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By Olivia Kiers / July 6, 12:00 AM
Boston Accent: Vive La France!

French Cultural Center Executive Director Barbara Bouquegneau bids bonsoir to revelers attending the institution’s annual Bastille Day block party


France’s famous trio of values (liberty, equality, fraternity) is on full display every summer at one of Boston’s most-anticipated events, the French Cultural Center’s Bastille Day street party. On July 14, in honor of France’s independence day, the center’s block of Marlborough Street in the Back Bay is closed to traffic and festooned in tricolor bunting, welcoming 2,000 attendees to an evening of hot crêpes and croque-monsieurs, festive libations, children’s activities and live music. Those who wish to take their revelry to the next level can purchase a ticket to the VIP section in the front garden of the center’s ornate townhouse. “We want to celebrate…the everlasting friendship that exists between France and the United States,” explains Barbara Bouquegneau, executive director at the French Cultural Center. “It is the block party of the summer!”   

Bastille Day is just one of the many ways the French Cultural Center—Boston’s local Alliance Française—reaches out to the Francophone and Francophile communities in the Hub. Nobody knows this better than Bouquegneau, a Belgian native who discovered the center through one of its film events while she was a graduate student at Boston University. The center houses classroom space and an impressive library. At 32,000 volumes, it is the second-largest private French library in the United States. While memberships are available, anyone can walk in and enjoy the art gallery on the first floor or relax in the reading room full of the latest French magazines. Even for those who can barely pronounce bonjour, there are many cultural events to enjoy. “It’s really nice sharing the French and Francophone culture,” says Bouquegneau. “Experiencing first-hand the impact the center has on people is what’s priceless to me.”

Bastille Day is the perfect way to taste what the center has to offer. “It’s a unique experience,” says Bouquegneau. “My favorite part is when the bands have started playing, and you feel that the vibe is right. The crowd is dancing and the street is filled with people from all different parts of the world enjoying themselves. It’s the perfect example of a community that comes together.”

53 Marlborough St., Boston, MA
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