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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. This 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.

As a summer visitor you can stand on the Pont de Notre Dame, on the trace of the Roman road to Soissons, and dither over whether to see Notre Dame, Sainte–Chapelle,photo, 21 july, paris plage the Conciergerie – or further afield, the Louvre, the Opéra, the Eiffel tower or the Champs– Elysées. Or you can see this color, these blue sails in the breeze, all along the Right Bank.

First day, like a gold rush, but room for all.

This is Paris–Plage. Narrow, fake but less fake than it was, a beach of the imagination with real sand and European service. Even without swimming it has life guards, without pedalos it has a floating restaurant, and you can get to it by Métro or ferryboat. It's enough to set you dancing and Paris–Plage provides the music until Sunday, 21. August.

Paris–Plage News

The re–opening of Paris–Plage signals the season between the real life we've just had for 10 months and the coming future after August. In between nothing is serious or real, and this is supposed to apply to news more than anything else. This is called far and wide the 'silly news season.' If it's not worth reading drape it over your face to keep from getting sunburned.

Why Tony Is Orange

Just before Britain's parliament packed up for this year some curious soul asked a question. Any member can ask a question, and these get answers. They have some sort of rule about it and it's an idea that could be copied by other governments but is not especially likely.

It's a shame that Agence France–Presse does not say what the question was exactly. All we have is the answer, in a written form, supplied to parliament last Thursday.

It indicated that Downing Street paid out £1050.22 between 1999 and 2000 and between 2004 and 2005 for cosmetics for the appearances of the prime minister before the press, which probably means TV–news. The report also says an additional £791.20 was spent in the past two years for make–up services.

This amounts to 2600€ or $3100. The report thoughtfully points out that British women spend on average £195 annually on cosmetics and beauty services, which seems a bit low. Too bad we don't have a figure for Lady Thatcher.

AFP's numbers seem a bit odd but maybe they are only repeating the government's reply in the House of Commons. Apparently some observers noticed that Tony Blair seemed to have a bizarre orange cast during the last election. The prime minister claimed it was a result of tanning in his garden in April, which is not generally considered to be a tropical month in the UK.

Private Ack–Ack

Nice–Matin says that police were called by alarmed neighbors when an 81 year–old retiree started shooting at low–flying water bombers that were dousing brushphoto, fog machine, paris plage fires in the area, a suburb of Grasse.

The helicopters were flying extra low when the gunman popped off a couple of 12 gauge blasts of bird– shot. Neighbors said he went for his gun when they were cutting the grass too.

Fog machine to keep those fevers down.

When the flics arrived they were greeted with insults, and when the gun was waved around the cops took it away. Pretending to be calm the old shooter retired to his kitchen and came out with another cannon, which the police managed to wrestle away before he switched to waving frying pans.

Once under control the rebel was hauled off to the local cop shop so he could confess. The police seized 15 rifles and shotguns from the house. In court on Saturday to be charged, the shooter was freed until being judged in a coming quick–trial.

The old man claimed that lawn mowers and the water bombers disturbed his siestas, which may be true but is not thought to be a winning defense argument. The fire that destroyed 5000 square metres of brush on Thursday menaced nearby houses.

A Good Frog Is a Dead Frog

While bears have been re–introduced into the Pyrenees and sheep herders in the Alps are up in arms about protected wolves, a new menace has emerged in the Dordogne. Giant frogs, nicknamed 'grenouilles taureaux' – literally bullfrogs – have been terrorizing the lakes in the region of Saint–Saud– La–Coussière, situated in the regional park of Périgord–Limousin.

The park's wardens have asked local hunters to act as vigilantes, to put an end to the beasts that can measure over 30 centimetres and weigh 1.5 kilos. They say the giant frogs, imported fromphoto, sign, metro America 30 years ago by an unknown frog fancier, are breeding like crazy and are so fierce that they are eating the fish and small ducks.

Within the past week 15 of the monsters have been 'suppressed' by the bounty hunters who have been invited to eliminate the foreign horde, according to Jean–Daniel Dubreuil, deputy mayor and president of the Saint–Saud– La–Coussière fishing club.

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