We call it Bastille Day the French call it La Fete National but its history is cause to celebrate a whole lot of things French.
It comes at the same time, of course, as Le Tour de France. Like Canberra, the tour is 100 years in the making and is now - even for those who’ve not been on a bike since infant’s school and then with training wheels - is quite fascinating viewing on SBS with the affable Phil Liggett on the microphone.
Now it’s good not just for the fine physiques, but absolutely for the travel tales and views from the start this year in Corsica (maybe with a little homage to the most famous Corsican, Napoleon) to the Champs-Elysee and all the razzamatazz that accompanies it. The charming Gabriel Gate is part of the commentary team and whipped up an apricot and almond toffee ice cream for their Fete National screening. It was to die for, while the riders pumped the pedals up the famous Mont Ventoux and the cricket was too tense to watch.
In Canberra, we’d celebrated two days earlier at the residence of the Embassy of France on the sunniest and warmest day in a cluster of cold days. The chef at the Embassy of France, JeanMarie Le Rest, was in his element for this day with Mumm Champagne, pate, duck rillettes, cheeses, terrines and petit fours – remember it’s the fives and sixes that do the damage – and bread.
And it's bread that makes the insouciant charm of an early morning trip to the baker in Paris for a fresh baguette such a wonderful routine that could have been lost with le pain d’egalite of whole wheat and rye, which the first National Assembly in 1789 created after all that storming of the Bastille, as the bread for all classes. Not popular, but the citizens were starving. So maybe a brioche would have been more nourishing, as the "qu’ils mangent de la brioche” (let them eat cake) is actually a sensible option, though a derogatory statement wrongly attributed. But give me a brioche and a baguette, slabs of charcuterie and a glass of champagne and the world is a delicious place.
Hosts Ambassador of France Stephane Romatet and his wife Agnes welcomed a large crowd, with the oldest French lady living in Australia, the lovely Nicole Henderson who is almost 100, just a little disappointed the crowd didn’t break into a rousing rendition of La Marseillaise.