For 227 years, the French have come together to celebrate the victory at Bastille every July 14. In English-speaking countries, we call it Bastille Day.
This year’s celebration is the first since the Paris terrorist attacks, which killed 130 and injured 368 civilians last November. In response to the attacks, hundreds of vigils around the world were held to mourn the lost lives.
Despite the relatively small French population in San Antonio, about 500 people came to the vigil held at the Main Plaza last year, including Boris Diaw and Tony Parker, the two French members of the San Antonio Spurs.
“The events last year brought the (French) community together,” said Sujiro Seam, Consul General of France in Houston. “It’s a phenomenon we can observe everywhere in the world. Our expatriate community often sticks together in difficult times.”
Seam said the French community in Texas is growing. The consulate estimates that there are 20,000-30,000 French citizens living in Texas right now. Half of them reside in Houston, he said, with another large portion in Dallas, and smaller numbers in Austin and San Antonio.
Despite the small French population in San Antonio, several businesses and nonprofits have organized events to celebrate Bastille Day this year. All locals, French or not, are invited to join the festivities listed below, or celebrate with a free Mini Liberté Tart from La Madeleine instead.
Alliance Française de San Antonio Bastille Day Celebration
Husband-and-wife team John and Elizabeth Collet run the Alliance Française de San Antonio nonprofit, which meets monthly to promote French language and culture. Most of their members are American – either French teachers or people who just love France — and some don’t even speak French.
To celebrate the anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille, the Alliance Française de San Antonio will come together at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday for live music and a three-course dinner at The Grill at Leon Springs, 24116 IH-10 West. Members can purchase tickets for $45, non-members for $55, and students for $35. To RSVP, email Elizabeth Collet, the Alliance president, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tables will be split into “English speaking” and “French speaking” sections, although mingling will be encouraged. Chef Thierry Burkle will serve classic French dishes and renowned accordionist Terry Cavanagh, who performed at the Alliance’s Bastille Day celebration in the ’90s, will provide entertainment.
Collet said she hopes the event will bring awareness as well as new members to the Alliance.
The French flag will fly high, guests will sing the national anthem, La Marseillaise, and celebrate their love of France, all traditions which will surely move guests, especially after the terrorist attacks last year.
“I think the attack made us all closer, like it did here after 9/11,” Collet said. “For a long time, we saw that flag flying around. It was less, but kind of the same thing with the French.”
At the dinner Thursday, she will announce upcoming events such as a wine tasting event at Frederick’s Restaurant on Broadway Street in November and a champagne tasting on Valentine’s Day.
Bastille Day with Chez Vatel Bistro
Acclaimed French restaurant Chez Vatel Bistro will host a Bastille Day celebration alongside Tony Parker’s food truck Crème de la Crème Thursday from 5-9 p.m. Attendees can choose to eat French street food from the truck or dine inside the restaurant.
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Bastille Day in Travis Park
From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, family-owned French bakery La Boulangerie will host an afternoon of French music, entertainment from professional dance groups, French games such as Pétanque, and a picnic lunch at Travis Park. The picnic will include a sandwich, small salad, dessert, and drink for $12 and can be pre-ordered by calling 210-639-3165 or by stopping by the bakery at 207 Broadway St.
Top image: Fireworks shoot off around the Eiffel Tower during the Bastille Day celebration in 2011. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.