Facebook competition winner recounts his 14 July
Matthieu Najm was the winner of our 14 July Facebook quiz. Here he tells us about the evening at the French Residence on France’s National Day
The French National Day was on 14 July. To celebrate it, the French Embassy organized a reception at the Ambassador’s Residence for the Embassy staff and other key people involved in links between France and the United Kingdom.
A Facebook quiz had been organized giving two people the chance to come to the reception in London. The winner was drawn at random from among the best scores and I was very surprised and happy to hear that I had won and could attend the event.
I was a bit anxious but really excited when my girlfriend and I arrived at Kensington Palace Gardens at 6pm. Respecting the chic dress code, we dressed in the colours of France (which also happen to be those of the UK): myself in blue and white and my girlfriend in red.
Even though we were sure to have a fantastic evening, we were a bit nervous to find ourselves in the middle of a crowd of 1,500 people we didn’t know. After collecting our invitation cards and entering the Residence, we met Sylvie-Agnès Bermann, the French Ambassador to the UK. We then went into the garden, where there was an incredible buffet. On the menu: typically French products, with a wide variety of cheeses, meat, bread and pastries. The wine that was served was also top quality.
We then listened to speeches by Mme Bermann and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. It was an honour in itself to attend these two speeches, but we were also especially moved by the presentation of the Légion d’honneur to two Second World War veterans. It was the first time we’d ever seen such a ceremony and it was really moving.
After the speeches, we decided to overcome our shyness and got into conversation with several other guests: Embassy staff and French and UK business leaders. We really gained a lot from talking to them and exchanged contact details with a few of them.
At 10pm we were really sad to have to leave the Residence and this magnificent event. But what an unforgettable evening!