Paris holds a beach party
Paris is at least one hundred miles from the French coast, but over the summer, locals and tourists can enjoy a massive beach party in the heart of the big city. 2,000 tons of sand and 40 palm trees have been trucked in to make a two-mile beach along the River Seine, at a cost of US$ 2.5 million. Paris-Plage is open for business for the third year in a row.
Last year the artificial beach attracted over three million visitors.
According to project designer Jean-Christophe Choblet, the aim of this beach is lazing and relaxing by the water. The Seine itself is not considered clean enough for swimming in, however. So this year there is the added attraction of a swimming pool for 200 people.
There also beach volley-ball courts and four trampolines, as well as sunbeds, hot dog stands and refreshment bars.
The scheme is the idea of Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe. “Thousands of people who can’t leave on holiday can enjoy four weeks of pleasure, and it’s free” he said. There is a programme of activities in the day-time including a music festival and gymnastics.
The Paris-Plage event takes place on the roads by the river which link the Quai Henri IV and the Quai des Tuileries. The roadway along the side of the river has been closed to motor traffic and the Right Bank of the Seine has been transformed into an area for strolling, or just resting in the shade under one of the 150 parasols or in one of 40 hammocks that have been erected for the month-long event.
The Town Hall square has been turned into an arena for badminton and roller-skating. Sections of the beach are floodlit at night, and there the whole area is accessible by disabled people.
In addition to lounging on the sunbeds, visitors can take part in free sporting activities, including petanque or boules and volleyball, and dance in old-time dance cafes, known as ginguettes. On Friday and Saturday nights there are free concerts by independent musicians, ranging from jazz, pop and rock n’ roll to traditional and classical music.
The city beach idea has been copied in several other big cities, including Lyon, Toulouse, Berlin and Budapest. The authorities in London are not keen to try it out along the Thames on such a big scale. There are plans already for another annual Paris-Plage event next year, before work is completed on creating a permanent swimming pool and aqua-leisure complex beside the Seine, which is due to open in Spring 2006.
The Paris-Plage beach experience continues until August 20 and is open daily from 7am to midnight.
author: David Browne
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