The 11th annual appearance of Paris Plage got off to a chilly, sweater-clad start under menacing gray skies last Friday, but by Sunday the sun finally warmed up the ephemeral beach party along the banks of the Seine and the bikinis were out in force. The month-long pedestrians-only promenade is only half as long as in previous years, with a large stretch of the riverside drive currently undergoing radical renovation. But there are still some 900 yards of golden sand embankments scattered with blue umbrellas, deck chairs and striped mattresses, along with pétanque grounds (free boules available), tai chi and tango lessons, misting water sprays, a lending library, a small children’s playground complete with the hull of a pirate ship and of course, ice cream stands, cafés and a brasserie. Up on ground level on the Place de l’Hôtel de Ville, there will be several free evening concerts and a giant screen that will televise the London Olympics.
The secondary Paris Plage site, at the Bassin de la Villette—a boat basin that connects the Canal Saint Martin to the Canal de l’Ourcq in the 19th arrondissement—offers more beach and playground areas, a big stand of mist sprays, a mini-golf course, dirt bike lessons on a small mounded track (helmets, elbow and knee pads provided), and refreshment stands. But the biggest attractions at La Villette are the nautical activities—impossible on the heavily trafficked Seine—including bright blue pedal boats, rowboats, kayaks, sailboats and a long dragon boat in which amateur rowers can paddle to the thump of a traditional Chinese drum. For the younger set, there are colorful little plastic boats that look like ducklings with water wheels, and giant inflatable cylinders propelled by young runners inside—all participants equipped with life vests, bien sûr.