Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tuesday Afternoon in Tribeca: Celebrating Bastille Day on West Broadway

We were thrilled to be able to celebrate Bastille Day in Tribeca this afternoon, as West Broadway between Walker and White Streets was blocked off to traffic and became a little part of France in Manhattan.

July 14, of course, commemorates the storming of the Bastille, which we've only recently learned was not a weather event.

Cercle Rouge, a stylish French outpost of delicious repasts owned by George Forgeois and located at 241 West Broadway, sponsored the event. We hear from a carnivore friend that their steak frite is first-rate, and Frank Bruni likes it too.

West Broadway was transformed into 18 pétanque courts with 62 teams competing in the tournament. Pétanque is French for "boring game."

But the sport has a great and noble history and was once common in Europe, along with the bubonic plague.

In the 14th Century, showing unusual compassion for his people, King Charles IV of France forbade the sport to commoners.

Pétanque is played by about 17 million people in France, mostly during their summer vacations, which can last up to ten months. The matches, however, only seem that long.

We had a hard time figuring out this sport or game or whatever it is. But then we were busy yawning a lot.

Pétanque seems to involve tossing things and arguing. In that way, it is like Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, only with more drinking.

This youngster was obviously caught up in the excitement of the sport.

We came away with a greater understanding of how the French first formulated the philosophical concept of "ennui."

Where did they get all that sand from? Well, Beach Street is just a block north. . .

Traditional French food, drinks and insults were served outside throughout the day.
Spectators watched the tournament while enjoying grilled merguez sausage sandwiches ($6), together with Ricard and Lillet drinks, wine and beer ($6).

Even riders from the Tour de France biked over to enjoy Lillet, l'apéritif de Bordeaux. Très frais!

Giant bottles of Evian water were readily available so that we alcohol-free celebrants could hydrate ourselves. And they were conveniently placed next to salles de bains portatives.

The Montgolfier brothers, of course, made France famous for its balloons. Les enfants ont été ravis par les tours de ce magicien.

All kidding aside (and the French have a great sense of humor - they love Jerry Lewis, don't they?), we were pretty entranced by this fun event too.

Nous sommes des idiots qui ne peuvent pas apprécier le petanque, mais nous avons apprécié la célébration d'aujourd'hui.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

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