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Paris: Hit the beach at the “Paris Plages”

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Hitting the beach, Paris-style. Photo: Cedric Cousseau
Hitting the beach, Paris-style. Photo: Cedric Cousseau

By Bryan Pirolli in Paris—

When summertime hits in Paris, the locals feel the pressure to go on vacation. The city traditionally empties out in August, but that tradition is no longer steadfast. Plenty of Parisians stay behind in August while tourists flock from all over the world to experience the City of Light.

In addition to all of the festivals and concerts, there is a little beachy oasis in the center of the city called “Paris Plages” that is not to be missed.

Paris Plages

From July 21 through August 21, the Paris Plages season, the city turns the banks of the Seine and the Canal into beach (plage) havens. This year, Paris is celebrating Paris Plages’ tenth anniversary.  It seems just like yesterday…

On the banks of the river by the Hotel de Ville, cars are forbidden and visitors can sunbathe in a lounge chair, build castles in the temporary sand pits, play pétanque as crowds watch on, and stroll along the river as palm trees sway overhead and music floats through the air.

It’s just enough to make you feel like you’ve made it to the Mediterranean.

More plages: Bassin de la Villette

But this town has more than one plage. Along the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement you’ll find a more relaxed scene, as fewer tourists make the trek. There are various water-themed activities for children, in addition to outdoor concerts and even country line dancing. Locals line the vast stretches of both banks, the Quai de la Loire and the Quai de la Seine, with picnics late into the night.

For the kids…

There are plenty of events geared towards children at the “beaches.” There are small workshops and educational stands along the Seine teaching children about recycling, water and even eclipses. Once the children are bored with that, they can hop in the water and start having some fun.

Along the Seine there are paddleboats by Pont Sully, water bars to rehydrate and volleyball courts. At the Villette beach, there are various kayaks, even more paddle boats, and other nautical experiences for children and adults, including an inflatable water-bound hamster wheel that small children seem to enjoy. For those with little ones we’ve got another post on things to do with kids in Paris.

…and for the adults

For the older set, there is the ritualistic sunbathing, but also foosball tables – “babyfoot” in French – and a stage offering dance performances, from classic waltz to country ho-down.

The best part? It’s all free.

To help celebrate the 10th anniversary of the city’s beaches, the Hotel de Ville has put together an exhibit that will run through September 17, 2011 on the history of the Seine (translation here). The gallery is open from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. every day but Sunday and is, of course, free.

Check out the city’s Web site in English and in French for even more information on the Paris Plages, including maps of both beaches with the various activities.

About the author

Bryan Pirolli

About the author: With his college diploma fresh off the press, Bryan Pirolli headed for Paris and four years later he’s still there. A journalist and a tour guide, his main M.O. is pursuing a doctorate degree in communications at the Sorbonne Nouvelle. Bryan regularly travels on a budget, experiencing the best of European culture while still trying to make rent.  So far, so good. You can follow his adventures on his blog: www.bryanpirolli.com.

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