As of tomorrow, the 20th of July, the banks of the Seine transform into a series of beaches – complete with spaces for volleyball, folding chairs, umbrella’s and all seaside accouterments. The city becomes coastal for a short breath of four weeks or so.
The temporary Parisian shore spans from the Louvre to Pont du Sully – and for water sports enthusiasts, the area around the Bassin de la Villette in the 19eme offers another beach which is adapted to allow for rowing, kayaking, pedal boats, dinghies and such. Ice cream trucks are also thrown into the mix to flame the maritime illusion.
I caught a glimpse of the process of turning parts of the riverside into a set of ‘plages’ and it underscored what makes Paris unlike many other cities: The ability to experiment with the new while retaining what already makes the city one of the most loved.
Part of the success of the city in innovation boils down to visionary leadership under the mayor, Bertrand Delanoe. Yet, perhaps more so, it is the intrinsic dynamism and creativity that abounds within its borders – a dynamism fuelled by a mixture of commitment to excellence among Parisians of different walks of life and a quiet, elegant determination to make life more than a chore but beautiful and deliciously sweet. It is only in this city where leadership, vision, dynamism and determination meet that the urban beach concept can fully take root as it as done here.
Now, that is not to say that Paris is the first place to have come up with the concept of urban beaches – or ‘urbeaches’ – the honour of first mover goes to North Adams, Massachusetts. Yet perhaps Paris pulls it off as only she can. After all, on the level of ideology, Paris integrate work and play all year long. Therefore, a beach only serves to place on display how effortlessly work and play coexist in this gorgeous city.
The beach opens each day at 8 until midnight.
Here is a glimpse of the city’s urbeach taking shape: