Bastille Day street festival at FIAF (Photo: Sasha Arutyunova)

Finding France in New York City: Celebrate Your Inner Francophile

Francophiles rejoice! In French-loving New York City, every day feels like Bastille Day, with year-round activities that celebrate France, from playing pétanque to sipping Bordeaux at a French bistro

Bonjour, New York City. As Bastille Day approaches on July 14, not only will the city be paying homage to all that is French, but as it turns out, they have been for some time. New York City is booming with French bistros where you can eat (and drink) like a Parisian, along with a wide variety of French cooking classes, institutions, art exhibits and the crown jewel of French NYC, the Statue of Liberty. Kick off Bastille Day celebrations at the French Institute Alliance Française’s annual street fair, on July 13 (noon-5pm) on 60th Street, between Fifth and Lexington Avenues. And then throw on a beret, grab a baguette and get ready to take on the rest of French New York.

 

Corkbuzz Winestudio (Photo: Courtesy of Corkbuzz)

Corkbuzz Wine Studio (Photo: Courtesy of Corkbuzz)

Sip your way through Corkbuzz Wine Studio
Toast France with a glass (or five) of wine on a Tour of France class at Corkbuzz Wine Studio in Union Square. In this hour-and-a-half lecture and tasting ($75), the instructor goes from Alsace to Languedoc-Roussillon, and hits on everything in between. The class covers a lively overview of six major wine regions and their climates, grapes and style of production, along with the history of French viticulture. Corkbuzz also has courses that focus on particular regions, including Bordeaux, Burgundy or Champagne. 13 E. 13th St., 646-873-6071, corkbuzz.com

 

International Culinary Center (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

International Culinary Center (Photo: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images)

Take a French cooking class at ICC
Follow in the footsteps of Julia Child, and take a French cooking class. At the International Culinary Center in SoHo, hone your French culinary skills, mastering everything from croissants, macarons and madeleines to soupe de poisons, coq au vin, petatou and chocolate souffle. A bonus: After your class, pop by the school’s Michelin-rated restaurant L’Ecole, which is run by students and offers an incredible deal for a prix-fixe lunch (starting at $27) or dinner (starting at $44). 462 Broadway, 888-324-2433, internationalculinarycenter.com

 

The French Institute Alliance Francais building, and a dancer at Bastille Day celebration (Photos: Jean-Michel Berts, Michael George)

Celebrate French culture at the French Institute Alliance Française
Every Francophile should make a pilgrimage to this esteemed institute, which offers language classes, films, theater and art workshops for kids. Founded in 1971, the French Institute Alliance Française was created when the city’s most important French institutions, the French Institute and the Alliance Française, merged. The FIAF also houses the John and Francine Haskell Library, an extensive collection of books, magazines, CDs and DVDs, and an education center geared to the French-speaking population. 22 East 60th St., 212-355-6100, fiaf.org

 

Little Prince (Photo: Courtesy of Little Prince)

Little Prince (Photo: Courtesy of Little Prince)

Wine and dine at a French Bistro à la Little Prince
Leave the pretensions at home, and cozy up in a low-lit bistro, where the focus is on French comfort food, often dominated by meat: steak tartare, steak au poivre and steak frites. Eat your way through the Frenchified menu of Chef Matt Conroy at Little Prince, a darling SoHo bistro with floor-to-ceiling windows. Though meat-centric, the menu also ventures into seafood territory, including a good plate of mussels in white wine, and ratatouille, a classic vegetable stew. 199 Prince St., 212-335-0566, littleprincesoho.com

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Dressing table, ca. 1925 by Armand-Albert Rateau, Purchase, Edward C. Moore, Jr. Gift, 1925 (Photos: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Dressing table, ca. 1925 by Armand-Albert Rateau, Purchase, Edward C. Moore, Jr. Gift, 1925 (Photos: Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Explore French art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art can be daunting – it is, after all, one of the largest museums on the planet. A good strategy is to focus your visit in honor of Bastille Day, spend the day roaming the French Art Deco collection, which has formed part of the Met since the 1920s. This is world-class bling, from elegant brocades to glittering jewelry, along with sculptures by artists like Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann, Armand-Albert Rateau and René Jules Lalique. Plus, discover 7th century antiquities that date back to when France was merely one of the Frankish kingdoms or time-travel to the opposite end of the spectrum and peruse modern paintings from members of the School of Paris, including Henri Matisse and Georges Braque. 100 Fifth Ave., 212-535-7710, get tickets!

 

Pétanque in Bryant Park (Photo: Nanpalmero/Flickr CC)

Pétanque in Bryant Park (Photo: Nanpalmero/Flickr CC)

Play pétanque in Bryant Park
Real French men (and women) play pétanque, a game consisting of metal boules, or balls, that each player throws into a sand pit, trying to get as close as possible to the cochonneta, a smaller wooden ball. Basically, it’s the French version of bocce ball, and you can play it in Bryant Park in the gravel area near the corner of Sixth Avenue and 42nd Street. The only catch is you need to bring your own balls or team up with La Boule New Yorkaise, a pétanque club catering to recreational and competitive players. To get a handle on the game before you go pro, take a free lesson at the park, which the club offers Monday through Friday (11am-6pm). Between 5th and 6th Aves., and 40th and 42nd Sts., bryantpark.org

 

Zephyr cruise passes Lady Liberty (Photo: Courtesy of Zephyr)

Zephyr cruise passes Lady Liberty (Photo: Courtesy of Zephyr)

Admire one of France’s greatest gifts to NYC
New York City’s most iconic sight isn’t from New York City. It’s from France, which gifted the statue (merci beaucoup) to New York as a way to commemorate the alliance between the two countries during the American Revolution. Lady Liberty made her way, in 300 separate copper pieces, to America in 1885 aboard the fair ship Isere; upon arrival, the statue took nearly a year to assemble. Liberty’s designer is Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, who is said to have modeled his creation’s face after his own mother. A variety of tours visit the statute, including Zephyr and Liberty Cruises. New York Harbor, nps.gov

 

Jean-Georges dining room (Photo: Francesco Tonnelli)

Jean-Georges dining room (Photo: Francesco Tonnelli)

Indulge in fancy French food at Jean-Georges
If you’re going to feast on French fare, you might as well do it at a restaurant run by one of the best Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Born in Alsace, Jean-Georges has always been interested in food, a passion that shined through during his stints at top restaurants around France. Today, he has many three and four star-rated joints, including this eponymous one that opened in 1997 in the Trump Hotel. Put on your Sunday best and make a reservation to dine in the sunlit, airy restaurant where the impeccable French fare is matched by the impeccable service. The innovative dishes mirror the seasons, like foie gras with strawberry and sorrel, risotto with peekytoe crab and key lime, and butter-poached lobster with lemongrass and passion fruit. 1 Central Park West, 212-299-3900; jean-georgesrestaurant.com

 

François Payard's crusty baguettes with foie gras (Photo: Courtesy of Payard)

François Payard’s crusty baguettes with foie gras (Photo: Courtesy of Payard)

Wake up to crusty baguettes from François Payard
For the best baguettes this side of the Atlantic, head to one of the three François Payard bakeries in the city. Sink your teeth into fresh croissants, pain au chocolat, eclairs, pain de campagne and, of course, baguettes. They also serve simple French bites like croque monsieur, niçoise salad and quiche Lorraine. Pair your pastry with an ink-black espresso, take a seat on a sun-warmed bench and you might think you’re in Paris. Bon appétit. Various locations, fpbnyc.com