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Paris Plages

For those who can't escape to seaside holiday spots, Paris-Plages "Paris Beaches" is the answer. This ambitious scheme was started in 2002 by Bertrand Delanoë, the newly-elected mayor, as a haven for relieving the misery of those cooped up in the sweltering city. He was widely criticized for this crazy idea at the time, but it has become a huge success. Over four million people, tourists and local Parisians alike, now take advantage of this "holiday by the Seine" each year.

French city-dwellers traditionally escape to the seaside or the countryside during the summer, especially in August. Paris is avoided, as the weather is unpleasantly hot and humid, and the centre is full of tourists. Nevertheless, each summer many residents are obliged to remain in the city, however reluctantly.

Paris Plages creates temporary artificial beaches each summer along the river Seine in the centre of Paris. Every July and August, roadways on the banks of the river are blocked off and host various activities, including sandy beaches and palm trees.

Unlike many beaches in France, topless sunbathing is not permitted. Swimming in the Seine is also not permitted, for safety reasons.

The scheme has proven a major success and every season, new features are added. These include a shuttle ferry linking the two riverbanks, a floating swimming pool, and beaches in different areas of Paris as well as concerts and activites for all the family.

The Paris Plages happens from late July to late August.

Get ready to enjoy sandy beaches, deckchairs, ice cream sellers and concerts for French and foreign guests.

Visitors at the Bassin de la Villette (Paris 19) can also borrow books free of charge, play beach volley, take an aquagym class in a mini pool, or kayak around the lake – or, just chill out and enjoy the sun. Some of the roads around The Seine's banks become pedestrian and the beaches are spread across three spots (Louvre/Pont de Sully, Port de la Gare and Bassin de la Villette).

Bertrand Delanoë, the creator of Paris Plages, has also been behind several of the city's other inventive programs, many of them environmentally friendly. He introduced the extensive Velib bike rental scheme and a system of non-polluting tramways is nearly complete. He banned the use of pesticides in public landscaping and widened bus lanes to encourage public-transport use.

Paris's Plages have some environmental benefits, too. Anything that helps stem the massive annual exodus from Paris when cars clog the national highways is a good thing. Paris Plages may reduce the tons of global-warming-causing carbon emissions spewing into the atmosphere.

Within Paris, too, many streets surrounding the plages are closed to motorists, cutting down on cars in the city centre.

And there's more. According to the city's website, creating Paris Plages as fully sustainable is an integral part of the plan. For example, to reach its destinations, the 2,000 tons of sand needed for the ambitious project sails down the Seine River (rather than being loaded onto polluting trucks), and is 100% recycled after its use.

Tarpaulins serving as rain cover will also be recovered and turned into bags afterward, sprinklers and water use are strictly managed and Greenpeace sets up workshops each weekend for some educational activism. The Science Museum (La Cité des Sciences) will hold workshops on correctly separating waste, and there's even an Eco-Library featuring specialized readings and presentations on preserving the planet.

The raison d'être of Paris Plages is to show support for those who do not have the means or the luxury to leave the city. A "summer in solidarity" is the project's slogan.


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