France is known for closing down in the summer, when its workers head off on their holidays en famille. Inevitably, of course, some people have to stay behind. After all, someone has to wait tables and sell postcards to the tourists.
Since 2002, the beach is still an option for those left behind to work in Paris – thanks to a rather imaginative idea by the then city mayor, Bertrand Delanoë.
Paris can be humid in the summer and packed with tourists. He wanted to give the locals somewhere to escape. Bringing between 2,000 and 6,000 tonnes of sand to the banks of the Seine were his answer.
Over the years, the Paris Plage has got bigger and bigger. In 2006 it became the Paris Plages – plural – when the beach of the right bank was complemented by a second one, on the left bank.
Now, there’s more still, further along the river in the north-east of the city at Le Bassin de la Villette.
Today marks the opening of the beaches for 2014. For the next four weeks, sand and palm trees will be laid out and deckchairs and parasols laid on for the use of visitors.
Ironically, the idea of the beaches was to give the locals a break from it all with a beach they could enjoy. Such has been the popularity of the idea that some four million people now visit the beaches each summer.
Maybe the newly elected Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo, will come up with a new form of respite for the beleaguered waiters and card sellers left in the city.