Unique in Unison: Le Dîner en Blanc
Last June for one reason or another, I was invited, but couldn’t get it together to attend the 25th annual “Dîner en Blanc,” but this year, for the 26th annual mass outdoor picnic in white, months were spent in preparation, both mentally and physically.
One must be invited — you can’t just ‘show up.’ To be invited, you either have to know one of the organizers or be sponsored by a friend already registered for the event. And once registered, you’re on the list for life.
The Dîner en Blanc, not to be confused with “La Nuit Blanche” (meaning “Sleepless Night” which takes place every October), is the chicest picnic in the world…in a public space. It all started in Paris, launched with just a handful of friends by François Pasquier, but has spread to 40 cities across the globe, including Europe, the Americas (16 in the U.S.), Australia and the Pacific, Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
In preparation, a folding table was ordered up with four seats that is light enough to carry (http://www.decathlon.fr/), special white china plates were purchased that I wouldn’t care about getting broken along with a new outfit all in white. On the last day, I gathered up all the accouterments for an elegant picnic:
White cloth napkins
Red or white wine (feel free to splurge here!)
A bottle of champagne (again, splurging is always appreciated)
A bottle of water (splurging not necessary)
White place settings (real plates, bowls, etc., no paper or plastic!)
2 REAL glasses (no plastic!)
A refined first course
A main dish that can be served cold
A cheese or dessert course
Salt, pepper, etc.
Pain… er… bread
Candles – photophores or candelabra
2 garbage bags
Where the dinner would take place no one would know until the very last minute…the secret is kept until it cannot be kept a moment longer. All we knew was the date — Thursday, June 12th! Two days in advance an email was dispersed to learn that we’d be splitting up into three separate groups, there was to be a team leader and we’d meet at a particular place at 8 p.m. At noon on Thursday, we received another email with the location where to meet — at the entrance to the Palais Galliera.
In the taxi along the way were dots of people dressed in white…everywhere. It was curious, as usually the event takes place in one location, yet there are hints of white diners all along the route. The traffic was horrendous, but the driver was encouraging that we’d make it on time.
The group gathered at the corner in white finery, introducing ourselves to one another and making new friends. Still ‘in the dark’ over the location of the dinner, the group, now of about 20 people, waited about one hour until the group leader said, “Okay, let’s go — follow me!”…and with our rolling bags and folding tables all dressed in white, we did.
As we headed toward the river, one could see thousands of people coming from all of the adjacent streets filing in and creating a massive stream to ascend the Passerelle Debilly — a foot bridge that connects the quai de New York to the quai Branly, close to the Eiffel Tower, built for the 1900 World’s Fair. But there was no way all of Dîner en Blanc was to take place on this one bridge! In fact, we could see the other bridges were lined in white for as far as our eye could see — all 13,000 of us! In fact, six bridges in Paris were all part of this year’s Dîner en Blanc!
The Eiffel Tower loomed like the Grande Dame she is just nearby and the river boats passed under the bridge waving and everyone waved back in good cheer. Some of the boats were filled with their own diners in white — perhaps they had created their own private Dîner en Blanc parties.
The tables were aligned one after another in rows down each side of the bridge. They were opened and set up with cloths, dishes, silverware, glasses, etc. The candles were lit. The champagne was opened and poured and the food was passed around. We marveled at the costumes everyone was wearing and the beauty of the sea of white against the evening sky, backdropped by the Seine and the city’s turn-of-the-century architecture.
In unison we dined, we drank, we became delirious with joy. At both ends of the bridge there was music and dancing. We mingled, we shared, we reveled in the moment. Then sparklers were distributed and lit for that very special moment when we rejoiced in being a part of something very, very special. As the sparklers died, lit paper balloons were launched into the air from all the bridges and we knew we had jointly, all 13,000 of us, made a statement for the whole world to see.
Yes, we are all unique, but yes, we can be unique in total harmony. No one wanted it to end, as the time went too quickly. Like Cinderella, at the stroke of midnight, the debris was collected, the tables and chairs folded back into their original forms and we said our good-byes, headed to our cars, our buses, our Métros, or on foot to our homes.
At 1:30 a.m. I laid my head on my white pillow and dreamed about next year’s Dîner en Blanc…when or where would it be?
A la prochaine…
Director of The Adrian Leeds Group, LLC
(At Le Dîner en Blanc)
P.S. Stay tuned for another great event in Paris this coming weekend’s “Fête de la Musique” — June 21st on the Summer Solstice.
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