The Good Life
with a Southern Drawl

20 Reasons To Celebrate France

By Amy Bailey — July 14, 2015

July 14 or le 14 juillet is Bastille Day. In 1789 on this day the French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille, this would lead to France becoming a republic. Every year on this day celebrations are held in France and around the world to commemorate its independence. There is champagne, brie, French music, and parades. To celebrate all things French here are 20 really cool things the French brought to this world:

domChampagne Wine – Dom Pierre Pérignon, O.S.B., (December 1638–14 September 1715) was a French Benedictine monk who made important contributions to the production and quality of champagne wine in an era when the region’s wines were predominantly still red. In 1668 he was transferred to the Abbey of Hautvillers where he served as cellarer for the rest of his life. Under his stewardship, the abbey flourished and doubled the size of its vineyard holdings, while he worked to improve their product with the help of Dom Thierry Ruinart, a noted scholar of the abbey. Popular myths frequently, but erroneously, credit him with the invention of ‘sparkling’ champagne, which didn’t become the dominant style of Champagne until the mid-19th century.  The famous champagne Dom Pérignon, the prestige cuvée of Moët & Chandon, is named for him. The remains of the monastery where he spent his adult life is now the property of that winery.

macaronMacaron – At first a macaron was just a single almond cookie, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. In the 1830s, macaron shelves were assembled two by two, topped with jam, spices or liquors. In the 1890’s, Pierre Desfontaines, second cousin to Louis Ernest Laduree, began sandwiching the two cookies around butter crème, jam, compote or ganache. A few years later, the colorful cookies became prominent as La Maison Ladurée began cranking out a variety of flavors and colors.

Bikini – The name for the bikini design was coined in 1946 by Parisisan engineer Louis Réard, the inventor of the bikini. He named the swimsuit after Bikini Atoll, where testing on the atomic bomb was taking place. Due to its controversial and revealing design, the bikini was slow to be adopted. In many countries it was banned from beaches and public places. Brigitte Bardot made the bikini iconic.

birkinThe Birkin by Hermes – In 1981, Hermès chief executive Jean-Louis Dumas was seated next to French model, singer, and actress Jane Birkin on a flight from Paris to London. She had just placed her straw bag in the overhead compartment of her seat, but the contents fell to the deck, leaving her to scramble to replace them. Birkin explained to Dumas that it had been difficult to find a leather weekend bag she liked. In 1984, he created a black supple leather bag for her.

Hair Dryer – French hairstylist Alexandre Godefroy invented the first hair dryer in 1888. Godefroy’s model was neither portable nor handheld, but it meant that people could finally stop drying their hair using a vacuum cleaner.

Aspirin – A French chemist, Charles Frederic Gerhardt, was the first to prepare acetylsalicylic acid in 1853. In the course of his work on the synthesis and properties of various acid anhydrides, he mixed acetyl chloride with a sodium salt of salicylic acid (sodium salicylate). A vigorous reaction ensued, and the resulting melt soon solidified.

neonNeon – Georges Claude, a French engineer and inventor, presented neon tube lighting in essentially its modern form at the Paris Motor Show in 1910. Claude, sometimes called “the Edison of France”, had a near monopoly on the new technology which became extremely popular internationally in the 20s and 40s.

Braille – Louis Braille was blinded in both eyes when he was a child. After being accepted to France’s Royal Institute for Blind Youth, he began to develop what we know today as Braille, a more efficient way for the blind to read and write. He first presented his system in 1824, but it wasn’t recognized as a valuable invention until long after his death.

LBDLittle Black Dress – A little black dress is an evening or cocktail dress, cut simply and often quite short. Fashion historians ascribe the origins of the little black dress to the 1920s designs of Coco Chanel and Jean Patou intended to be long-lasting, versatile, affordable, accessible to the widest market possible and in a neutral colour. It is so universally known that it is often simply referred to as the “LBD”.

Brie – Brie is the best known French cheese and has a nickname “The Queen of Cheeses”. Brie is a soft cheese named after the French region Brie, where it was originally created. Several hundred years ago, Brie was one of the tributes which had to be paid to the French kings.

Mayonnaise – Mayonnaise an essential good old American sandwich condiment, right? Wrong. Mayonnaise is French! Legend has it that Duke de Richelieu commanded French forces to take Port Mahon (on the Spanish island of Minorca) in 1756. After defeating the Spanish, the Duke’s chef couldn’t find enough cream on the island to make an appropriate sauce for the victory dinner, so he whipped up oil and eggs into a sauce named “mahonnaise” after its place of origin.

cartierWristwatch – In 1904, the Brazilian pioneer aviator, Alberto Santos-Dumont complained to his friend and watchmaker Louis Cartier of the unreliability and impracticality of using pocket watches while flying. Cartier designed a flat wristwatch with a distinctive square bezel. This watch was liked by not only Santos-Dumont but also many other customers. Thus the “Santos” was born. This was Cartier’s first men’s wristwatch.

Photographic Image – The first photographic image ever produced was in 1822 by Nicéphore Niépce.

crepesCrepes – A crêpe (pronounced /kreɪp/, French IPA: [kʀɛp]) is a type of very thin, cooked pancake usually made from wheat flour. The word, like the pancake itself, is of French origin, deriving from the Latin crispa, meaning “curled.” While crêpes originate from Brittany, a region in the northwest of France, their consumption is nowadays widespread in France and is considered the national dish. Crêpes often have a fruit filling of syrup, mixed berries, fresh fruit or lemon cream.

Cinema aka Motion Pictures – The Lumière brothers, Auguste Marie Louis Nicolas and Louis Jean were the first filmmakers in history. They patented the cinematograph, which in contrast to Edison’s “peepshow” kinetoscope allowed simultaneous viewing by multiple parties. Their first film, Sortie de l’usine Lumière de Lyon, shot in 1894, is considered the first true motion picture.

Triathlons – Races consisting of running, biking, and swimming (in various orders with no breaks in between) were held in 1920s France near Joinville-le-Pont, Meulan, and Poissy. These races went by several different names including Les Trois Sports (Three Sports), La Course des Débrouillards (The Race of the Resourceful), and La Course des Touche à Tout (The Race of the Jack of All Trades).

hotairballoonHot Air Balloon – Before there were the Wright brothers, there were the Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jaques-Etienne Montgolfier. They invented the hot air balloon, with the first successful unmanned flight lasting 10 minutes on September 10th, 1783. Later that year on November 21st, the hot air balloon made its first untethered flight with humans aboard.

Pencil Sharpeners – The French mathematician named Bernard Lassimonne applied for the first patent for a pencil sharpener in 1828, perhaps because it took too much time away from his furious mathematical scribblings to whittle his pencil to a point with a knife every hour. In 1847, another Frenchman, Thierry des Estivaux, improved Lassimonne’s invention and created the modern pencil sharpener we would recognize today.

Pasteurization – French scientist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) developed the process of pasteurization as a way to make milk stay fresh for longer periods of time. It’s actually pretty simple: heat the milk to a high temperature, then cool it down quickly before putting it into sealed bottles.

etchasketchEtch-a-Sketch – That’s right, one of your favorite childhood toys was invented by a Frenchman. André Cassagnes, a French inventor, electrical technician, toymaker, and kite designer died in 2013 at the age of 86. Cassagnes developed the toy in the late 1950’s, and companies have been selling it ever since 1960.