Welcome to Paris-by-the-Beach! Three kilometers (1.8 miles) of riverfront highway in the heart of Paris have been transformed into a resort strand, complete with beach volleyball, palm trees and ice cream stands. Creating a beach in the center of Paris has required the transport of 18,000 cubic meters (24,000 cubic yards) of sand, 80 palm trees, 150 beach umbrellas, 22 changing rooms, 150 decorative banners, 4 snack bars, and various other items, all supported by a $1.5 million budget that is being paid for by the city of Paris. Let the summer fun begin! July 21, 2002 marked the opening of Paris-Plage, as it is officially called, and it attracted hundreds of sunbathers who bared their bodies on stretches of grass or sand along the river. Thousands more strolled along the riverfront highway that runs parallel to the new beaches. But not everybody was on foot; rollerbladers, bicyclists and fathers and mothers pushing baby strollers mixed in with the crowd. Several bridges, including the Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf and the Pont au Change were lined with spectators who chose to survey the beach scene from above rather than descend to the crowded riverfront below. The day was sunny and warm –this boded well for the popularity of the ersatz beach that has captured the imagination of Parisians. Large fluorescent yellow signs are positioned at intervals along the quays. These provide practical information about the activities planned over the four-week period during which the beach will be open, including concerts, art exhibits, dance performances and sporting events. Even street art is being encouraged: on opening day we saw artists using spray paint to create a graffiti mural stretching a hundred meters along the bank of the river. Here is a brief overview of the activities: Music: rhythm and blues, techno, classical, Armenian, accordion, fanfare. Sports: rock climbing, golf, rollerblading, pétanque (a type of bowling played on the sand), beach volley, fishing. Various other events: clowns, juggling, dance and, of course, sunbathing. Several thousand people had visited Paris Plage by the time that an Armenian band played lively music on Monday evening, July 29th, to a crowd of enthusiastic spectators. Farther along the quay, pétanque players were concentrating on their games on the sandy stretch set aside for them. Across the Seine, people gathered on the riverbank to listen to the music, while the familiar bateaux mouches (riverboats) plied by. It was a peaceful scene, and the setting sun presented a picture postcard photo opportunity for the scores of Parisians and visitors promenading on the sidewalks and quays. The fun ends on August 18, when the city rolls up the beach and reopens the riverfront highway to commuters returning from vacation. In the meantime, visitors to Paris this summer will enjoy this unique opportunity to stroll along the transformed riverbank. More complete information may be obtained from the city of Paris web site: —Roy T. Reeves is co-owner of Discover Paris! – Personalized Itineraries for Independent Travelers. © Roy T. Reeves
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