Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fun in the Sun?

Sun-worshipers are spreading out their towels, children are playing in the sand, and ice cream shops are opening for business. No, I'm not talking about the beaches along the French Riviera, I'm talking about the beaches along the Seine. For the 7th year in a row, Paris has unveiled its waterfront summer attraction known as "Paris Plages." Can't make it down to Nice this summer? No problem! From July 21st until August 21st, visitors to the right bank of the winding river can lounge in beach chairs, participate in outdoor sporting events or take salsa lessons, all without leaving the city.

Hearing both good (a novel idea!) and bad (a waste of money!) things about the Paris Plages, I decided to go check it out myself. As I strolled along the route on opening day, I noticed that the event was already attracting a decent amount of attention. Despite the unseasonably cool weather, many people were staking out their lounge chairs and a patch of sand for the kids. Others enjoyed the view from under a café umbrella. Still many more looked to be doing the same thing I was: walking around snapping photos and satisfying their curiosity. There are imported palm trees, misters to keep visitors cool, and attractions such as foosball tables and a fitness center. The color blue is everywhere; Paris' nod to France's current occupation of the European Union presidency.

My final verdict? I wasn't really that impressed. Maybe it was the fakey-ness of it all. I grew up in a state that boasts over 10,000 lakes and have spent many a vacation seeking out oceans, seas and gulfs. A faux beach just doesn't really do it for me. Or maybe it's because I'm appalled at the prospect of wearing a swimsuit in Paris. If the men are aggressive when you're fully clothed, what do they do to the poor girls who try to perfect their tan in a two-piece? Or maybe it's because the cool weather hasn't been able to put me into a beach mood. Then again, it is a little bit warmer today, with even warmer temperatures planned for the weekend. Maybe I should give Paris Plages a second chance? Maybe not.

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