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. 

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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— caroline@obj.ca

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