News & Culture in Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Points Nearby
March 4, 2021
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Bastille Day Smith Street

By Lisa M. Collins
French behavior invades our puritanical shores.
Photo by Joshua Kristal

On Sunday, help celebrate France’s national holiday on Smith Street, with the Bastille Day Festival and the largest international Petanque tournament in the United States.

The Bastille Day Fest takes place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., with live music, food, drinking outdoors and all sorts of kissing in the street (see our photo gallery from last year’s festival.) Competitive play will take place¬†on Smith between Bergen and Pacific, and Dean between Boerum Place and Smith.

Dining deals are available at Bar Tabac, Provence en Boite, and Robin des Bois, as well as Le Comptoir in Williamsburg.

Carroll Gardens and the surrounding area has a big French population, pulled in part by the French immersion program at PS 58 Elementary School, on President Street. Bernard deCanali, a Marseilles transplant, antiques dealer and owner of Robin des Bois French bistro on Smith Street, was one of the early pioneers, moving to Boerum Hill 18 years ago. Robin des Bois is 11 years old and opened when there was little happening on Smith Street.

deCanali organized the first Pentanque tournament, along with Bar Tabac, a popular and classic French cafe/bar on Smith and Dean.

For the festival, 80 teams from around the world come to compete. Smith is blocked off around Bar Tabac, and the playing field is covered with sand. Competitors throw metal balls, with a slight arched back and spin, and knock each other’s balls off the path. The winner is the one whose balls are closest to the small object ball (cochonnet).

Bastille Day commemorates the day the French people stormed the Bastille, a prison, on July 14, 1789, sparking the French Revolution. The Bastille, though it held seven prisoners at the time, symbolized the absolute power of Louis XVI. The common people went on to overthrow the monarchy and set up a democratic system based somewhat on the American one.

The French adopted the three-color flag, red, white and blue, symbolizing their ideals: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The republic was established in 1792.

Vive la France!

Robin des Bois: hip, cozy, delicious and kid friendly.

A second French immersion public elementary school to open in Boerum Hill, PS 133.


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