Bastille Day just isn’t the same here

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Bastille Day just isn’t the same here

Much is made of the fact that Koreans spend their youths with their noses in textbooks, memorizing who did what when and why. So you’d think the Korean waitresses at Itaewon’s premier French restaurant, La Cigale Montmartre, could tell you when the French Revolution began. Especially if you asked them on Bastille Day.
But you’d be wrong.
On Wednesday, with the help of La Cigale’s manager, Gerald Savigny, I tested four servers on Western civilization’s most significant date. The first three were baffled. Their guesses were “One hundred years ago,” “the 14th century” and “1875.” The fourth gave the right answer, 1789. But then she admitted that she’d dashed out to the terrace and consulted a French customer.
Mr. Savigny and staff paid tribute to France and Bastille Day by covering La Cigale’s terrace and interior in French blue, white and red. Despite the decorations, it must have been difficult for Mr. Savigny, 31, to be far from home on the holiday.
He spoke fondly of what he’d be doing were he back in his hometown, Poitiers, in west-central France. “In small towns like mine we set up long tables,” he began. “And starting in the afternoon everyone comes together to enjoy food and drinks and live bands. The musicians play traditional songs with old-fashioned instruments like accordions.”
No doubt you’re picturing French folk feasting on foie gras and chateau de fieuzalbriand. “Actually, on Bastille Day we tend to eat simple foods that symbolize our friendships with our neighbors,” Mr. Savigny said. “So many people will eat sauerkraut and drink beer. The French drink lots of beer on Bastille Day.”
Mr. Savigny was indeed neighborly on Wednesday. Because he didn’t want to dilute the Bastille Day event being held next door at the Spy Club, or the bigger one over at the French Embassy, he decided not to have a special party at La Cigale, or even a special menu.
That Mr. Savigny didn’t compete with those two fetes accorded with the spirit of Bastille Day, which is all about togetherness. In fact, that’s what he misses most about home this week. “To me, the most important thing about Bastille Day is that it’s the only time when all the people of France feel united, that there’s a strong sense of togetherness,” he said. “These days the French are so selfish.”
Selfish? Maybe that’s just Mr. Savigny being humble and self-deprecating. But you’d have agreed if you’d wandered over to the Spy Club once its Bastille Day bash, organized by the Alliance Francais, got going.
Spy was packed not with French persons, but with lovely and enchanting Korean girls. For every French man, there seemed to be nine local lovelies ― all parlez-vousing up a storm. With so many Korean girls being held (literally, in some cases) by Frenchmen, it’s surprising that a mob of young Korean males didn’t storm the Spy Club. They were probably too busy with their books.


by Mike Ferrin
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