As tempting as it may have been, there was no need to hop on the new direct flight to Paris for Bastille Day — not when there was a celebration of epic proportions happening in our own backyard.
The French embassy in Ottawa hosted some 1,200 guests at its headquarters on Sussex Drive for one of the best parties of the summer.
Between the popping of countless champagne corks and a proud display of fireworks that could be viewed for miles, the party was French hospitality at its best. The event had everything going for it, including the weather (it was so nice to be at a summer garden party and not end up wilting like a parched peony).
Burovision is tripling the size of its downtown office, taking over the entire second floor of 300 Sparks St. as an ode to ‘people-first’ offices.
The roughly 10-minute fireworks show was choreographed to Boléro, a famous piece of one-movement orchestral work by French composer Maurice Ravel. The music could be heard gaining momentum, through a slow building crescendo and growing number of instruments, just as the brilliant explosion of lights reached its grand finale in blue, white and red colours.
The national colours of France’s flag were everywhere that night, from guests’ attire to whimsical streamers hanging from tree branches. Even the macarons, a light and airy French sandwich cookie spotted at the multiple food stations, were displayed in tricolour theme. Come nightfall, the embassy was glowing in France’s national colours.
French Ambassador Michel Miraillet, joined by his wife, Geneviève Quenum-Miraillet, welcomed the large crowd on their well-manicured lawn outside the stylish 1930s art deco building on Sussex Drive. It was the ambassador’s first Bastille Day celebration in Ottawa since arriving in Canada last September, taking over from Kareen Rispal.
The significance of July 14th is more than a commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in Paris and the anniversary of the Fête de la Fédération in 1790, said the ambassador while delivering his remarks in both French and English. “This date is the symbol of a republic founded on the principles of democracy, a republic that gives each citizen the opportunity to express themselves freely and to actively participate in building our society,” he said.
“Today, beyond the glasses of champagne and buffet tables that have brought us together, we pay tribute to those who have fought for those ideals, those who have sometimes given their lives, at Vimy Ridge or Juno Beach for instance, to defend our freedoms,” said Miraillet.
The ambassador spoke of the strong bond between Canada and France. “I will not go into a history lesson into the ties that unite our two countries since I’m sure you all know this very well.”
More recently, France was among the countries from abroad to provide firefighters and fire-and-rescue personnel, along with firefighting equipment, to fight the ongoing wildfires in Quebec. Smoke from the fires reached as far as Europe, including France, NASA reported last month.
The ambassador touched on the recent visit to Canada from France’s minister of higher education and research, Sylvie Retailleau, and of how Air France’s new direct flight between Paris and Ottawa “will set the stage for even more regular visits from our officials.
“Additionally and most importantly, our president has expressed to Prime Minister (Justin) Trudeau a desire to make an official visit to Canada in the very near future,” said Miraillet of his country’s leader, Emmanuel Macron.
The ambassador also expressed his gratitude to the corporate sponsors of the embassy’s Bastille Day Garden Party, which saw guests dance beneath the stars late into the evening.
“This party is outstanding,” lawyer Jacques Shore, who’s a partner in the Ottawa office of Gowling WLG, told OBJ.social. “Ambassador Miraillet has done everything possible to give our capital a great party to honour Bastille Day.”
Said Heather Bakken, a partner at communications firm Pendulum Group: “This is an exquisite garden party delivered with usual French flair; fashionable guests, riveting conversations and champagne. And to top it off, an extraordinary array of fireworks cascading over Ontario and Quebec. Magnifique!”
There were events and contests held around the city to celebrate Bastille Day, including the illumination of the giant three-dimensional Ottawa sign in the ByWard Market, showcasing the colours of the French flag.
The social event brought back its food drive. Last year, the Bastille Day event collected almost 553 kilograms (or 1,200 pounds) of non-perishable items for the Ottawa Food Bank.
In attendance was Nicole Thibault, Network CEO of Canadian Parents for French, a national network of volunteers dedicated to the promotion and creation of French as a second language. She was presented the insignia of Knight in the Order of Academic Palms (l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques) at the embassy this past March in recognition of her exemplary services to education and culture.
Also seen was National Capital Commission CEO Tobi Nussbaum, who later biked over to RBC Bluesfest for the public announcement of the 100,000th bike parked at the outdoor music festival since the bike valet service was first introduced in 2006.