EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Bastille Day, commonly known in the U.S. as the "French July Fourth," is a holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille, a military prison, on July 14, 1789 in an uprising that gave way to the French Revolution.
The national day was given its name because of what the Bastille symbolized — the tyranny of the French monarchy, especially King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. In honor of the revolutionary day this year, Angelenos and the many Francophiles across Southern California are invited to enjoy a variety of festivities happening Wednesday.
What You Need To Know
- Bastille Day is a holiday celebrating the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, in a violent uprising that helped usher in the French Revolution
- Angelenos and Francophiles are invited to enjoy a variety of festivities across Southern California
- Many in-person Bastille Day celebrations were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic
- Pitchoun! Bakery will host festivities at Beverly Center, while Garçons de Café offers happy hour until 9 p.m. and French Tuesdays will hold a nighttime celebration
"As French expats who live far away from home, it's easy to get homesick so we're excited to use our National Holiday as an occasion to celebrate all things French," said Marianne Perret, co-founder of Coucou French Classes, in a statement.
Coucou Los Angeles, which offers group French courses seven days a week in the Silver Lake area, starts its festivities at 5 p.m. with an open house and apéro (happy hour) for new students featuring crêpes, cider and natural wines. It will be followed by a live band performance, French short film projection and dance party — all of which are taking place on the Coucou patio. Non-students can attend and should RSVP.
This afternoon, Beverly Center — the Southern California fashion and dining destination that has been part of the LA community for 34 years — is hosting its own celebration of Bastille Day.
"We have a large amount of French retailers in the fashion space, beauty space and then, of course, our small business space," said Jackie Plaza, marketing & sponsorship director at Beverly Center. "So it feels like a natural connection to celebrate a holiday that's very meaningful to a population in Los Angeles, and then also that really is part of the fabric of our tenants."
On the sixth floor of Beverly Center, Pitchoun! Bakery is hosting the celebration that includes dance performances, live sketching, a pop-up pétanque French ball game, French flag-themed macaroons and more.
"Because I'm French, that was important for me to try to talk with all these artists and try to gather everybody," said Fabienne Souliès, co-owner of Pitchoun! "This year, we're going to have a tri-colored éclair. We'll also have a fresh fruit tart bearing the colors of the flag."
Due to the pandemic, Pitchoun! supplies and staff are limited, which is why the downtown LA location isn't offering an outdoor event like other years.
"It is very tough, especially for independent businesses like ours," Souliès added.
COVID-19 affected other Bastille Day celebrations in 2020, such as French Tuesdays. Founded by Gilles Amsallem, its annual party is making a comeback this year, starting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at La Boheme in West Hollywood.
"We always have anywhere from 500 people to 1,000 people," said Pierre Battu, co-partner at French Tuesdays. "We have a French DJ, and sometimes we have a pétanque game. We have can-can dancers and, you know, it's a rendez-vous for the Francophile and the French community here in LA."
Other food specials in LA are being offered at Garçons de Café, where happy hour is served until 9 p.m. Wednesday. Menu options include $7 wine, beer and hard kombucha, as well as $12 sandwiches and $10 cheese or charcuterie plates.
Sweet Lily Café in LA is hosting a Bastille Day fête, including a special buffet menu and pétanque tournament — whose winner will receive a $50 Sweet Lily gift card.
Normandie Bakery is also offering a special menu Wednesday, plus live music by The French Toasts as part of an outdoor event in honor of the national day.
It's clear, therefore, that the French community continues to hold a major presence in Southern California.
On y va !