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Artificial beach brings relief to sweltering Parisians July 21, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Lifestyle.

Parisians won relief from the sweltering heat here yesterday, as an artificial beach built along the River Seine was declared officially open for the next four weeks.

The 2.5km sandy beach along the river’s right bank, dotted with palm trees, deckchairs and umbrellas, has become a regular summer feature of Paris citylife since its inauguration in 2002.

This year though the scheme has been extended to the upcoming left bank district of Bercy-Tolbiac which now also sports a kilometre long beach between a new year-round floating swimming pool and a pedestrian walkway over the Seine. This year the Paris Plages (Paris beach), as it is known, has taken Tahiti as its theme, with visitors invited to take part in dance classes, shows and workshops in traditional Polynesian huts erected among a lush tropical jungle. The month-long event, which is completely free, is expected to attract some 4mn visitors after the 3.8mn who flocked to it last year.

“Paris Plages is a gesture of solidarity with all those, and there are hundreds of thousands of them in Paris and its surroundings, who cannot afford to go on holiday,” said the city’s Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, during yesterday’s inauguration.

This year some 2,500 tonnes of sand have been trucked to the quayside, along with 68 palms stretching some 8m (26ft) high. The whole project cost some 2.2mn euros ($2.7mn) and took some 1,500 workers to set up. The idea has proved so successful with city-dwellers that it has also been copied in other French cities such as Dijon and Lille, as well as other capitals like Berlin and Tokyo.

Visitors to the Paris plage can also take part in some 20 sports such as volley-ball and frisbee throwing, while a giant sandpit has been set up for children as well as a pirate’s ship and a trampoline. Although no swimming is allowed in the Seine, water fountains and jets have been set up along the beach, and a bathing spot has been opened at the Quai des Celestins.

A majority of Europeans spend summer vacations in their home countries, but those from smaller nations enjoy travelling abroad, an EU study said yesterday. In 2005, a total of 57% of European Union citizens took a summer break of four or more days but decided to stay in their home country, said the report by Eurostat, the EU’s statistical agency.

Not surprisingly, the study said 90% of Greeks preferred spending their summer break in their country, followed by people in Spain (88%), France (83%) and Poland (82%). However, almost all (99%) citizens of Luxembourg and 79% of Belgians headed abroad for a vacation, followed by Ireland and Slovenia (both 73%) and Denmark (69%). The study added that two-thirds of holiday-makers stayed within the 25-nation EU, with Belgians, Irish and Danish citizens spending half or more of their holidays in other member states. Some 63% of Slovenians and one-third of Lithuanians, Latvians and Austrians preferred non-EU countries, spending more than a quarter of their summer leave outside the bloc.

Private cars are Europeans’ transport of choice. Slovenians, French and Spaniards lead the list with 70% of holiday trips made by car. Taking a plane was most popular in Ireland (66%) and Britain (51%). Trains and buses were particularly important for holiday-makers in the bloc’s new member states. 

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