Imagine paying a visit to the Eiffel Tower, then a few minutes later stretching out on the sand to work on your tan. In times past, all of Paris went to the beach in August. Now the beach comes to Paris.
In a grand experiment, Mayor Bertrand Delanoe last year launched “Paris Plage” (Paris Beach), a two-mile strand that stretched along the banks of the Seine River, co-opting quays and roadways for the pleasure of sunbathers, strollers and skaters.
It was a weird and wonderful re-creation of a stylish seaside resort, plopped right in the middle of the busy city. With more than 2 million visitors, the quirky project was considered a success.
Starting today, Paris Plage was expected to be back -- and bigger -- with tons of sand forming three beaches (instead of last year’s two), cushy green turf, towering potted palms and beach cabanas. Giant umbrellas will dot the riverbanks, and hundreds of jaunty blue deck chairs will be unfolded to welcome sun worshipers.
Visitors seeking more active pursuits can catch a free concert, learn to tie sailors’ knots, attack a climbing wall, shoot some golf, dance a little hip-hop, bat a volleyball or play a game of boules. (Animal rights protesters nixed the fishing corral last year.) Even if you don’t want to take part, Paris Plage is worth a visit just for the pure strangeness of it all.
Added benefits: The denizens of Paris who were “left behind” when most of France headed to the shore seemed far cheerier and more festive last summer with their own beach. Plus, the dates of Paris Plage correspond with summer clearance sales (which start Friday and run through Aug. 2), so you might find a good deal on a French bikini to sport at the faux seaside.
Paris Plage is open 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. through Aug. 17 along the Right Bank of the Seine, from Quai des Tuileries to Quai Henri IV. Admission is free. For more information, visit www.parisbienvenue.com (search for Paris Plage under “Events”).
The Batobus, which stops at eight places along the river, is a nice way to arrive or to observe the action from the water. The boats operate from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; a one-day pass costs about $11.50. For details, visit www.batobus.com.