How to Celebrate Bastille Day in DC in 2021

Claire Handscombe

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Bastille Day, or le quatorze juillet, as it's simply known in French, is the National Day of France: an opportunity to celebrate the national motto of liberty, equality, and brotherhood. And, if you're a Francophile, it's also a great excuse to eat cheese, drink wine, and celebrate all things French.

Here's how to do that in DC in 2021.

Become a Member of the Alliance Française

The Alliance Française is celebrating Franco-American friendship this year with a special offer on their Red White and Blue Membership, with a half price discount between 4th and 14th July. There's an option for both individuals and families, and this basic level of membership entitles you to register for classes, attend reading clubs and other events, borrow books from the library, access language learning materials, games, and cookbooks from the culturetheque, and a whole lot more.

Sign up for language lessons

Been meaning to learn French forever? The Alliance Francaise is a great place to sign up for language lessons, currently all offered online. They offer a placement test, so you can figure out what's right for you, and then there's a huge variety of classes, from traditional classes from beginner to advanced level, to grammar refreshers, bootcamps in problematic areas like the subjunctive, French history and French literature. And that's just for adults! Kids are catered for from the age of one.

Treat Yourself to a French book

In partnership with the cultural services section of the French embassy in New York, the flagship store of Politics and Prose on Connectictut Avenue NW has a selection of French books for adults.

If you don't speak French, books in translation are a great option for exploring and celebrating the culture. East City Bookshop has a selection, as well as a couple of knowledgeable Francophone members of staff (disclaimer: one of them is me).

See the Statue of Liberty's little sister

After journeying across the ocean to New York City as the Statue of Liberty once did, a nine-foot replica arrives at the in DC this week and will be installed at the French Ambassador's Residence on July 14.

Eat, drink and be merry

In North West DC, the beloved French brasserie Le Diplomate will offer free caricatures, live accordion music, and specialty French cocktails alongside their traditional menu. Other options in the North West quadrant of the city include Adams Morgan's Mintwood Place, who will offer French-themed specials, and the Opaline Bar & Brasserie at the Sofitel Lafayette Square restaurant, whose celebratory jazz and sculpture exhibit runs from 5.30 to 8.30 pm and which offers a mouth-watering Bassite Day menu.

On the Hill, a great place to celebrate is Bistro Cacao, whose special set menu will feature a variety of crepes. There will also be live music on the patio from 6 pm to 9 pm.

And in South West, enjoy wine and bubbles, passed hors d'oeuvres, and live entertainment, as well as stunning views, at the Wharf's La Vie.

This year, the French Embassy's annual Bastille Day party pays tribute to the Savoie region. Dress up in your best cocktail attire and treat yourself to a champagne welcome and a VIP dinner, complete with a live band. Festivities take place on Friday, July 16th, from 7 pm.

Related posts:

7 Key Resources for Beginning French

100 Must-Read Books Translated from French

What to Read if You're Learning French

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

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