Things To Do

The Dallas Observer Guide To Bastille On Bishop

For most Americans, Bastille Day is just July 14. Few of us take any time to celebrate the French Revolution, largely because we just don’t think that it has really anything to do with us. But for Francophiles, Bastille Day is a time where you can safely indulge in all of the excesses that makes French culture so wonderful, namely food and wine. And sure, it would be ideal to be celebrating La Résistance by frolicking on the streets of Paris, but nobody has any damn money for a plane ticket to Europe this time of the year.

Fortunately, Dallas has an incredible Bastille Day celebration that is steeped in history and legitimate French culture. In our city’s earliest years, a group of French settlers bent on socialist utopia settled in North Oak Cliff, or what we call the Bishop Arts District today. They didn’t succeed, unfortunately, but were able to bring the neighborhood its first brewery and piano. The rest, as they say, is history.

Now, we have Bastille On Bishop, an appropriate tribute to the little touch of French culture that organically exists in Dallas. If you’re planning to head to the Bishop Arts District for the annual celebration — and you absolutely should — this guide will help you make the most out of your experience.

Buy a wine glass
You can attend Bastille On Bishop for free, but you’re not going to be able to drink any wine unless you purchase a souvenir glass. You already know that you’re going to drink — maybe a lot — so go ahead and cough up the $25 to reserve your wine glass. Your glass will come with two tokens that can be redeemed for food and wine at the festival, and if that’s not enough, you can always purchase other food and drink from the participating vendors. Consider reserving your glass online in advance via Prekindle — they frequently sell out.

Get in a French-y mood
To really celebrate Bastille Day, it’s important to be as obnoxious as the French. Don your (summer) beret, wear black and white stripes, hell, paint a thin mustache on your face and go full French to celebrate. Listen to a little Edith Piaf or Bizet, and pour (legit) Champagne as part of your pre-game festivities. Prepare to greet everyone with "Bonne Bastille!" and "Vive la Résistance!" Spend a little time exploring the neighborhood’s connections to France. Thanks to that background, Bastille on Bishop does have an incredibly authentic French feel, so you can be guaranteed that your preparations are not for naught.

Consider your outfit 
If you are living and breathing in the state of Texas right now, you know that it is going to be hotter than a two-dollar pistol when Bastille on Bishop kicks off at 6 pm tonight. Plan on wearing something breezy — think Parisian heiress vacationing in Martinique, because the temperatures are going to be similar. Comfortable shoes are also a must — you're going to do be doing plenty of walking around and (lots of) standing in line. 

Call an Uber
The parking situation in Bishop Arts can be abysmal even when the neighborhood isn’t completely packed, but it definitely will be on Bastille Day. If you insist on fighting the crowds and parking your car ten blocks away, at least carpool, or you’ll be contributing to an already annyoing problem of car overcrowding on the streets. If you’re smart, you’ll pay an Uber or Lyft to shuttle your drunk ass across the Margaret Hunt Hill.

Map your route
Before you get there and are overwhelmed by the sweet smell of freshly-cooked crepes and the throngs of people, set a flexible plan of attack. If you’re starving, it’s probably best to eat first, as some of the more popular items will sell out quickly. For the best bang for the tokens you won’t spend on wine, check out the offerings from Nova, Cafe Momentum, Bolsa, and Oak Cliff Creperie. Don’t forget to grab an authentic French pastry from Village Baking Co, like a croissant or decadent kouign-amann.

Browse the bazaar
Nothing feels more French than browsing locally-made goods in an open-air market, and there will be plenty to peruse at Bastille on Bishop. Browse through the booths selling t-shirts, housewares, and tchotchkes, and cough up a little cash to support the local businesses that are sweating it out on the street. Don’t forget to bring along tote bag with a shoulder strap if you’re planning to buy more than a postcard, though — it isn’t going to be easy to lug around your finds in plastic bags while you’re trying to eat, drink, and play petanque.

Play petanque
It’s pronounced Pay-TONK, and it’s a classic French lawn game that is impossibly easy to play. All you’ve gotta do is toss your boule (ball) as close to the cochonnet (also a ball, but made of wood) that sits inside a circle on the ground as you possibly can. You’ll play on a team, so make sure to bring along a few friends with particularly good hand-eye coordination if you’re feeling competitive. Even the schlubbiest of non-athletes can enjoy petanque, even if you’re too drunk to fully understand the rules when the game starts. 

Bastille on Bishop is from 6-10 p.m. Tuesday. To reserve your wine glass in advance is $25.