La Fête Nationale

Joyeux Paris! Today is Bastille Day or Independence Day for zee French. The Bastille was once a medieval fortress and prison in the City of Light. On July 14, 1789, a disenchanted group of peasants stormed the Bastille, which was home to political prisoners of influence. This transformative event preceded the French Revolution. For many, the Bastille represented the corruption of the Bourbon monarchy. Shortly after the storming of the Bastille, King Louis IVI and his wife Marie Antoinette (the let them eat cake lady) took refuge in Versailles as violence spread throughout. We all know what followed there. Bastille Day came to be recognized as the end of the monarchy and the beginning of the modern republic. So on this day, do yourself a favor and pop a bottle of champagne, enjoy some gooey brie, fire up the torch on your creme brûlée and help recognize a pivotal day in France's history. Red, white and blue!

I know many Americans have differing opinions but I love Paris. My father first took my siblings and I there the summer before we moved to Charlotte. This was 1996. The parents had sold our house in Dallas and so we spent the summer living at his flat in Wiesbaden, Germany. In an effort to instill a bit of culture in the Breyer kids, we hopped in the car and took to the road. From Deutschland, we took a few cosmopolitan cities in western Europe by storm. En route, we enjoyed beer shandies (cheaper than water) in southern Germany and sampled our very first mussels in Brussels. I sat in German class that following Fall dreaming about the buttery, white wine laced broth in which I submerged my bread. We fell in love with french fries dipped in mayonnaise. In Amsterdam, we sampled savory pancakes for lunch and had a quick peek into a coffee shop. It should be noted I returned to Amsterdam a record seven times my first year living in Germany. My gallivants were not as kosher as the first go around. Finally, we hit Paris. I think we children were quite mesmerized by the Eiffel Tower. We visited the Louvre and pushed our ways past crowds to view the Mona Lisa. The city was a bit of a whirlwind but c'est la vie as they say over there. The second time I went was while studying abroad in Florence, Italy. My father told me "never carry a purse in Paris" and I picked up an assortment Herve Chapelier bags. Of course I just had to carry one that night, which resulted in A) having my purse stolen on the infamous Rue Oberkampf and B) getting the tar kicked out of me by a bunch of foreigners. In the purse was my new Prada wallet procured at the outlet for a steal, a brand new camera (holiday gift) as well as the first and only credit card my parents ever gave me. It was for emergency purposes. Clearly I abused this privilege and so the story goes.

One of my pals spent the wee hours of the Saturday night with me at the police station. It was an absolute exercise in futility. The 5-0 didn't speak English and we not a lick of French. I took time drawing what was in my bag. Circa 3.00 am, we were defeated and called it a night. Touch wood my passport and Eurail pass were both hidden in the backpack, which was resting in the wonderfully elegant (insert sarcasm here) hostel room an uncomfortable stone's throw from the main train station. Note, when traveling in Europe, it's usually a good idea to stay as far away from train stations as possible. Unless of course you are there to turn tricks or score dope. Or as in our case, young Americans with a thirst to see the world. Anyway, without a cent to my name and not much desire to carry on in this majestic city, a friend and I hopped on the train home. As we didn't have reservations, we were sort of thrown into a passenger car. Somehow, we discovered that someone spoke a bit of German, as did I and we were able to communicate. It turns out this was helpful when the young man asked if I could share my bed with his prosthetic leg as there wasn't room for both the girlfriend and the leg. When in Rome. And who says we Americans are rude? When living in Germany, I went to Paris with an ex-boyfriend once to watch the Tour De France. His company was less than stellar but standing on the Champs-Élysées watching Lance take the event was intensely spectacular. This was long before the world knew of how he achieved his successes. On that day, Americans were king as our flags proudly waved. 

At my penultimate job, I traveled to Paris annually. I grew to know the Charles De Gaulle Airport intimately. I could tell you where to procure the best cafe au lait and of course my favorite, the aged bread with ham and butter. I went every other year for the Global Air Show and every March for a big carbon fiber conference. I traditionally went for a week and in between business meetings, events, dinners, parties at the U.S. Ambassadors Mansion and the likes, I always made a bit of time to explore. I loved these business trips. We usually followed a similar protocol and in the evenings ate in our favorite local haunts. Year after year the owners remembered us. Still to this day, my favorite way to see Paris is to take a cab to the Trocadéro, which is hands down the best spot for photographing the magnificent Eiffel Tower. I then walk down the steps, enjoy watching people relax on the green, hang a left and walk along the Seine. This path offers outstanding vantage points of the Musee d'Orsay on your right, the Louvre on your left and ultimately the Notre Dame. Note, the best way to see the Notre Dame is from the water so try to take a hop on and hop off cruise if you can. Criss cross bridges to explore different neighborhoods. My very favorite is that of the uber elegant Saint Germain. I used to stay near the Vendome, just off of Rue St Honore. I was a hop scotch from the Garden Tuileries. Outstanding for walking, people watching, running in the mornings and savoring life as a Parisian in general. Sadly, I haven't been to Paris in almost two years. The last time I went, the city experienced one of it's harshest winters and even taxis weren't driving in the snow. It made for a marvelously wonderful winterland. I cannot wait to return. Paris is undoubtedly a city that invites renting an apartment, discovering a bakery to be visited daily, perusing the Latin Quarter and Montmartre, walking everywhere, practicing one's French, pigging out on steak frites, foie gras and Sancerre and quite simply, staying awhile.

The below recipe has absolutely nothing to do with France but is delicious regardless. It is a perfect dinner side, a stand alone for a savory lunch (some grilled chicken or a poached egg on top) or a terrific dish to contribute to a neighborhood cookout. Jouir!

Corn, Tomato and Bacon Salad


15 oz bag of frozen corn
3 strips of bacon - I buy the organic, nitrite/nitrate free variety
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup of organic cherry tomatoes - chopped
*Optional blue cheese crumbles for garnish


1. Get your pan nice and hot and cook your bacon. Once cooked to your liking, let the bacon sit on a paper towel to absorb a bit of the grease.

2. In the same pan, add your bag of frozen corn and the red pepper flakes. Give a big stir and let it ride until cooked. Once the corn begins to brown and pop, you're in business. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Now throw in your tomatoes and crumbled bacon. Give everything a big stir. Season to taste. Now would be a good time to add some blue cheese on top. Voila.

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