...Continued from page 1

The sweep–up ambulances come, accompanied with a minor squad of roller flics and followed by a dozen bike riders. There must be about two dozen cops on skates with the rando. I think they're out for the ride.

Once clear of the intersection, regular Paris lurches back to life and the waiting cars turn. If they aren't in a mangle, jammed up in the middle of the intersection. A minute later everybody is clear and warm Friday night resumes, back at its regular noise level.

Dancing, Dancing

I keep hearing about the tango nights on the Quai Saint–Bernard. On a hot summer night in August of 2000 I went down to see what was up, but my only memory is of not much. I remember the heat of the night though, walking past the deserted Curie institute in the Rue Cuvier.

On Saturday night, in very much the same weather, I went back. The 'quai' is the road and beyond the RER tracks beside the Seine it is called 'port.' I think everybody calls it Quai Saint–Bernard, and not its other name which is Square Tino Rossi.

There are a series of small half–arenas facing the river, and the first had the tango dancers. The musicphoto: samba, quai st bernard was original, including the needle–hops. It seemed to be staggering more than necessary. The dancers didn't seem to mind. Maybe they didn't notice. They looked formal, and they looked like they were trying hard. Tango looks too formal to be a dance.

The back–lit samba or salsa dancers.

The next arena to the west just had a few bongo players. They might have been between sets. The arenas are far enough apart so the music from one doesn't drown out the music of the neighbors.

The third arena was full of samba dancers, being led by a samba chief. They all faced towards the curve of the arena and away from the river. When the bateaux mouches with the lights passed, it was like a three–minute blitz lighting up their backs.

They would do a series of steps for a few minutes and then the chief would change the tune, show some new steps, restart the music and everybody would do it. You could do it as a spectator too and a lot of the audience around the arena were doing this. It looked like it could hardly be better in Rio.

Up by the sunken RER tracks there is a large flat area and this was jammed with latino rhythm fans. I couldn't see the difference between the audience and the dancers. They were all doing it. Signs said 'Bar La Peña' and 'Radio Latina.'

Altogether this amounted to four outdoor music and dancing scenes, within a five–minute walk of each other. A lot of other people were spread out on the grass and stone of the park next to the Seine.

I kept going west and I left the quay to cross the Pont de Sully, to the Ile Saint–Louis, and to the right bank where Paris Plage starts. Its first lights were violet, which has an odd effect on the green of the leaves.

The 'plage' was crowded with people of all ages being outside, beside the Seine. I think light strips have been added to many of the bridges, including the interiors of arches over the speedway converted into a 'beach.'

There is a big bandstand just beyond the swimming pool, but it always seems to be 'between sets.' There was a guy under a bridge arch wailing away on an instrument that looked like a flute with accordion keys, and its French sound carried well a bit beyond the arch.

Parisians buying ice creams, pushing babies in strollers, occasional rollers gliding past, couples sitting besidephoto: paris plage the river in the fluid air. Under another bridge arch between the two sets of boules pitches there was a lone guitarist, with a big audience.

Camping through the evening at Paris Plage.

He side–stepped the microphone a couple of times, and the sound was almost the same. He began 'Hotel California' and there was scattered applause, and for one guy with one instrument, he was good. He sang the lyrics but stopped for the chorus, and the audience filled it in. Truly magic, just right.

Up on the Pont d'Arcole I could see a lot of Paris Plage, one color of lights to the east and green lights to the west, with the Hôtel de Ville up above looking like a postcard of some theme city.

It's all a bit unreal, in the centre of Paris this summer. But it's open in August and since it is, it must be a 'fête,' and this is what it is. A few colored lights don't make it any less. If you come here it won't be for the glooms.

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