Bon 14 Juillet -- 'Official' Bastille Day Events Range From Predictable to Très Bizarre

Categories: Local News

Two hundred and twenty years ago today a Parisian mob overwhelmed the 82 geriatric soldiers (and 32 able-bodied ones) guarding the seven prisoners housed in the Bastille. As stormings go, this wasn't exactly the most impregnable fortress -- but it did trigger the French Revolution. So, today, you can celebrate in San Francisco by overpaying for foie gras or going to the disco.

A quick glance at the official Bastille Day celebrations listed on the Web page of the Consulate General of France in San Francisco turn up a number of interesting events -- and one that is truly bizarre.

First, the normal: At 10:30 at City Hall, there will be a cérémonie de lever des couleurs -- a flag-raising. Gavin Newsom or other locals who attend are reminded that "Merci beaucoup" means "thank you very much" while the sound-alike "Merci beau cul" means "thank you, beautiful ass." You are encouraged to make the mistake. Won't cause a stir at all.

Second, the predictable: The consulate pitches an 8 p.m. soireé at Ruby Skye featuring ample French cuisine. Truly, there is nothing more French than watching a bunch of hairy, skinny guys in tight clothes and Pumas dance frenetically. The consulate also plugs a trip to the French restaurants on Belden Place. What the Web site doesn't mention is that these locales are the absolute best place to pay $60 for food that cost $20 or $25 yesterday and will again tomorrow. Also, on a personal note, an authentic rude French waiter is as cliched as an Italian guy from Brooklyn shrugging his shoulders and saying "Fuhgeddaboutit" or "Whaddya gonna do?" -- but I did see the former at Belden Place several Bastille Days ago. In San Francisco -- unlike France, however -- these folks still expect to be tipped.

Finally, the unbelieveable: The consulate mentions the "messe officielle du 14 juillet" -- the official mass of Bastille Day, which was held on Sunday at Notre Dame des Victoires on Bush Street. Truly, this is an astounding notion: The Catholic celebration of the event that triggered the systematic dismantling of the Catholic church in France, and led to a great many priests and other religious figures being guillotined or chased from the nation with their possessions in tow. Needless to say, you don't have official Bastille Day masses in France today -- it'd be like McDonald's offering a commemorative burger giveaway on the date of a violent vegetarian uprising.  

Oh well -- whaddya gonna do? Bon 14 juillet.

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