horz line

Under the Sand, the City

photo, cafe la corona, paris plage

The café Corona outpost sur–la–plage.

Paris–Plage News

Paris:– Monday, 25. July 2005:– The aftermath of war lasted a long time, until Parisians began to think it was time to banish the dirt by tearing down the central market of Les Halles and get rid of the crabbed traffic by putting a speedway right through the centre along the Seine. For good measure the ugly tower at Montparnasse was tossed up but then Georges Pompidou died and the speedway named after him stayed half finished, being speedy only along the right bank from west to east.

When I lived out in a western suburb I could take the autoroute to the edge of town and then catch the speedway and ride along the river past the Eiffel tower. I could roll non–stop from my village to the centre of Paris and park near the Ile Saint–Louis. It's a bit like living in Nassau county and parking within a block of Times Square. It was speedy and cheap, and it worked like a charm on Sundays.

If you live in Paris you probably won't use the speedway because you can take the Métro andphoto, samba, paris plage not worry about parking. If you live in Paris you might not care that the speedway is a convenience for drivers and gives them a good view. Instead you might be annoyed that this same good view is full of metal and glass and rubber, exhaust fumes, and sometimes bad tempers.

Samba lessons next to the café Corona. Caramba!

In 2001 the new city government decided to turn three kilometres of the speedway into a temporary beach. Paris has long had a notion that the beach was just under its paving stones, as in, 'it could be the Mediterranean here if we dream hard enough.' Graffiti in east Paris has long insisted that the beach is near, in fact is underfoot.

In 2001 they laughed at the beach called Paris–Plage. Motorists, who had been looking forward to fast summertime runs through the city, were furious. The beach had a few potted palms, a little sand and no swimming. If you could overlook the drabness, and the lingering stench of rubber and gas, it was beside the river and it had those views – Pont Neuf, the Ile de la Cité, the Conciergerie, Notre Dame and the Ile Saint Louis – and it was free.

People who can afford to become sardines and grill on the Riviera probably still laugh. Other cities have done theirs, such as Brussels les Bains, Berlin by the Spree, and Rome along the Tiber. Elsewhere in France there are urban beaches in Toulouse, Dijon and Saint–Quentin. This year Tokyo opens its version in Shibuya.

Is it fake, is it phoney? As much as Paris likes to think that it is Mediterranean in character, the weather is usually against it. There can be days of brilliant blue skies and glossy sunshine but these are usually random and are just as likely in February as in July, which means not very. Even cities with beaches seldom have them in the centre of town.photo, view from pont neuf, paris plage

In Europe it is not exactly normal to put on a Hawaiian shirt, grab a towel and go downtown on the Métro to catch the sun. But this city, this crazy place, has laid out 1500 tons of fine sand, hundreds of deckchairs and hammocks, stuck in a lot of palms, put up a swimming pool, installed fog machines and showers and added solar–powered fairy lights for the evenings.

Rock climbing on stone, Brazilian colors, olé!

The formula of past years stays the same with additions, such as a touch of Brazil for color, music and samba, more beach sports, a floating restaurant, outdoor movies on Tuesdays, a beach area just for little kids, and expanded ferry services, reaching out to Boulogne in the west and Charenton to the east.

Returned to the summer rendez–vous are the pétanque and peteca areas, the sand sports in front of the Hôtel de Ville, the Fnac concert stage, bike rentals, gymnastics, the five cafés, the snack and ice cream stands, and the services like information, first-aid, postal, and security, all open from 7:00 to midnight.

For the third edition last year the city estimated that 3.8 million beach fans were attracted to the 3.5 kilometre site, which was a near saturation level. Ths year the city was involved with its Olympic bid but is planning for expansion next year when a full–sized floating pool is expected to be situated in the Seine near the Biblilothèque Nationale on the Left Bank.

Continued on page 2...
Go to page : 1 - 2
In Metropole Paris
Latest Issue
2008 Issues
2007 | 2006 | 2005
2004 | 2003 | 2002
2001 | 2000 | 1999
1998 | 1997 | 1996
In Metropole Paris
About Metropole
About the Café Club
Links | Search Site
The Lodging Page
Paris Museums List
Metropole's 1996 Tours
Metropole's 2003 Tours
Support Metropole
Metropole's Books
Shop with Metropole
Metropole's Wine
metropole paris goodblogweek button
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini