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I could be walking through the Luxembourg Gardens or strolling along rue Mouffetard, I think, as I listen to French chatter and watch Gallic street performers entertaining the crowds.
It’s as close to France as you get in the USA – a garden party at the French Embassy, filled with good things to eat (authentic French pastries, champagne, crepes, and more), Francophile and French families, couples and friends and more than 20 entertaining street performers from France, Canada, and the US.
As we entered, “The Tonys”, towering twin bodyguards “on a mission to provide security for all living things on the planet”, playfully inspected purses and muttered into their mikes.
Families climbed up the grassy slope to the tree-shaded summit, kids rolled down the hill or played in the fountain, giggled at Magic Brian, or cautiously allowed colorful parrots to perch on their shoulders.
The spacious grounds were a perfect setting for the event, the lawns and terraces filled with entertaining acts: jugglers, acrobats, aerialists, comedians, escape artists, flamenco dancers, even a spectacular flea circus. We chuckled at Petit Monsieur in his too-tight business suit as he tried to get himself and his briefcase into a phone booth, ending up on top, behind, and everywhere but inside, enticing intrigued children to help him in the process. We hummed along with a lively Dixieland band as a juggling unicyclist played the crowd, careening around the terrace and flirtatiously posing for our photos. We smiled at Homo Catodicus, “TV personalities” who high-fived us as they walked by, their black-suited shoulders topped with chattering TV screens as heads.
There’s always something to enjoy at La Maison Française, as Roland Celette, the Cultural Attaché, puts together a terrific program each year. This Garden Party was the finale to the three-day Washington, DC Street Performance Festival, co-presented by the Kennedy Center and the French-American Cultural Foundation. This was the first year of the Garden Party, and from the crowds that attended, it looks like it is well on the way to becoming an annual celebration.
Another exciting event, the Kids Euro Festival, a celebration of European arts and culture for kids four through twelve, takes place in Washington, DC from October 15 to November 10 and will include events at the Maison Française as well as several other venues. Opera for children, improvisational storytelling, puppeteers, dancers, and acrobats are just a few of the exciting performances scheduled.
We’ve enjoyed jazz and classical concerts, new releases of French films (which often are not shown anywhere else in the area, even months later), a classy Bastille Day celebration, wine or cheese tastings and more, all in the company of French expats and Francophiles.
Upcoming events include a harpsichord recital by Blandine Rannou in October and an interview with jazz artist, Yarron in September.
All in all, these events are a great way to spend time and keep in touch with the culture and spirit of la belle France in between trips!
Anne Woodyard has written about food and travel for France Today, Dream of Italy, and BonjourParis. She and her husband are the founders of Music and Markets tours, through which they introduce others to the wonders of Europe.
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