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European Union

Soiree With the French
Photo: Charles Roullet
Are you too busy to plan a trip to Europe, but still craving the culture of the Continent? Or is your next jaunt to Paris years away?

If so, then there's another way to get there -- international parties, held in a city near you.

By tonight, you could be mingling with a fascinatingly diverse crowd, brushing up on your Italian or sipping a fine Bordeaux without any of the hassle of traveling.

Just ask Pierre Battu, a Paris native who founded the festive French Tuesdays four years ago.

The concept stemmed from his desire to get a group of friends together at Ava Lounge, a trendy bar in midtown Manhattan. "There was no strategic vision. It was just for me to boost my social life," says Battu.

A few months later, when 500 people showed up at a party he planned for Bastille Day, Battu realized that socializing might prove to be a successful business idea.

And it has. Along with French Tuesdays co-founder Gilles Amsallem, Battu has spread the concept across the U.S., from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Miami. The party takes place every other Tuesday and on special events including Halloween and New Year's Eve.

You don't need to be French to attend; the festivities attract all different nationalities. In general, "30% are French, 40% are American, and 30% are other nationalities," says Battu.

You do need to be a member, though. Joining is free, but you must be recommended by two existing members. There is also a fee-based, preferred membership ($40 for the registration fee and $35 annually), which includes perks such as priority entry, monthly promotions, and discounts in shops.

French Tuesdays is designed to get participants interested in other cultures as well. Themed events include Brazilian night, a Moroccan feast and a flamenco night.

There is a strict dress code, however. Attire is formal -- men must wear a suit jacket. "We want our parties to be special, and dressing well puts people in the mood," Battu explains. Even in San Francisco, a city known for its casual appearance, partygoers adhere to the well-dressed rule.

Above all, French Tuesdays events are designed to promote socializing. For the first part of the evening, the music is kept low to give people a chance to network. "Some even do business," says Battu.

The second half of the evening is when the real partying begins, as guests loosen up and get into the music, which often includes live drummers.

The formula is successful. "It exceeds in a real and genuine way," says frequent guest Keith Yazmir, 40. "These guys have managed to put together a group of people who are very friendly. There is a real feeling of openness. Everyone there is attractive, smart and successful, which doesn't hurt," adds Yazmir, who first heard of the party when he was working in New York for the French government.
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