Paris opens summer-long beach attraction

21st July 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, July 21 (AFP) - Paris's most popular summer attraction - an artificial "beach" packed with sand, palm trees, lounge chairs and free family activities - opened Wednesday along the Seine river, delighting city residents and tourists alike for the third year running.

PARIS, July 21 (AFP) - Paris's most popular summer attraction - an artificial "beach" packed with sand, palm trees, lounge chairs and free family activities - opened Wednesday along the Seine river, delighting city residents and tourists alike for the third year running.  

 Within hours the 3.5-kilometre (two-mile) stretch of "Paris Plage", as the zone running right through the centre of the capital is known, was alive with people walking, cycling, playing on trampolines, cooling off under fine-spray sprinklers, and kicking back in the chairs and hammocks.  

A new addition this year, a shallow 28-metre (92-foot) swimming pool set up to provide a bathing area sorely missing the last two summers, was filled with dozens of children frolicking under a balmy blue sky and the watchful eyes of life-guards.  

Put on by Paris City Hall for one month and with most of its EUR 2 million (USD 2.4-million) cost paid for by corporate sponsorship, the idea is to transform what is usually a busy two-lane riverside motorway into a sort of pedestrian-only French Riviera during the traditionally quiet vacation period.  

For many locals, the line of palm trees and swimsuit-clad sunbathers sprawled on the tonnes of trucked-in sand came pretty close to fulfilling the illusion, despite the many curious tourists snapping photos from the bridges over the Seine and rows of elegant Paris buildings being the main view.  

"It's a taste of the beach," said Albert Fernandez, a scooter salesman who had come in from one of the suburbs with his two daughters, both of whom were rocking gently in hammocks, ahead of the family vacation on the real Riviera.  

"I come by here all year long in my car, often stuck in traffic jams, and when it's grey and raining I just think about the good moments here in summer," he said.  

Nearby, a group of children were in a sandy area being taught how to play petanque, the French bowls game seen in many villages.  

"Well done, boys," the teacher said as one young apprentice threw a metal ball and knocked another away.  

In a sand-castle construction zone, an artist was hard at work on an impressive bust of a woman, tracing delicate lines while next to him a man and three children fashioned a more cartoonish sand turtle.  

Four teenage American girls studying at a Paris design school were busy taking photos of the scene for a class assignment.   "It's a very nice idea," said 17-year-old Tracie Davis from New York. "I really like the hammocks."  

Police and municipal security guards were seen making regular patrols on bicycles, pedalling past the many activities which included paint classes, beach volleyball, a library and a number of cafes.  

"Hundreds of thousands of Paris area residents can't go away on vacation. Children, the elderly have four weeks of pleasure and relaxation and everything is free," Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said at a ceremony formally declaring the attraction open.  

He is riding high on the popularity of "Paris Plage", which last year attracted three million visitors and has now been copied by other French and European cities, including Toulouse, Lyon, Berlin, Budapest and Prague.  

Plans for a London version were abandoned, however, when the local council responsible for the section of the Thames waterfront said "logistical" problems made it unfeasible.  

Tourists visiting "Paris Plage" expressed surprise and joy at the unexpected find on their way to the nearby Notre Dame cathedral or other monuments.  

"We think it's wonderful," said David Breckman, a 51-year-old from Toronto, Canada, walking around with friends and family.  

"I'm not too tempted by the trampolines and the rock climbing, though," he said, putting a hand on his ample belly by way of explanation.

 

© AFP

 

Subject: French news

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