As our summer holidays draw to an end I thought it only fitting to reflect upon one of the staples of the Parisian summer scene – Paris-Plages. Growing up by the coast, and loving the beach the way I do, I never imagined that I’d end up moving so far away from one in a landlocked city. Don’t get me wrong, I do love living here but I do miss being able to sunbake on sandy shores and frolic in the water whenever the mood takes me – even though I can always pop over to Spain if the need becomes too overwhelming.
So you can well imagine my excitement when I found out about Paris Plages. Granted, it’s not really a proper substitute for the beach to anyone who’s ever been on an actual beach… except possibly those only familiar with English beaches, although they barely count. It takes more than land meeting water to make a beach dammit! But I digress.
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, about thirteen years ago the then mayor of Paris took pity on those poor Parisians who were unable to escape the city for the – sometimes oppressively hot – month of August and set up a temporary beach by the Seine. Nowadays, there are multiple beaches along the river and the canal with more and more attractions each year – ice cream stands, paddle boats, ziplinig…
Personally, I prefer the one by the canal as it tends to be far less busy and is happily only a five-minute prance from my apartment. That being said, I do find it slightly bizarre that we’re allowed to strip down and soak up the sun just because there are sunlounges or sand there. If you attempt to do the same thing in the same place outside of this time period you run the risk of being harassed by over-eager council employees telling you to cover up. The French can be quite prudish at times…all rather odd I tell you.
It’s not all sun, sand and sprinklers though, as this year there was a spot of controversy. One of the beaches had a ‘Tel Aviv’ theme, which caused all sorts of upset. I do realise that protesting is very much a way of life in France and that the situation in Israel has a long, troubled and bloody past with no simple solution but I fail to see how railing against the use of a city name is going to help or solve anything. They had to bring in armed police to keep the peace for goodness sake!
That aside, there are still a marvellous idea and I welcome their appearance every year. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait too long for more beachside fun, as I shall soon be off to Australia for my biennial pilgrimage, where I’ll be forced to ask hot surfer boys for help in creaming my back…may the summer never end!