Paris has loads of beautiful things to see; art-works, architecture, gardens and parks, monuments, views and perspectives that will stop you in your tracks. But, it doesn’t have a beach. It’s not even within cooee of a beach. Except from the 19th of July to the 17th of August the beach is brought to Paris. Five thousand tons of sand is transported by barge from the canton Gaillon-la-Campagne in Haut-Normandie and deposited in three locations in the city to create beaches for Parisians; the Paris Plages. This is the thirteenth year that the Paris city administrators have set up the beach city to bring a bit of vacation vibe right into town.
Alongside the right bank of the Seine on the Voie Georges Pompidou from the Pont Neuf to the Pont d’ Arcole there is a one kilometre stretch of golden sand beach complete with deck chairs, water sprays, ice-cream stands, tai-chi lessons, chair massage practitioners, petanque pitches, cafes, dancing lessons, a sand-castle building competition and more. There are beach attendants in bright life-saver like uniforms and the Red Cross are there too in case of over exertion, over exposure (to the sun) or any other summer ailment.
One of the attractions at this city centre beach is the model of the Eiffel Tower made out of 324 red café chairs. Why would anyone do this?…..Well to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the 324 metre high Eiffel Tower (built for the 1889 Paris Expo) and the typical folding café chair (aka bistro chair) built by French outdoor furniture manufacturer Fermob. I was impressed; a very clever idea, and just how those 324 chairs are arranged is nigh on impossible to discern.
The big square at the Hotel de Ville (the Town Hall) is also covered in sand and is the location for weekends of beach volley-ball, rugby, beach tennis, and the FNAC music festival.
Out in the 19th arrondissement at the Bassin de la Villette (further upstream from the Canal St Martin I wrote about here) there is another beach installation. At this beach there is a flying fox over the water, various water rides, boats and cruises as well as the deck chairs and beach games, ice-creams and cafes.
I’ve been spoiled living in Wellington with a walk along the beach front as my daily route to and from work and I really really miss the beach. So a pilgrimage to check out the Paris Plages easily lured me one hot sunny day. Crowds of people, (though not overwhelming), sunbathing, having fun and generally a thoroughly jolly atmosphere made for a pleasant stroll and if there had been any unoccupied deck chairs I might have stayed a while longer. Sadly, I still couldn’t dip my toes in the water; even Paris can’t beat Wellington on a good day. ( I cant resist showing you….)
Very soon I shall be dipping my toes, and hopefully the rest of me, in the Adriatic Sea.