pass around, and, naturally, a couple of batches of ice cream; Gianduja Stracciatella and good ol’ Vanilla Ice Cream.

Then tonight, I’m heading to the Seine to watch the fireworks for a barbecue on my friend’s boat. Of course, there’ll be Champagne and rosé, plus lots of good things to eat, the sky should remain clear, they’ve cleaned up the horse poo, and the mood festive. What’s not to like?

So if you’re not in France, well, Happy Bastille Day to you.

And if you are here—Bonne fête à tous!

50 comments

  • Merci David! À toi et Romain aussi!

    A note of sacrilege: Sunday night my husband and I ate in St. Germain, mainly chosen because it meant a GROM stop afterwards. We got our cups (he only went for a ‘moyen,’ I don’t know what his problem is . . .) and continued strolling. When we turned the corner we saw what must have been a 30-minute-wait-time line at Amorino!!! I wanted to yell at the people YOU FOOLS!! You are a two-minute walk away from Grom, and you’re going to stand here and wait for Amorino!!?!! Seriously, I wanted to put on a sandwich board or something.

    It made me worry for Grom’s prospects here in Paris, if folks can’t find them just a few meters away . . . .

  • Hello David,

    My only visit to France was in 1989 while serving on an aircraft carrier during a Mediterranean cruise. We moored off the coast of Marseilles and spent a few days enjoying the cheese, bread and beer. Copious amounts of each I might add. A Marine can’t stay afloat for very long without his beer to blood ratio dropping dangerously low. (Beer, not the wine?!, I know… We were Marines…) Anyway, our visit coincided with Bastille Day and we had a wonderful time on the beach with fireworks putting the perfect exclamation point on the festivities.

    Thanks for coaxing those memories from the dust filled corners of my brain. ;)

    Enjoy your summer!

    Ronald

  • Anything special/traditional that the French cook on Bastille Day?

  • Bonne fête à tous !!

    (Une parisienne qui adore vous lire)

  • I’d love to be in France for le quatorze juillet, alas, it’s not meant to be this year. I managed to go to a celebration/Petanque tournament in Brooklyn over the weekend, but it was so packed with drunken tourists that it wasn’t any fun.

    Apparently word has gotten out about Brooklyn Bastille.

    Enjoy your picnics, parties, and fireworks, David.

    Chaz

  • Here in Boston, er Cambridge, we feted in Harvard Square on Sunday (Boston has this thing for not celebrating holidays on the correct day. My first quatorze juillet was in the Vendee complete with an accordion band. My second was in Paris which was a bit more rowdy, including teens throwing fireworks down the metro stairs. Enjoy the day — yours sounds lovely. Bonne fete!

    – Zahavah

  • Have a great day David – sounds like a wonderful day to me. Will miss you on twitter……

  • Hi! David, I have neighbors who are french and it’s always interesting to learn how I have put them off in the past 12 years or so that they have lived here. The part in your new book “The Sweet Life In Paris” on the way you have to always address a person with bon jour really opened up my eyes as to why the neighbor always seemed to pop out of her house and say Bon Jour every chance she got. It started to make me feel uncomfortable. I have read quite a few books about the idiosyncrasies of the french,as I wanted to possibly visit one day,But alas my health won’t permit so I read books about it and enjoy it through the eyes of others. Good luck with your home. Warmly, Kathleen M

  • I’ll try not to be consumed with envy thinking about your perch on the Seine while I’m trying to find my friends in la foule on the Champs de Mars. Bonne fête, David!

  • Had a small cup of your Aztec chocolate ice cream last night. C’est manifique!! What a pleasant surprise in your mouth as the smoky, hot chili flavoring hits the palate after you swallow. The most wonderful ice cream ever. Thanks David, can we expect a follow up to The Perfect Scoop any time soon? Everything I’ve made from that book meets with rave reviews.

  • Bonne Fete Nationale !! I watched a bit of the parade this morning on TV – pretty impressive, the formations of horses, military planes (love the colors!), and oh la la, no shortage of fantastically dressed men in uniforms ! Wow. Enjoy the cookies, ice cream and the day off !

  • Is it a rip-off that my French company has me, an American, working today? And the office is a stone’s throw from Place de la Bastille.

    Me thinks so…..

  • Thought this was an amusing article…

    Parisians Urged to Smile More for Tourists

  • I am blue white and red with envy, sounds like a wonderful day! Diane

  • How cruel! No photos of the guardsmen in uniform?

  • Wish I was back in Paris celebrating with you & the crowds.

    Bonne fête à tous David!!

