Frenchitude Lesson #56: Drink in Thy Street

The Bistro Bourgignon in Beaune always has comfy outdoor couches ready for prospective winetasters.


Similar to the time when a woman in Victoria castigated Franck for opening a door for her, Franck cannot help but trot out again and again another particular bit of effrontery that he experienced in his adopted country.

It happened during his very first summer in Canada. We had been living together in Montreal where I was a student at McGill.

Summertime rolled around, and Franck got himself one of those typically Canadian rite of passage jobs – a tree planter in Northern BC – while I was busy in Victoria protecting Canada’s borders as a Custom’s Officer (I can still remember how to read someone their rights – handy skill for a parent).

After six weeks living in the bush amongst the black flies and black bears, Franck and his crew were let loose back into civilization – Prince George, BC – for three days and two nights to shower, drink beer, and PAR-TAY between contracts.

The second night they were all out in the streets of Prince George watching a fireworks extravaganza (Canada Day, if memory serves correct). They were all, of course, drinking beer.

Here comes the effrontery part: within a matter of minutes an RCMP officer came by, took their beer, and emptied it down the gutter in front of them.

Franck still trots out this story on a regular occasion. “Can you believe it?” he says. “They actually emptied it down the gutter! Perfectly good beer!”

This is unfathomable to a French person because: a) the French law enforcement officers are the last people to waste perfectly good alcoholic beverages, and b) because drinking in the street is not only a way of life in France, but held up as the mark of a civilized, cultured society.

Just have a look at the photos Franck took from the Beaune wine auction and party last weekend. It was warm, the streets were full of revellers, and you would have looked mighty strange if you were over 16 and weren’t wandering around with a tasting glass in your hand.

Or a glass of mulled wine, which this fellow is serving up. I love a lovely glass of mulled wine to warm up my hands.

Wine is everything in Beaune, especially on this particular weekend. It is debated, tasted, and worshipped openly.

stands are set up every few metres, so your glass never has to go empty for very long. And yet the crowd is completely well-mannered – downright charming as a matter of fact. Families and groups of friends arrive en masse. Children are running around everywhere…

People take time to sit down at a bistro table and enjoy a glass of wine and the twinkling Christmas lights.

And there are no gendarmes throwing wine down the gutters at all. However, you might just find one tasting alongside you.

Vive la France.