If you closed your eyes on Smith Street on Sunday, July 16, between the myriad conversations in rapid French and the clack of boules from the pétanque court, all sound-tracked by the brass band Les Incognitos, you would have been hard-pressed to remember you were in Brooklyn.
Opening your eyes you’d have see the streets packed, the drinks flowing, and the hot sun shining on the celebration of Bastille Day, hosted by local standby Bar Tabac. The bar itself was packed, with guests squeezed onto the patio, sitting around tables with chilling bottles of Lillet and rosé.
But the real action was on the streets, where food and drink vendors served up French favorites such as crepes suzette and croissants from local bakery Bien Cuit, alongside distinctly American fare—Texas Nachos, anyone?
Bastille Day, the French National Day, occurs on July 14, though it was celebrated on Sunday in the French expat enclave along Smith Street with French-owned and influenced restaurants and shops running from Boerum Hill into Carroll Gardens
Pétanque courts were set up in the street, with rough timber frames and sand spread directly onto the asphalt. Teams of three competed in a tournament, launching small metal boules across a sandy playing surface towards a cochonnet, or jack, in a game reminiscent of bocce.
White hats and yellow sunglasses, branded swag for Ricard, were ubiquitous, as were the libations the company was promoting. Perrier offered up swigs of flavored sparkling water to the thirsty crowd, while some enterprising store owners simply sold beers by the bottle straight off the sidewalk.
A giant banner strung across the intersection of Dean and Smith Streets proclaimed, “Enjoy Bastille Day” and “Celebrate Frenchship!” From the happy sound of voices, and accents both French and distinctly American, it was clear all of Brooklyn was together, celebrating in summer style with the famed French values of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.