More Better Paris Plage

photo: cafe, resto, av du maine

A form of 'Paris Plage' in the Avenue du Maine.

'Paris Life - No 1O'

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 7. July 2003:- Summer officially arriving two weeks ago finally caught the attention of the sky's controllers. Whoa, they said. Having summer weather during summer is unconstitutional or anti-republican, so we had cool times last week.

These were not radical, because daily highs were only six to eight degrees below the summer weather we had in spring. I, for one, closed no windows, added no blankets. Late at night when cool breezes drift in from the cemetery I put on a sweater.

There has been some rain, much welcomed by Paris' gardners. The rain has been in brief periods. On days that have been mostly cloudy, there have been sunny periods too. When it is bright, it is a reminder of what we had - and a hint that it is coming back.

According to tonight's TV-weather news, the return is scheduled for tomorrow. There will be some messy stuff in the sky in northern France, but this could have been caused by a dirty TV-screen. Le Parisien says, "C'est pas mal!"

For Wednesday and Thursday it gets even better with both days showing major sunballs for most of the country. There is some mess on the western coast, but it seems to be locked there. Nothing is said about Friday, possibly to keep up our hopes for the weekend. Le Parisien says, "C'est bien!" and "C'est mieux!" - always with the exclamation marks.

Temperatures will be, according to TV, 27, 29 and 29 degrees. 'Above average for the season,' etc. etc. The paper is a bit more bumpy with, 27, 25 and 28. The paper thinks Friday may have a few clouds, and explains that 'bien' is the enemy of 'mieux,' but nothing about crumbling cookies.

It is too soon to tell whether all of this means a warm, bright and sunny Bastille Day weekend coming up in Paris. Both the paper and the TV forecasts are in their vacation mode now, and they don't give a hoot for what happens here. For that matter, radio weather news never does either.

Café Life

More, Better, Paris Plage 2003

Exactly half a month before this year's edition of Paris Plage is to open, a press conference was held in the Hôtel de Ville last Friday to present the new version. This was in a grander city hall salle than the previous press briefing about the 'welcome to Paris' squads, officially known as 'ambassadors.'

A large painted drover and huge cow looked down from the ornate ceiling on the 150-odd journalistic Paris Plage fans and the politicos responsible for the city departments involved in the operation. The principal of these was Mayor Bertrand Delanoë, who looked liked he had taken his holidays during our recent summer in spring.

He had read the press dossier already so he was able to speak without notes. He has used a microphone before, so there was no chance of anybody missing anything he said - loudly, clearly and with flair. Almost as good, the room was set up with window light coming in from side, so it was possible to see everybody on the low stage.

Last year's edition of the same show was fairly casual, with an ordinary mix of the usual journalistic crew that covers the city's affairs. Since then Paris Plage has become famous worldwide, calling for serious media to converge. However, unlike last year, there was no free lunch or Champagne, served in a garden.

In a recent decree, bottled mineral water was replaced with carafes of city tap water, at city council meetings. For journalists, the replacement has been to offer no freebies, except business.

It is not so much that we are in hard times - Paris Plage 2002 was a gigantic success with Parisians - but entry to the 'beach' in 2003 remains free. Drinks and snacks, and rental bikes, are about the only things requiring payment.

By re-using much of last years' equipment, the city's budget remains about 1.5 million euros - whichphoto: bertrand delanoe, paris mayor allows for the doubling of the deck chairs, sunbathing areas, parasols and a tripling of the sand - to 3000 tons, thanks to the beach's 'partner,' Lafarge. The sand beaches will be two this year, and twice as long as last year's single one.

At the press conference, the zoom video cameras had to get within 50 centimetres of the mayor, Bertrand Delanoë.

Everything else - palms, plants, water sprays, toilets, drinking fountains, bicycle rentals, are increased, and there will be more for kids - a sand castle area - and sporty types. On the entertainment side there will be 32 concerts and eight 'bals populaires.' Hommage will be paid to Django Reinhardt with one of the 'bals' and three concerts.

Full-time, there will be one 'guinguette' for dancing. Also, from Wednesday to Friday weekly, there will be a floating stage - a 'scène flottante' - which will feature latin music. This will be moored near the Pont Marie. So the fête can continue at night, overall lighting will be improved, thanks to another beach 'partner,' Philips.

Also new this year will be two picnic areas with proper tables, and with picnic hampers on sale in front of the Hôtel de Ville. This will also be the location of a mini-gymnasium and a court for 'tennis-balloon.' Whatever this is, the beach volley-ball will be back.

The mayor emphasized that everything for sale - at the buvettes, the beach souvenirs, the picnic hampers - will have moderate prices. If you can't afford these, there is no reason not to bring your own picnic.

Paris Plage itself will be in the same area as last year. This is from just beyond the Pont de Sully in the east, to the Pont des Arts in the west - all on the right bank of the Seine. Beach activities will be from 9:00 to 22:30, but the beach itself will be open non-stop, and watched by police.

Another plus is one extra week for Paris Plage. It opens on Sunday, 20. July and continues non-stop until Sunday, 17. August. Last year, 2.3 million beach fans visited Paris Plage, and the mayor went out of his way to praise the dozen city departments and their staffs who contributed to it, and to this years' edition.

Basically, the city's plan is to continue the spirit of Paris Plage 2002, but to do more and do it better. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë repeated this several times, so it must be the motto.

The plan for the Café Metropole Club is to hold all of its Thursday meetings as usual during this period, at the café La Corona, on the quay just above the beach between the Pont Neuf and the Pont des Arts. The club's motto - 'no sand on club reports, please.'

Tour de France in Paris

For its 100th anniversary, and the first time in 40 years, the Tour de France began its three-week marathon around France in Paris on Saturday. The Tour always finishes its annual round-trip with a sprint up and down the Champs-Elysées - which will be on Sunday, 27. July this year.

It is the finishes that I remember, without ever having seen one. They are big events, best seen on TV. All the same, under a steel-gray sky, I went over to the Ecole Militaire to see some of the arrivals of the initial 6.5 kilometre time-trial - which began at the Tour Eiffel.

I didn't go at dawn, so some other bike-racing fans were there before me, and they had taken all the best places for watching the action - actually from the Tour Eiffel up to Trocadéro, to Almaphoto: tour de france, saturday heading east, across the Pont de la Concorde, and back west along the left bank and down the Avenue Rapp to the Rue de La Bordonnais, and around the corner to the finish line in front of the Ecole Militaire.

A bike racer rounds the final corner before the finish line on Saturday.

This is a big space on a wide street. On Saturday it was full of Tour de France buildings, trucks, official souvenir vendors, balloons, overhead screens, tour crews, TV crews, police, and a lot of fans along the barriers, plus a lot more hanging back and watching the action on the big screens.

All that was left for the racers was a narrow alleyway beween all the rest. The big overhead screens showed racers wheeling around the circuit, right into the Rue de La Bordonnais, and then - zip! - they were gone in a flash.

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