  • AND it’s my mom’s birthday, she’s 92 today!

  • Sounds like a wonderful day. I’m taking my mom to the airport in a bit where she will get on a plane for France (without me, hmph). It’s her first time traveling out of the country (aside from Canada) and she speaks no French so we’re both a bit anxious today…
    Maybe I’ll make crepes tomorrow and celebrate le 14 juillet a day late

  • Sasha: Cruel would be if I had photos of them sans uniforms, and didn’t share them.

  • Joyeux 14 juillet David!! I’m celebrating in Chicago with piperade and fougasse…

    (By the way, I didn’t see a single old man in a fishing vest when I was in Paris last month. I am grievously disappointed. >:( )

  • I’m lighting on “future project”, tell me tell me!! (I don’t expect you to tell yet).

    Have a great time today and tonight, sounds fabulous!

  • I am wondering .. are your books translated to any other languages? Or are they available only in English?

  • I have actually developed a Salty Peanut shortbread for Grand Central Baking in Portland, OR, and, I must say, it’s pretty darn good.
    I’d be happy to share the recipe (with David), or send a sample!

  • Whoops. I’ve been declaring “Happy Bastille Day” to all and sundry. (Even to the poor new French girl at work!) Next year I’ll know better! :)

  • Funnily enough, I just finished The Sweet Life in Paris this morning–I had forgotten it was Bastille Day. You are a true writer–I enjoyed it immensely, particularly the segments about shopping in France, as an American who lived in England for a number of years who experienced a bit of a ‘shop culture shock’ herself. (Will the availability of shopping online and the ability to buy vacuum bags and shoelaces that actually fit threaten French department stores in the future, though, I wonder)?

    I’m looking forward to following your blog and hearing about all of your various adventures.

  • Love your baking plans for le 14 juillet… No Bal des Pompiers???

  • Alas, I celebrated with a bottle of wine and some botched French pronunciations with my housemates. Maybe in a few years I’ll make it to France for a real celebration.

  • Most anglophones, and even a fair few fellow French people don’t realise but the 14th of July is actually celebrating the first day of the republic 1788. The storming of the Bastile was actually to mark the first anniversary of this day, but because it is a more dramatic part of history it’s the part which sticks in most people’s minds. This is why it isn’t know as Bastile Day, but the 14th of July instead.

  • Magali, check your french history, the first republic was proclaimed sept 22, 1792… France was a divine rights state, with a king, in 1788… There was an uprising in Dauphiné on july 14th 1788, called Journée des tuiles (day of the roof tiles) but no Republic ! In the general unrest of the times, fearing foreign troops, the people of Paris stormed the Invalids to get weapons then rushed to the Bastille which held bullets and powder. The Bastille that held that day 7 prisoners (none of them “political”) was the symbol of royal arbitrary. Its fall is the symbolic beginning of the French revolution. But actually on july 14th what is celebrated is the first anniversary of that date, july 14th 1790, which was marqued by the Fete de la Fédération. July 14th became our national holiday in 1880. The french senate chose to commemorate a day of celebration and unity rather than the bloody storming of the Bastille, no matter how historically important that event was.

  • Vive le Roi!

    Down with republics!

    I’ve often thought it was a shame France was unable to embrace constitutional monarchy again after the abdication of Napoleon III and the ensuing activity. So much more interesting than yet-another-president.

  • Was Hitler also much more interesting than yet-another-president?

    One usually chooses forms of government based upon how well they work, not how interesting they are.

  • Genoise, anyone? David? …what?

  • Thanks for the experience of Bastille Day! She visited many times over the years and I adored cooking for her.
    Marion Cunningham is an old friend, and I’ve always adored her directness. And, I don’t know how to fully answer that question for myself. What the hell AM I doing?

  • Oops! Something wrong with my info on the comment above.
    I’m new at this. Please forgive!

  • Since David was unavailable yesterday I amused myself by rummaging through his recipe file. Found many treasures there, among them the fresh goat cheese custards with Strawberries in Red Wine Syrup.

    Just this morning I happen to have 4 gallons of fresh figs some of which are bubbling on my stove for preserves as I peck. I’m going to set aside some to stand in for the strawberries, maybe cook down a little Port?

  • Wonderful Day to Enjoy I hope you Enjoy july 14,2009 :)

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Have a wonderful Day !

  • Shiyiya, last time I checked Hitler wasn’t a constitutional monarch. He did follow a nearly-constitutional monarch though. I am not referring to the Bourbon kings here, I am referring to the House of Orleans which were constitutional monarchs from 1830 to 1848 when Napoleon III took over.

