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Summer In Paris At Her Best

Last weekend I was in London and this weekend I went to the beach. I didn’t take the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) to Nice or a car to the shores of Bretagne. Instead I took a 20-minute walk from my Paris apartment to the Seine. Of course, you already know I must be talking about Paris Plage.

It’s typically August in Paris. The residential, non-touristic streets of the city are so quiet — virtually void of traffic, sparse with pedestrians and virtually no dogs pooping — that it’s downright eerie. Yet the moment you head for the Seine, the city springs back to life, thanks to Mayor Bertrand Delanoë’s brilliant idea to bring the relaxed summer activities you normally find at seaside resorts to the center of Paris.

One evening we picnicked on the sand next to a man creating beautiful sand sculptures — we spread our sheet, took off our shoes, passed out the plastic plates and napkins, opened the “charcuterie” and bottle of rosé, peeled boiled shrimp and talked about our lives in Paris punctuated by the softly lit and freshly cleaned “Conciergerie” opposite us on the Ile de la Cité. The air was warm, breezy and inviting.

Sunday late afternoon, we strolled almost the entire 3.5 kilometer length of the Plage stopping for an ice cream and soda, dipping under the “brumisateur” (humidifier) for a refreshingly cool mist, watching the Batobus make it’s stop to take passengers further down the Seine, and enjoying the music and street entertainment all along the way. On the eastern end between the Pont Marie and Sully-Morland entrances, is a swimming pool for all to enjoy, a stage for musical events (scheduled weekend evenings) and a café celebrating the 60th anniversary of D-Day that plays rock ‘n roll music where hundreds of people are dancing the Jitterbug wearing leis and Hawaiian shirts! Smiles are abundant.

Bongo drum-beating groups can be heard at various points under the bridges where accoustics are best and women passers-by randomly join to show off their African tribal or belly-dancing talents. Break-dancers are turning their bodies balanced on one of their hands while clowns and comics are doing routines and gathering crowds. Kids are playing under the water mists and building sand castles. The petanque courts are all taken by players, the hammocks, lounge chairs and cafés are taken by dreamers.

What strikes me most about Paris Plage )and all the cultural events set forth by this administration) is that it is created by the city for its people…ALL its people. There is nothing commercial about it — nothing that would separate the “haves” from the “have-nots.” It’s free to all and not polluted by too many junk food stands or souvenir shops vying for your buck. It’s clean as a whistle, barely a shred of paper on the ground, and the crowds are quiet, respectful and very well-behaved, but clearly having a grand ol’ time.

It’s summer in Paris at her best.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. Printed programs are available at the Mairies (city halls), all Monoprix locations (an official sponsor) or online at http://www.paris.fr and it’s over August 20th, so hurry down before the beach is relinquished once again to becoming a motorway.

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