Charles and Audrey Gildea savored a taste of French "joie de vivre" yesterday afternoon as they lingered over strawberry crepes and wine on the breezy porch of the Maryland Inn in Annapolis.
From their cool perch at the top of Main Street, they watched a small but steady stream of determined Francophiles celebrate Bastille Day, France's national independence holiday.
Children stood in line to have their faces painted by a clown, tourists stopped to buy peanuts and giggling girls waited to have their fortunes told.
Eight-year-old Jason Townsend fidgeted in his chair as Bows the Neon Clown, otherwise known as Mary Jane Dinnis of Bowie, painted a crab on his cheek.
"I want some fish, too," he announced.
His mother, Carolyn Townsend of Annapolis, watched with a smile as Ms. Dinnis dipped her brush into blue paint.
"We come every year," she said. "It's always good to have a festival that brings people out and gives the kids something to do."
Paul M. Pearson, the man who transformed a group of dumpy hotels into the stylish Historic Inns of Annapolis, created the first Maryland version of Bastille Day with his sister, Anne, some 20 years ago.
"We just happen to have that little touch of Francophilia, and so it seemed like a good idea," he said. "My sister came up with most of the events, and they still have the tarot card readings and face painting and dancing in the streets."
The street festival was an immediate hit for the Maryland Inn with its Treaty of Paris restaurant, considered one of the finest in the state and named after the accord ending the American Revolution.
Mr. Pearson, a history buff who lived in Paris for several years, said he selected the name because the treaty had been ratified in 1783 just a stone's throw away, at the State House. He also dug up some papers that showed a King of France tavern stood on the spot in 1784 and resurrected that name for the downstairs bar.
He was getting ready to take his grandsons to try their hand at blackjack at the miniature casino last night. Other Francophiles, undeterred by the 100-degree heat, came to revel in the street and dance to a live orchestra.
Carole Maniez, a 15-year-old visiting from Lille, France, said the affair at the Maryland Inn had a distinctly American flavor, with its hot dogs and pop corn.
"In France, it's bigger and everybody is dressed in costume," she said. "And there's fireworks and a big ball at the end of the night.
But she enjoyed a taste of the French holiday, as did Jim and Judy Carr, who just returned to the Annapolis area after six years in Europe.
The couple sat with Jack Hodgson, Judy's father, at a table covered with a red-checked cloth, sipped French beer and told their own Bastille Day story.
When they purchased an ancient stone farmhouse near Dijon, France, the Carrs tried to trace the building's history. They know it dates back to the 1300s, but they never succeeded in pinpointing a date. The records were burned in the French Revolution.