Picture-perfect setting for French embassy's Bastille Day

Embassy hosts outdoor reception for 1,700 guests to celebrate France's national holiday
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What a day to be French, or just wish that you were. 

The Embassy of France celebrated its country's national day — known in the English-speaking world as Bastille Day — by hosting a three-hour outdoor reception for some 1,700 guests. The festivities all took place on the embassy's fenced and gated front lawn late Sunday afternoon.

The scene was idyllic, like a French Impressionist painting. Guests ate, drank and mingled on the property, located at 42 Sussex Dr. They were surrounded by France's national colours of blue, white and red. The sounds of whimsical music floated from the speakers. 

The weather was warm and sunny with a gentle breeze that seemed to bring to life the streamers hanging from the branches of the mature trees that shaded the yard.

Bastille Day
The Embassy of France in Ottawa hosted a Bastille Day reception on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
The Embassy of France in Ottawa hosted a Bastille Day outdoor reception on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
The Embassy of France in Ottawa hosted a Bastille Day reception on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Ambassador Kareen Rispal, who has captivated the hearts of many since arriving to Ottawa two years ago, was on hand to personally greet guests. She is France's first female ambassador to Canada.

Rispal later delivered her welcome remarks at the podium, speaking for about eight minutes. Canada and France have enjoyed diplomatic ties for more than 90 years and have much in common, beyond the French language.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna, the MP for Ottawa Centre, was invited to speak. She also delivered her remarks in French (she credited her Irish-born father for insisting she become bilingual, beginning with her enrolment in a French-language school in her southern Ontario hometown of Hamilton).

Bastille Day
French Ambassador Kareen Rispal with seven-year-old Kiera Soppelsa — whose mother works at the embassy — at the Bastille Day celebration held in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
French Ambassador Kareen Rispal with Catherine McKenna, federal minister of environment and climate change, at the Bastille Day reception, held at the Embassy of France on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The party was backed by nearly two dozen sponsors, including such delicious ones as Moët & Chandon champagne, Grand Marnier liqueur, Ottawa’s Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts — which served French cheeses — and Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa (its French macarons were a hit). The celebration was a family friendly event, too, with face painting, balloon twisting and ice cream.

In attendance were heads of missions, including U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft. Also spotted were Canada's chief trade commissioner, Ailish Campbell, Orléans' outgoing Liberal MP, Andrew Leslie, and RBC regional president Marjolaine Hudon. She was headed afterward to catch the Backstreet Boys in concert at RBC Bluesfest — as was McKenna.

Looking fit was Betty Gittens, 80, who recently completed her 36-day walking journey along the famous Camino de Santiago Trail in Spain to raise funds for the Eldercare Foundation of Ottawa.

Bastille Day
French Ambassador Kareen Rispal with U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft at the Bastille Day reception, held at the Embassy of France on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
Dressed for the occasion were, from left, Ottawa businesswoman Shirley Westeinde, Betty Gittens, and lawyer and author Maureen McTeer at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Bastille Day is the anniversary of the Storming Of The Bastille on July 14, 1789, a key moment in the French Revolution.

Bastille was the name of a political prison in Paris where political dissidents were being kept. The attack marked the end of the French monarchy and the birth of a French republic.

Bastille Day
French Ambassador Kareen Rispal at the embassy's Bastille Day reception, held at the Embassy of France on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
From left, Corinne Paollilo Lessard — who proudly wore France's national colours of blue, white and red to the Bastille Day reception — seen with fellow guest Catherine Bélanger at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
From left, Jacques Shore, partner at Gowling WLG, with Guy Gallant, chief of staff to the Office of the Minister at Veterans Affairs Canada, with Lauren Kennedy, director of public affairs for Chicken Farmers of Canada, at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
From left, Jayne Watson, CEO of the National Arts Centre Foundation, with Ailish Campbell, chief trade commissioner and assistant deputy minister of international business development at Global Affairs Canada, at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
Charles McCulloch, director of development at the Rideau Hall Foundation, with his partner, Nila Matthews, sales rep at Coldwell Banker Rhodes & Company, at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
RBC regional president Marjolaine Hudon with her husband, project manager consultant John McCourt, at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
From left, Ottawa writer and publicist Julie Beun with Christina Tessier, CEO of Ingenium, the organization that oversees the Canada Science and Technology Museum, the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, and the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, at the Bastille Day reception at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
From left, Seth Richards, president of Westview Projects, with his wife, Nicole, and Jen Zaret with her husband, Josh Zaret, vice president at Gemstone Developments, and their two-month-old sleeping baby girl, Hartland, at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
From left, Serge Belet, senior exhibitions manager at the National Gallery of Canada, with outgoing Liberal MP Andrew Leslie, who's also a retired lieutenant-general of the Canadian Forces, at the Bastille Day reception at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
French Ambassador Kareen Rispal enjoys a moment with Callie Soppelsa, five, at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
French Ambassador Kareen Rispal — dressed in her national colours of blue, white and red — in conversation with U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
The Embassy of France in Ottawa hosted a Bastille Day reception for 1,700 guests on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Bastille Day
Le Cordon Bleu Ottawa served macarons at the Bastille Day reception held at the Embassy of France in Ottawa, on Sunday, July 14, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca