Nitpickers Say

photo, mermaid, pirate ship, paris plage Pirate ship for kids, mermaid for dads.

It's a Stupid Idea

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 23. July:–  There are folks in Paris who have told me that Paris–Plage is a lowbrow circus, a sort of brainwash for those not clever enough to have the gumption to be able to rent a villa on the Riviera, or simply go on a lobster–binge cruise in the Caribbean. Let me be the first to admit that you can't swim in the water that laps the beach and all–night disco clubs simply do not exist. Well, not exactly.

I bet the first opinion about Paris–Plage was that it can't be done. After all this is France, where the president thinks we don't work long enough – who wants to work a lot longer for a little more low pay? – and the smart people are taxed too much – so they go to Switzerland? – hey! – tax us less and we won't go – yeah, subdivide Versailles into public housing and toss that old Louis into the street!

Everybody knows that folks in Paris drink wine at times and I bet there was one of those times and some good folks were sitting around the near empty bottles, and somebody said, "Let's pull up the paving stones and get to the sand, the beach, underneath." Everybody else said, "Nah, nah, nah, we can't do that because we haven't got any initiative, and we certainly lack imagination."

photo, volley ball, sand, city hall, hotel de villeIn the frontyard of the Hôtel de Ville.

Two rounds later they were talking about beach volley ball in front of the Hôtel de Ville, rock climbing on the Seine–side seawalls, a bunch of sand covering the stinky right bank speedway, some blue and white striped cabins, some blue sails, some cooling fog machines, a couple of swimming pools – for swimming! – and lots of parasols and some tables and chairs and a couple of simple cafés, and hell's bells, they tossed in a few dance floors and a couple of bandstands. Live music is better than disco any night.

Then there were only two more ideas to add, as long as they were being that crazy. They decided to put it where it would fit, which turned out to be the centre of town – on the sunny side of the Seine if you please – and it make it mostly free.

photo, built in rainbows, paris plage Rainbow in your face.

Everybody else in Paris is charging everybody through the nose – $10 for a lousy Coke! – and the bottom is falling out of the dollar too. Here's a deal where you can get a cheapo six–pack at a Monoprix and take it to the beach. Right in the middle of town. Get a bikini and a towel at the Soldes d'Eté and find a spot on the sand near the Pont Neuf. Talk about a stupid idea!

I have been to Coney Island and I'll say I love the place but that subway ride, especially from Queens, is a long, weary haul. I have been to Water Taxi Beach in Long Island City and I have to admit that the view of Manhattan across the East River is worth a lot more than the price of admission, which is nothing. The only problem with Water Taxi Beach is, once you leave it, you are not in the centre of Paris.

For nit–pickers and you know who you are, the right bank beach continues on the left bank – by the Quai de la Gare where the new swimming pool floats in the river. New this year is the extension of the line 14 métro, running to a station in the middle of Chinatown. From there it is only a short walk to the city pool at Butte–aux–Cailles, which is supposed to have the best sights as well as an open sky above. It's highly recommended by Uncle Den–Den.

There's more, of course. The beach has shot off at another angle with a new branch, up around the Bassin de la Villette and near the canal at Stalingrad, where you can find canoes and kayaks for a bit of water flitting. In fact, sometimes it appears as if the whole thing is too sporty. There are people perfectly content to lie around and do nothing and there are people who can't sit still, except for television.

photo, right bank riviera, paris plage The Riviera of the right bank.

Of course hanging around on Paris–Plage is not the same thing as tanking up on culture. Where you come from might even be a beach – Malibu, Long Beach, Bondi – so you might come to Paris in the summer to cruise the museums and exhibitions but I'll tell you that some other people have had the same idea. If you want to see a lot of people close–up then those culture shows are fine, but if you would rather see a lot of folks with fewer clothes and less anxiety then you'll like the beach better.

And there are water fountains and fog machines. In poor Europe where air conditioning is somewhat rare – head for a Picard frozen food boutique for a quick jolt – being on a beach with a cooling fog spray can be rare on the Riviera, but Paris, with its derecommended river, comes through with fog galore.

Sure, I will admit that the ambiant temperature hardly requires heavy doses of fog, but you might do some afternoon dancing. You can do it on the exposed speedway or on the boards laid down exactly for dancing. Either way the music is free, and danceable, and the fog is there where you need it. Now that's a souvenir to tell the folks back home in Rapid City.

photo, fiat 500 of the week Paris–Plage style Fiat 500 of the Week.

To tell the truth, Paris–Plages is not very highbrow, just as those highbrow complainers suggest. It's a stupid idea, obviously born of excessive drink, and it will only suit those too poor to get out of town like they are supposed to or too moronic to enjoy a good museum stuffed to the rafters with gawkers and backpackers wearing cargo shorts and oversize white sneakers, snapping the world's cultural treasures with their portable phones and viewfinderless mega–cameras, listening to their iPods instead of the uplifting audio tour.

With that attitude there is no reason to mention the evening cabaret scene, both organized and otherwise. There may be a program and I suppose it is wonderful but going to the beach on a whim and accidently catching what's happening, is like finding lost money in the street. You get to keep something you weren't expecting. Sort of like, Paris–Plages is a stupid idea, but it is the Parisians that flock to it to do whatever they do – this is the part those folks in the wine bottles didn't think up.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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