    Interesting fact, did you know the Jewish population in central Europe was under the personal protection of the Holy Roman Emperor and then the German Emperor? That was why Germany was the best place to be if you were Jewish right up until 1918. My great uncle left Australia to fight for Germany in WWI, for that very reason. I do not need to point out what happened when that protection disappeared.

    Anyway, enough history.

  • P.S. Shiyiya, the universal law of the interweb dictates that the first person to mention Hitler automatically loses the argument. Just bear that in mind in future.

  • That sounds like a fantastic way to spend the day! I think we all could all use a little slowing down. I’ll take a page from the French’s book anyday.

  • Appy bastille day! (like Frenches would say) lol

    I saw the firefox from Trocadero and the parade in front of Louis Vuitton

    some photos

    thanks for the nc post

    Cello

  • Hi, David: I couldn’t travel to Paris this year, so did the next best thing and went to Chez Panisse for Bastille Day. I would rather have been in Paris, but Alice and David put together a lovely dinner of lamb with garlic aioli, a super delicious tomato gelee and sweet corn relish, tiny anchovy-size fish bouillabaise, and wonderful warm apricot souffle to top it off. Actually champagne topped off everything and we all got a little more than tipsy. I just finished reading Sweet Life and it provides further proof that you are leading my life in Paris while I am stranded here in Berkeley! Great book, David, and it gave me so much insight into some of the trials & tribulations I’ve had there in the past. Will definitely need to read it again before setting foot on French soil. All the best, Tim

  • Hi, David: Your 14 Juillet sounds like it was gorgeous–any day that starts out with hundreds of Frenchmen marching outside one’s window is a good day, n’est-ce pas? It wasn’t Paris, but Alice and David put on a fabulous Bastille Day at Chez Panisse (again)–lots of champagne, music, dancing, etc. David served wonderful juicy lamb with garlic aioli, a perfectly balanced sweet/salty dish of red tomato gelee and sweet corn, an anchovy-size fish bouillabaise, and warm apricot souffle of indescribable color. I’d finished Sweet Life in Paris that day so I brought it to dinner and we took turns reading from it and laughing like crazy people–it’s amazing how many of us said “And I always thought it was my fault!” Ha! Will make sure to read it again before setting foot on Paris soil. All the best, Tim P.

  • Do you know how much I sigh and bite my tongue at all the people telling “happy Bastille Day!”?!! I always have to add “but we don’t even call it that!”. Yes, je persiste et signe…every year. Just like we don’t say “French doors”… :)
    What’s happy about la Bastille anyway?!! Oh wait, it is no more. That’s what’s happy about it.

  • I clicked through to your post about Marion Cunningham. I so enjoyed reading your post. I recently joined the Baker’s Dozen and have been fortunate to spend some time with Flo Braker (who of course thinks you are wonderful!). I really feel I missed out not getting to know Marion Cunningham. Your post echoes much of what I have heard about her. Thank you for sharing it with us.
    Pat Kline

  • Hi Patricia: Yes, Marion was indeed special. But like Julia Child, you didn’t really need to know her personally.

    You just needed to read any of her books (my favorite was The Fanny Farmer Baking Book, of course) and her personality just blazed right through.

  • Re: M. Cunningham
    Yes, you are SO right — her personality shines through in her books. I especially like the pie making adventures with Jeffrey Steingarten that he wrote about in his book The Man Who Ate Everything — hilarious! Take care. pk

  • Vive la France!

    Here is a version of the French national anthem, for those interested in hearing it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pimdpgeVobE

  • just added your blog and i love the cheese recipe…..i live in san jose and i have to say that i have heard many people call it frisco, the sco, and many others…but the #1 name people give SF imo is THE CITY…which is funny cause i live in san jose which is like double the population yet we call it the city lol…think it comes from the golden state warrior days when they had the city logo….btw to the french people saying “well we dont call it that”…..im an american i can give a rats ass what call it…it just means u can party it up and thats what matters.

  • Last year we had the great pleasure of visiting Paris 3 times for good leisurely visits. So on Bastille Day we had to celebrate by venturing into the city (San Francisco) for a lovely glass of Sancerre at an outside table at Cafe Claude – an untypical luxurious warm day.

    Then we ventured over to the classic Tadich Grill for dinner and were waited upon by a French waiter. He asked if we would like to start with a cocktail and I responded “But of course, it’s Bastille Day.” He answered, “Madame, I like your style!” And next year I will refer to this wonderful holiday correctly!

    Thank you for your blog – it combines two of my most favorite things, Paris and cooking!