THE St Clair residence of French Ambassador Serge Lavroff and his wife Caroline was transformed to a mini-Paris, complete with a replica of the Eiffel Tower, for Bastille Day celebrations on Sunday evening.
In the spirit of celebration, the opening lines of Lavroff’s welcome address were replete with quips that had guests in stitches.
He began: “Many of you, when you came here, received a welcome shower. It’s most probably because of climate change, but there is nothing to do with the French Revolution.
"I was told before the shower that it will be a blessed shower, so I can assure you now that the shower has moved to another party. Bonsoir à tous! Just a few words to test your level of French, and get us in the spirit of this evening à la française – soirée bleu, blanc et rouge.
"It is the end of the weekend and I know that you are tired. Golf, the beach, the avenue...all of that deserves a lime before starting over another life tomorrow morning at the office. You will find all of that here this evening. Our grass is greener than on any golf course in town, but of course we cannot compete with Savannah Grass. Our coconut trees rival those of Maracas and our DJ is ready to make you dance till morning.”
The ambassador welcomed guests to the celebration marking the 230th anniversary of the French Revolution.
“Commemorating Bastille Day is always something more than just celebrating an historical event. It is an occasion to reassess the present, to look towards the future and to dream of a better world. By reaffirming the universal message of the French Revolution, it gives the opportunity to proclaim the right to a better life for all and to abolish all borders and differences, in other words, to give sense to the ideals of ‘liberté, egalité, fraternité.’”
Lavroff paid tribute to the work done by the Alliance Francais and his staff at the embassy, without whom, he said, he would have no eyes, ears and, most of all, no food.
On behalf of TT, Reita Toussaint, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Caricom and Foreign Affairs, extended best wishes to the government and people of France.
She said 230 years ago, the storming of the Bastille prison in Paris marked a pivotal victory for the people of France, demanding true democracy and respect for human rights. Since then, this event has inspired millions worldwide to oppose oppression and discrimination.
“Today, France continues to promote liberty, equality and fraternity as the values that should guide relations within and among the nations of the world and have been true advocates for the value of integration and multilateralism as a means to furthering development and prosperity. These are values that TT respects and shares as a strong advocate of Caribbean integration.”
She spoke of the influence of France on TT since the end of the 18th century, saying: “Our relationships now span political, economic, commercial and cultural fields, among others, and these have been deepened over the years with mutually beneficial outcomes including major construction projects and resource management.”
She added that co-operation between TT and France is continually evolving. In the area of culture, the visit of French group P’tit Pan from Nantes earlier this year was part of a student cultural exchange, and the Good France event in March celebrated French gastronomy.
Toussaint also acknowledged France’s unwavering support of Caricom. Recently a funding agreement was signed between the Caribbean Public Health Agency and the Agence Française de Développement, aiming to strengthen strategic intelligence and partnership approaches to prevent and control non-communicable diseases.
She closed with a toast to the French Republic.