Bastille Day Celebrations in the US


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July 4 may be over, but Bastille Day is just around the corner! Similar to America’s Independence Day, Bastille Day – July 14 – celebrates France’s national holiday, complete with fireworks, parties, and red, white, and blue decor. Although the most notable Bastille Day celebrations are in Paris, there’s no need to take a trip across the pond to enjoy the festivities. Check out these four Bastille Day events held in cities around the US:

New Orleans, LA - Possibly the largest Bastille Day celebration outside of France, New Orleans – with its French roots – boasts a huge, free public festival that includes live music, dancing, and lots of tasty French/Cajun food.

Chicago, IL – If you’re in the Windy City on July 14, stop by Daley Plaza for the famous Bastille Day “Waiter’s Race”, where waiters from all over the city race while balancing a serving tray, without spilling a drop of Grand Cru.

Philadelphia, PA – Prior to the Bastille Day block party, Philly features French revolutionaries, armed with muskets and cannon, and singing “La Marseillaise,” storming the grim walls of “the Bastille” and dragging Marie Antoinette to a real, functioning guillotine – all at the Eastern State Penitentiary.

Milwaukee, WI – Milwaukee has more than just brews – stop by this weekend for the annual Bastille Day lineup which includes wine and whiskey tasting, live music, can-can dancers, belly dancing, and more.


Royal Ascot: High Stakes and Style

Royal Ascot

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Tomorrow begins Royal Ascot – the 5-day British spectacle, known as much for its top racehorses as it is for its sophisticated, and sometimes over-the-top, fashion. A mainstay in the British Royal calendar, Royal Ascot represents one of the most well-known sporting events in the world and one of the best dressed audiences. Very few sporting events go to as great of lengths to enforce or strongly encourage a “fancy” dress code for onlookers.

But the dress code does more than provide clarity for those attending the famous racing event. It also helps differentiate the race and attendees’ from other standard races. And where you perch for the races utimately dictates what you are expected to wear.  For instance, those viewing the races from the Royal Enclosure are expected to dress one way, while those in the Grandstand another.

Although the dress code has not changed drastially in decades, race-goers often need reminders about what is and is not acceptable for raceday. The venue has provided dress code guides with all tickets and even employs dress code “advisors” to offer gentle reminders and “appropriate” clothing for sale as you enter the gates. Royal Ascot officials have even taken to social media to school the audience on the dress code, using a clever YouTube video.

Want to read more about the high fashion of Royal Ascot? See the official 2014 Royal Ascot Style Guide.

Learn more about what happens during the 5 Days at Royal Ascot.

Fresh French Bread

French Bread

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It may be 2am in Paris, but the French can still get their fresh bread fix. A recent invention by a French baker offers fresh, hot baguettes by way of a unique vending machine. Now it may seem sacriledge for the French to buy bread from anything other than a bakery. However, many bakers, including Jean-Louis Hecht, just can’t keep up with the demands of citizens wanting fresh bread at all hours of the day. To address this, Hecht invented the Pain Vending machine, where, for just one Euro, the vending machine will bake a pre-cooked loaf of bread and dispense the hot baguette in less than one minute. Voila! The French really do love their bread.

Maybe fresh French macarons are next. A girl can dream, right?

Mother’s Day Macarons

French Macaron - Vanille

While in downtown Chicago this weekend celebrating Mother’s Day, I happened upon one of my favorite French pastry shops outside of France – Vanille Patisserie. (By the way, this charming little shop is a MUST if you enjoy a little taste of French heaven in the Windy City.) While I debated the store’s Sunday hours, I anxiously googled the shop’s website to find that they were indeed open – thank goodness!!

The shop sells many French pastries, but what they are known for are the delicate and decadent French macaron. Unlike the American version that’s made with coconut, the French version features two flaky, yet chewy cookies that sandwich a cream or ganache filling.

Although I arrived toward the end of the day, there were still plenty of gorgeous macarons to choose from. I immediately spotted the cassis macarons and, as I had hoped, their dark purple color was as rich as their black currant flavor. One dozen macarons later, I was admiring my colorful wares displayed in their charming chocolate brown box wrapped in a purple bow. Little by little, I managed to make my way through the entire box (sharing a few with my husband and darling children), tasting all of the flavors I purchased, including:

  • Cassis
  • Vanilla
  • Red Raspberry
  • Pistachio
  • Boston Cream

Four days later, I found myself staring longingly into that same brown box, now completely empty, wishing for Mother’s Day and macarons all over again. C’est la vie!


The Good Life: Lessons from the French

The Good Life in France

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If you’re like most Americans, you probably work all year long hoping to save enough money to, one day, afford the “good life”. The idea of the good life is relative….good to one person may mean spending all of his/her time traveling in luxury, while another may associate the good life with being happy, healthy and surrounded by family and friends.

Take the French for example. Many French see the good life as more than being rich in goods or cash but rather rich in life and experiences. This may seem too idealistic for most Americans, who seem to live life like a race, hoping to get to the finish line first. But it is only when you visit France yourself that you truly begin to realize…..they just might have found the secret to what life is all about. Learn more about how the French live The Good Life with these 5 Simple Life Lessons.