Baguettes, berets in Benneydale

LIBBY WILSON
Last updated 10:06 08/07/2014

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French fashion, cuisine, music and a bit of Francais are all planned for Bastille Day celebrations in the King Country on Sunday.

France's national holiday will be celebrated at the ArtDoc Gallery in Benneydale.

Bastille Day commemorates the start of the French Revolution on July 14, 1789, with the storming of the Bastille, a medieval fortress and prison.

In 1880 Bastille Day was declared the French national day, or fete nationale.

Bringing the celebrations to the King Country is resident Maurice Louis, a former French diplomat born and raised in Toulon, in the south of France.

"It's [Bastille Day] the day of the celebration of the freedom, liberty in France," he said. He struggled to find an equivalent in Kiwi culture, but said it was a symbol of French identity and a major public holiday.

Louis brought a touch of France to the King Country in 2003 when he moved with wife Monica, to be closer to her ageing mother in Te Kuiti.

"Quite a few people - here as well as in Europe - thought that we were raving mad, moving from the French Riviera to the King Country," said Monica Louis, who grew up in Holland but later moved to France.

Since then, they have turned the former Four Square store in Benneydale into the ArtDoc gallery, which they describe as a "rural cultural saloon".

They offer accommodation and hospitality for those heading off to cycle the Timber Trail but also host music and art events.

On Sunday the baguettes and berets will emerge for the celebration of all things French. There will be a cabaret show, some sing-along, a taste of France and "lots of oh-la-la" because guests are asked to dress to theme.

The celebration is 1-5pm on Sundayat ArtDoc gallery in Benneydale. Reservations essential, $10 for brunch, $10 for show. BYO. Phone (07) 878 4780.

In Hamilton the Alliance Francaise, which promotes French language and culture, is hosting a Bastille Day lunch from noon to 3.30pm on Sunday at the Hamilton Workingmen's Club.

Bookings essential: $25 adult.

Contact alliancefrancaisehamilton@gmail.com

libby.wilson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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