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14th July in London

By Patricia Connell

14th July in London

In the 25 years that I have lived in London, this was the first time ever that I decided to partake in a proper French 14th July celebration. What better occasion to do so than at the Bal of the French Lycée in South Kensington?!

On arrival, security was tight not surprisingly if one only remembers that last year’s bal had been cancelled because of the terrorist attacks on London.
An open marquee with long tables each sitting 12 people had been placed in the playground and the tricolours were flying high.
There were two types of party goers: those who chose to have dinner there and who were perhaps of a slightly older generation (this my teenage daughters were only too happy to point out to me). All moaning swiftly came to a halt however come 9.30pm when the second stage of the celebrations began with around an extra 200 young people crowding into the venue.  It was a truly memorable occasion,  perhaps not for its wines and for its food  and indeed a culinary feast would perhaps not have been approrpriate to the event, but certainly for the incredible cross-generational French crowd which the bal attracted.The next generation of French young professionals seem to have been as drawn to the bright lights of London as I was all those years ago. How right they are!

 Dancing to Claude François and Patrick Hernandez was quite unexpected. I had pictured ‘bal musette’ and accordion. My husband, who is not French, noted that there was no singing of the Marseille. Rather than taking this as a surprising lack of nationalistic sentiment, we were hastily told that it had been chanted full throttle in the French ambassador's garden the day before.

The atmosphere was friendly and ‘bon enfant’. No one was overly drunk or agitated and this created a great party feeling which I would deem surprising given that attendance peaked at about 2500.

Would I do it again? Most definitely. See you there next year.


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