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Paris By The Sea: Paris Plage

Jul 30, 2008
When you think of Paris many thinks spring to mind: romance, wine, food, arts and THAT tower. It's a safe bet that you don't think of the beach. Paris-on-Sea? No, surely everybody knows there's no beach in Paris, right? Right? Except, that is, for the summer.

From July to late August, the usually busy roads that run alongside the Seine are closed and the river banks are turned into a palm-lined sandy beach. The now annual Paris Plage initiative was started in 2002 by the city's socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoe as an attempt to reclaim the city for its people. Initially regarded as folly and a bit of a gimmick, it was this scheme coupled with a now hugely popular bike-rental scheme that helped him get voted back into office.

In fact the scheme proved so popular that it started being mimicked. Suburbs of Paris - perhaps put off by the tourists invading what was designed to be their beach holiday - started setting up their own smaller versions and it spread outwards to other regional French cities before reaching the likes of Brussels, Amsterdam and even Budapest.

Anybody that has visited the French capital will attest that the Seine is truly picturesque and an absolute pleasure to stroll beside - and that those rental bicycles are everywhere - and with banks wide enough to provide ample space for a 'beach.' This year the 'beach' is now in place - four tonnes of sand - along a 3km stretch of the banks and adorned with deck chairs, hammocks, grassy areas and palm trees and will be there until August 19th. The opening of the beach, just a few days after the Bastille Day celebrations, was marked with concert by an orchestra and 120 singers performing Beethoven's ninth ceremony and a huge picnic in the evening along the length of the beach. They do things in style dans Paris.

With France having taken over the rotating EU Presidency this year, something special was called for and so a one kilometre stretch of the 'beach' was upgraded this year. There's now activities such as canoeing, rowing, sailing and that all-time favourite beach activity; ballroom dancing. Last year the initiative attracted 4 million visitors and more are expected this year, August being the time of year when most Paris natives de-camp on their own holidays.

If you're one of the millions expected to be descending on Paris this summer, knowing how maze like those Parisian streets can be, you'll find the Paris Plage from the Ile St. Louis to the Jardin des Tuileries. So, this summer, if you're heading to Paris on holiday, you may well need to pack your bucket and spade after all.
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