South on 101: French Festival

Enter your dog or just watch the fun at the pooch parade at the French Festival, held this weekend in Santa Barbara’s Oak Park.

Santa Barbara’s annual French Festival brings Old World charm to Oak Park on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is free. Ooh la la, what a treat!

Fabulous food

“Apportez votre bon appetite” (“bring your good appetite”) to this extravaganza of yummy noshes. Freshly baked napoleons, macrons, croissants, beignets, profiteroles and other buttery, mouth-watering delights await. Crepes abound, both sweet and savory, as do quiche and Croque Monsieur (fancy grilled cheese sandwich). Le Hot Dogs are encased in fresh baguettes, as are grilled lamb, chicken, and sausage. Feeling thirsty? French beers, wines, and champagne are available, along with kir, mimosas, fresh lemonade, Diabolo French sodas and, of course, Perrier.

Can you cancan?

Music and dance is nonstop on three stages. The main Moulin Rouge Stage offers all sorts of dance performances, such as French Polynesian, cancan, tango, hula and more, plus audience participation and onstage lessons. Les Femme Fatale Drag Revue caps off each day at 5:35 p.m., with area female impersonators donning their best corsets and such. Marie Antoinette is certain to appear.

The smaller Eiffel Tower Stage has musical tributes to Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Charles Aznavour and Django Reinhardt. The infamous Pooch Parade provides the grand finale here at 6 p.m. daily -- poodles and their pals don berets and tricolour flags for some canine couture.

The Accordion Stage offers authentic music (often an acquired taste) performed by Members of the Accordion International Music Society of Santa Barbara.

Practice your parlez-vous at the French Conversation Corner where French speakers are standing by to converse en francaise and even play Mille Bornes, the beloved French car-racing card game.

Sixteenth-century France comes alive with with live actors and actresses who roam the festival in authentic costumes and portray real-life courtiers of the “Court of Blood and Silk” who vied for royal attention around 1581.

Enter a raffle to win two nights in Paris and a $500 airline credit, among other prizes. Tickets are only $1 each or $5 for six tickets.

Still hungry?

Santa Barbara has beaucoup French eateries worth a future visit. Authentic pastries can be found at Renaud’s Patisserie & Bistro (Loreto Plaza, 3315 State St.) which also serves breakfast, salads, quiches and tartines (bread with a sweet or savory topping). Bree-osh Bakery Café (1150 Coast Village Road, Montecito) is also tres authentique -- it was recently opened by a French couple. Le Macaron French Pastries (in Paseo Nuevo) serves those delectable meringue cookies, along with French gelato and other pastries. Lilac Patisserie (1017 State S.) is upscale gluten-free deliciousness -- you won’t miss the flour.

For dinner, Petit Valentien, nestled away in La Arcada Courtyard (1114 State St.), has traditional fare and also serves delicious Ethiopian dishes. Le Café Stella (3302 McCaw Ave.) is a charming informal eatery off Las Pasitas Road. Its upscale sister restaurant, Stella Mare’s, presides over the Bird Refuge (50 Los Patos Way).

Bon appetit!

Julia McHugh can be reached at


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