Today is Bastille Day, the anniversary of 1789 uprising when the people of Paris rose up and stormed the Bastille prison. Their actions set in motion the overthrow of the monarchy and the birth of the modern French Republic.
In France, Bastille Day is a national holiday that is celebrated (much like our Fourth of July) with parades, parties and fireworks. In the United States, festivities marking the day tend to be both sparse and quirky and generally include a peculiar event called a “waiter’s race.”
For several years Les Halles Brasserie has organized a Bastille Day block party in downtown Manhattan. Even though the restaurant is currently covered in scaffolding and the street outside is undergoing major construction, the party went on, including dancing girls, waving flags, a four piece band playing La Marseillaise, chilled champagne, food fresh off the grill and special appearances by a cow, the Statue of Liberty and Marie Antoinette.
The barricades, metal plates in the asphalt and potholes made the footrace particularly challenging; professional waiters had to walk (no running allowed!) the course holding a full tray; the winner wasn’t the first to cross the finish line, but the first to cross without spilling a drop. In the spirit of empancipation, this year the “waiter’s race” was won by a steady-handed waitress. Viva La France! Viva Viva L’indépendance! Viva La Femme!