For theâ€ third year in a row, a section of the expressway on the Right Bank of the Seine has been turned into a sandy beach in the heart of Paris, complete with palm trees, umbrellas, hammocks and deck chairs.â€ Dubbed "Paris-Plage" (Paris-Beach), the site is free and open to the public 24 hours a day until August 18, with special activities programmed from 9 AM to 10:30 PM.
Sunbathing, Sports and World Music
[img]122|left|[/img]The Banks of the River Seine in Paris provide one of the world’s most scenic drives, rating inclusion in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.â€ For the past several summers, the downtown expressways have been turned into pedestrian areas.â€ The idea of taking this concept further came from the successful man-made beach of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.â€ In 2002, 1,000 tons of sand were used to create the first Paris-Plage, which welcomed 2.3 million visitors.â€ The experiment received worldwide press coverage, gave a major boost to the French capital’s image and prompted the City of Paris to make it an annual event.
The 2004 version is bigger and better.â€ Stretching from the Pont de Sully bridge, across the Eastern tip of Ile St. Louis to the Pont des Arts bridge near the Louvre, Paris-Plage now covers close to two miles on the sunny side of the Seine.â€ Three thousand tons of sand had to be trucked in, all donated by Lafarge, the French construction materials group (www.lafarge.com).â€ Sifted and cleaned every day during the month-long event, the sand will eventually be donated to sandboxes in schools and parks in Greater Paris.â€ This year, a boardwalk that recalls that of Deauville in Normandy has been added.â€ Sunbathing amenities have also been extended to include 300 deckchairs, 22 blue-and-white-striped tents to serve as cabanas, 150 beach umbrellas, three water-sprinkler stations and a 500-book free lending library to while away the tanning process.â€
[img]123|right|[/img]More active visitors can scale the banks’ walls, learn river fishing techniques, attend a marine knot-tying clinic, roller-skate or bike in special lanes, take instruction in Tai Chi (Chinese gymnastics) and master "pÃˆtanque", the French lawn-bowling game.â€ Children have not been forgotten: they have their own area for building sandcastles and can choose from 2 youth clubs (limited to 3-year-olds and up!).â€ A floating stage has been anchored in the Seine and a total of 32 concerts are planned.â€ And yes, since we are in France, there are open-air food stands, "bistros", picnic grounds and dance floors to add that Parisian flavor to summer nights.â€ Nearby, the square facing the HÃ™tel de Ville (City Hall) has been transformed into a beach volleyball area, a small sports stadium and a putting green for golfers.â€ Last but not least, first aid posts comfort stations and security guards guarantee that all contingencies will be provided for.
The entire complex was installed in record time: one day and four nights.â€ Although larger than last year’s Paris-Plage, the total budget is identical–1.5 million Euros.â€ There is one difference, however: private sponsors now finance half.â€ Entry to the site and participation in all activities are free, with the exception of bicycle rentals (at reduced rates) and of course all food and beverages.â€ Opening day for the 2004 Paris-Plageâ€ is July 21, with the Mayor of Paris officiating.â€
The Sincerest Form of Flattery… Budapest, Berlin and Toulouse
[img]124|left|[/img]The success of the concept has already generated international imitators: copycat "city beaches" can be found in Hungary, where "Budapest-Beach" adorns the banks of the Danube, and in Germany.â€ There, Berlin’s "Beach" involves 80 tons of sand and is open for two months on the Spree River banks, right in the middle of the Government district.â€ Closer to home, the French city of Toulouse has shipped 2,000 tons of sand from the Dordogne River to the banks of the Garonne River to create "CÃ™tÃˆ Plage" (Beach Front).â€ There as elsewhere, the delights of the beach are combined with cultural pleasures in a month-long schedule of festivities.â€
So far, the unusual 90-degree-plus temperatures have made this year’s "Paris-Plage" a huge success, attracting over 600,000 visitors on its first day alone.â€ The only complaint seems to be that "the polluted Seine is not the sea".â€ City Hall has already come back with the idea of adding clean-water floating pools for future Paris-Plages.â€ Then Parisians and visitors alike can really say: "Let’s hit the beach!"
(Reported by Fanny leJemtel Hostie, a writer specializing in tourism and economic development issues in France and the U. S.)