Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bretons of New York

Bretonne on Lexington Ave, St. Patrick's Day
Tomorrow is officially St. Patrick's Day, but in New York City, today was THE day. The Parade.

Heading toward the subway station at Lex and 77th this early afternoon, I came upon large clusters of parade participants who had just finished marching 45 blocks up Fifth Avenue.  Bagpipers, handsome NYFD in their dress uniforms, and -- wait, what's that I see?  -- Bretonnes in their finest ancient finery!

I was behind one woman for the two blocks until the subway entrance.  All at once, though, it seemed that everyone around me was speaking French.  Even the three giggling young American women flourishing empty Solo cups, wearing sparkly green deely-boppers, their faces painted with emerald shamrocks, were saying, "Yah, like it's 'Bonjooor and cawmontallay voo,' right?"  Laughing and practicing their long-ago 7th-grade French lessons.

About 10 paces ahead of me, the woman in ancient Bretonne dress, to my amusement, was chatting on her cell phone.  I relish those anachronisms.

Finally, at the top of the stairs to the subway, foot traffic was jammed, and so as we all waited I asked (in French) for the story -- it didn't matter who I asked because I was surrounded by French.  But I found the perfect spokesperson, who even had a business card.

It turns out that

a) there is a Breton Association here in New York,  BZH New York.
b) this organization brought 100 traditional Breton performers from Quimper to New York for the event.  We do know, most of us, about the Celtic roots of Brittany, so it does seem so à propos for St. Patrick's Day.

It wasn't the right time for me to wax enthusiastic about my love of Brittany, my first unforgettable visit to Guingamp in my college years and how more recently I almost -- almost -- bought a house there.  But I look forward to getting to know the Bretons of New York a bit better.

And then the most adorable part -- the three tipsy American girls group-hugged one of the French women they had gotten to know during the parade, saying,  "Bye!  Bye!  We'll see ya in Paris!"


Alison said...

That is so cool!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Thanks, Alison.

You know, as I look at that top photo, I think with a bit of squinting it could be an impressionist depiction of a street scene. The outfits are turn of the century and the passers-by are so blurred that you can't see. Funny, eh?

Christine Shaffer said...

Beautiful experience!! Yes, the photo is like an Impressionist painting...thanks for sharing!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Christine, I had the same impression after I postd the photo. Thanks! Fuzzy it a little more, and it's a great painting. Totally by chance, not by any art, alas.

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