Monday, July 14, 2008


Manhattan's the Borough of Festivals, but Brooklyn's catching up. For years, Brooklyn has been home of the West Indian Day Parade and various Caribbean events, celebrating its black roots. My, how times have changed. For the past several years, Smith street in Carroll Gardens has been home to local Bastille Day celebrations. It's the day in July that the French celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution, when commoners stormed the Bastille (the prison that Kings and Queens used to lock up its non conforming citizens). It's their Independence day, if you will.

Smith street is now home to not one, not two, but, FIVE French restaurants. Half of them are near Bergen Street, where Bar Tabac holds it's annual Bastille Day event and the others are near Degraw Street, where a smaller, but growing Bastille Day is blossoming.

I actually find these events boring. Once you've eaten the food and have had a glass of wine, your done. One of the little stands was selling these colorful and I'm sure sugar loaded little treats. They reminded me of what the old lady down the street would throw in my trick or treat bag at Halloween. I passed. Another stand was selling crepes, which I love, but again....too sweet. I didn't see any French fries, but one place was selling sausages and I'm not quite sure they're very French.

One of the big attractions each year is Petanque, the French version of the popular Italian lawn bowling game, Bocce Ball. At both locations on Smith street, organizers set up their own Petanque courts, the more elaborate and quite official looking of them located near Bergen street.

"Pétanque (pronounced [pe.tɑ̃ːk] in French) is a form of boules where the goal is, while standing with the feet together in a small circle, to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (jack). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass or other surfaces. Sandy beaches are not suitable. Similar games are bocce and bowls."

You know, as boring as this Bastille Day celebration was, I still love it. I love it because it's just another of the potpourri of ethnic celebrations we have in New York City. Every month, some ethnic group is celebrating something....and every month we have an opportunity to soak in their culture and understand what makes them tick. I'm sure Des Moines, Iowa has it's French, Italians, Mexicans, Salvadorans, Brazilians, German's and Russians, but their populations are so small, they never materialize into a full blown street festival. And, that's ashame, because here in the Big Apple, I'll never have to leave New York to see how the rest of you live.

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