This Europe: 'Beach' returns to banks of Seine for second year

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The Independent Online

The Paris Beach - mocked by opposition politicians, hated by motorists but adored by tourists and stay-at-home Parisians - will make its second appearance on the banks of the Seine later this month.

The Paris Beach - mocked by opposition politicians, hated by motorists but adored by tourists and stay-at-home Parisians - will make its second appearance on the banks of the Seine later this month.

From 20 July to 17 August, cars will be banned from a two-and-a-half-mile stretch of the eastbound urban motorway - the Voie Georges Pompidou - on the right bank of the Seine. Their place will be taken by 3,000 tonnes of imported sand (three times as much as last year), palm trees in pots, deck chairs and hammocks.

There will be no bathing from this beach. Although the river Seine is not as dirty as it once was, it would not win a blue flag in the European clean beach awards. Besides, the coal barges and huge tourist launches that cram the river would make swimming more hazardous than walking across the Champs-Elysées on a red light.

To cool off, Parisian beach-goers will be encouraged to walk through a water maze or use the cold water showers. "Paris-Plage" has been one of the most successful innovations of the Socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, elected two and a half years ago. His decision to close the Voie Pompidou to traffic for a month last summer infuriated motorists but proved hugely popular with tourists and those less well-heeled Parisians who do not leave the capital for the summer months.

Paris-Plage II will have several innovations. There will be a one-day lending library - with books in French and English - to provide beach bums with appropriate reading. There will be hammocks as well as deck chairs. There will be a youth club. There will be a café with dancing to traditional French popular music à la Edith Piaf.

There will also be a barge moored just off shore as a floating stage for some of the 32 concerts booked by the Town Hall. All of this will be free, except to the taxpayers of Paris, who will - M. Delanoe assures them - pay no more than the €700,000 (£480,000) they paid last year.

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