A very nice place to celebrate July 4th, our US Independence Day, is in Paris, France. It takes place a few days ahead of Bastille Day on July 14th, which is the French national holiday.
I arrived here in Paris today and will be staying with my friends of long standing, Ken McCoy and Christian Aertgeets. Ken is originally from Oklahoma but has lived in Paris for the last 43 years. He retired in France after 35 years of service as an English teacher. Christian is French and is a retired book publisher. They have a beautiful apartment overlooking Park Montsouris, one of the 4 large public parks in Paris. It was created by Emperor Napoleon III, to build a green space for the ever-growing population of the capital city.
I will certainly be eating well as Ken has attended the Cordon Bleu School of Cooking. With that and many great recipes provided by his Oklahoma grandmother, practically every Saturday night in Paris is a salon— a get together of super interesting people.
On July 4th one of the traditions is for the Americans ex-pats or tourists to get together across the street in Park Montsouris and celebrate July 4th with song, dancing and drink. The park is great at any time because they’re always having dances, concerts and exhibitions. It’s a great place to people watch. The lake in the park is filled with swans, ducks and a water cascade.
The United States has a great July 4th connection with the French because of the Marquis de Lafayette, a French general and political leader who enthusiastically supported the American Revolution. The Continental Congress appointed him as major general in 1777, and he was granted honorary American citizenship. Today Lafayette’s name is prominently memorialized in the U.S. capital, most notably in Lafayette Park, directly behind the White House—a clear indication of the indebtedness Americans felt to France and its valiant service to our revolution. Lafayette played a critical role in the ultimate victory of the Revolutionary War, co-leading American forces in the successful defeat of Lord Cornwallis’ British armies at Yorktown.
In case you are in Paris and get a little homesick for back home, here are some places to hang out:
- Breakfast in America – With two locations on either side of the Seine, you no longer need to miss a good ol’ American diner meal while you’re in Paris. Whether you’re looking for scrambled eggs and bacon in the morning, or a great burger in the afternoon, this little restaurant is a big slice of Americana. 17 rue des Ecoles, metro Cardinal Le Moine and Jussieu; 4, rue Malher, metro St. Paul.
- Ralph’s – Ever wondered what it would be like to have dinner at Ralph Lauren? Just step inside his flagship Saint Germain boutique and you’ll find out. This historic building’s interior courtyard and old stables have been converted into a fine dining experience, à la Americana. From Black Angus steak, to California wines and a great burger, Ralph’s courtyard is the perfect way to feel like you’re celebrating the 4th in your backyard.
- Harry’s New York Bar – One of the most historic bars in Paris, located at “Sank Roo Doe Noo” (5, rue Danou.) Harry’s bar is a hundred years old this year. It was originally in New York but its owner had the entire bar disassembled and shipped to Paris. The Sidecar and the Bloody Mary were invented here. It’s also the bar where Gershwin composed An American in Paris, and one of the only bars in Paris that hasn’t changed a lick since it opened in 1923. You can even order a hot dog at the bar.
- Cantine California – One of the food trucks to hit the Paris streets in the last year, Cantine California serves up classic Californian foods, such as tacos, burgers, cupcakes, milkshakes, French toast and breakfast burritos. Follow the truck’s location around Paris via their twitter (@CantineCali.)
I lived here in Paris for ten years and it’s where my literary career began. More about that in the next blog. Cheers from Paris and greeting to you from my friends Ken & Christian.