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You don't have to be French to celebrate Bastille Day in San Francisco

Wednesday, Jul 10 2002
Some folks go gaga for anything French, idolizing our transatlantic neighbors for their contributions to haute couture, gourmet cuisine, and kissing. You'll have to hide behind your beret to avoid such Francophiles this weekend, when the Bay Area's Gallic community (and related bon vivants) takes to the streets for one of the biggest stateside Bastille Day celebrations.

Though the holiday commemorates the 1789 storming of the Bastille prison that precipitated the French revolution, Bastille Day 2002 "Party on the Pier" requires the storming of another type of venue -- the warehouse at Pier 23, which transforms into a classic French marketplace, complete with jugglers, mimes, and bistro fare provided by local restaurants. It takes place Friday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. in the Foreign Trade Zone at Pier 23, the Embarcadero (at Greenwich), S.F. Admission is $60-$70; call 398-2449 or visit

The Mechanics' Institute Library celebrates with three days of merry-making, starting with the cross-cultural observations of Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce and Le Mariage (see Reel World, page 46). One of the classics of French cinema, Jacques Demy's Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) might appeal even to diehard foes of movie musicals, though every line in the movie is sung. This rainbow-colored 1964 film about two star-crossed lovers has no big production numbers, but it does feature a young Catherine Deneuve singing her way to stardom. The screening takes place on Friday at 6 p.m.; tickets are free-$5. French-born mezzo-soprano Sylvie Braitman shows off her knowledge of French composers at La Joie de Vivre, a program of art songs and compositions by Bizet, Debussy, Godard, and Satie, set to the poetry of literary luminaries like Victor Hugo and Guillaume Apollinaire. The concert begins on Saturday at 8 p.m.; admission is $12-$15. All events take place at the Mechanics' Institute Library, 57 Post (at Market); call 393-0100 or visit www.

Baguette Quartette performs music of a different kind at its annual Bastille Day Concert. Fronted by chanteuse and accordionist Odile Lavault, the group specializes in musette, updating Parisian cafe music from the 1920s through the 1940s with Gypsy swing and Argentine tangos. Snap your fingers starting on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez (at 23rd St.). Admission is $12-$14; call 282-2317 or visit

Most of the local celebrations of "la Fête de la Fédération" will take place in the city's French quarter, that quadrant surrounding Bush Street, near Kearny. Bastille Day 2002 on Claude Lane: The French Rendezvous kicks off Saturday with local bistros offering special prix fixe menus all day. On Sunday, the area will be blocked off to traffic for one of the biggest block parties of the year; approximately 4,000 revelers are expected to dance in the streets until the wee hours of the night. DJs Frank Boissy, Ellen Ferrato, Deep Swing, and many others spin the decks from noon to midnight on Claude Lane, between Kearny and Grant. Admission is free; call 392-3515 for information.

About The Author

Lisa Hom


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