Thursday, July 14, 2011

Le Jour de Gloire est Arrive!

On a picture-perfect summer morning about a hundred people gathered in front of Town Hall to celebrate Bastille Day. The brainchild of Serge Gabriel, this ceremony has become a staple of Greenwich life, and has finally been emulated by the Americans, who began celebrating the Fourth of July in the same manner about eight years ago. Once again, it seems, we Americans are in the debt of France.

For it was the French who saved our national bacon back at the decisive Battle of Yorktown on October 19, 1781. The landing the year before of 5,500 troops under the command of the Count of Rochambeau marked a tipping point in the Revolutionary War; the "Route Rochambeau" transits Connecticut, and Col. Gabriel has worked tirelessly to increase awareness of both the Route and its namesake. Without the aid of Rochambeau, Lafayette, and Admiral de Grasse, we would all still be speaking the Queen's English as her subjects.

Our hosts were Renee Ketcham and Gail Covney, Co-Presidents of the Alliance Francaise of Greenwich, and the ubiquitous Bea Crumbine, Greenwich's tireless Ambassador-at-Large. First Selectman Peter Tesei read the Bastille Day proclamation; M. Jean Lachaud spoke of the work of "Le Souvenir Francais" which tends the gravesites of French soldiers who fell in America; and Deputy Consul General M. Patrick Lachausee greeted us on behalf of the French government.

France was the first country to recognize the newly-independent United States of America, and hosted the Treaty of Paris in 1783 which marked the formal end of the hostilities with Great Britain. A few years later, on July 14, 1789, the French began their own revolution, and the following month issued the great manifesto on the Rights of Man, which mirrors many of the concepts embodied in the American Declaration of Independence. Already our two countries were forming a pattern of mutual assistance and interdependence.

Surprisingly, no one mentioned yesterday's 3-1 soccer match between the US and France, which allowed the US to proceed to the finals for the first time in twelve years. La politesse at work, one assumes.

Then we repaired to Meli-Melo for a fabulous French breakfast, with madeleines, croissants, pain au chocolat, and their famous crepes, hot off the griddle. The restaurant has recently expanded considerably in size, but it was still plein a craquer, as they say in France. Owners Marc and Evelyne Pevenne, along with their hard-working staff, toiled tirelessly to be sure that everyone had enough to eat and drink. Merci!

This year marks the 230th anniversary of Yorktown and Franco-American friendship. May that friendship continue for many more years to come!


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