This past weekend, the French stole the city as they celebrated Bastille Day, the French National Day that commemorates the beginning of the French Revolution and the storming of the Bastille, with parties all over Washington DC.
Every year on July 14th, celebrations are held all over France, as well as all over the world. These parties found their way into Washington DC on Saturday and Sunday as French citizens, French-Americans, and others flocked to different events happening all day around the city.
Surrounded by people dressed in French colors (red, white, and blue), I found myself at three of these parties on Sunday.
At PAUL Penn Quarter at 801 Pennsylvania Ave NW, children and adults competed in baguette relay races. In teams of four, competitors speed-walked around the United States Navy Memorial while holding a baguette. Spectators cheered as they handed off the French bread to the next person and went hurrying around the circle. Everyone — even the chefs at PAUL Penn — joined in at this party. The Alliance Francaise de Washington DC (French Embassy) partnered with PAUL this year and extended the games for children, adding three kids’ activities.
Café du Parc, a French bistro attached to the beautiful and historic Willard Hotel at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave NW, was home to another exciting event. With waiters donning berets and festive balloons lining the railings, customers could enjoy music by the Gypsy Roots Quartet and try special French dishes grilled outdoors, as well as Bastille Day drink specials.
The last event I attended this weekend was by far my favorite. On 34th Street, Malmaison took out all the stops. Located on Water St, this café is open to the street and faces the river. They had delicious crepes and artisanal coffees, teas, juices, and pastries, not to mention festive decorations and a celebratory atmosphere. When I arrived, I found the staff right in the middle of a Waiter Race to commemorate the storming of the Bastille, complete with a blindfolded waiter attempting to fill a bottle with water. The crowd was young and relaxed; some patrons even dressed in Parisian styles to celebrate the day and attempt to win the costume contest.
There was no shortage of Bastille Day festivities this past weekend. Whether you are French or not, I recommend joining in on the fun next July 14th.
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